Hexham Abbey receives lifeline with £357,000 grant from Government’s Culture Recovery Fund

First published on: 9th November 2020

Hexham Abbey is one of 445 heritage organisations across the country set to receive a lifesaving financial boost from the government thanks to the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to help them through the coronavirus pandemic.

445 organisations will share £103 million, including Hexham Abbey to help restart vital reconstruction work and maintenance on cherished heritage sites, keeping venues open and supporting those working in the sector. 

The Abbey has received a grant of £356,861 to be spent on much needed repairs to the roofs of the Chancel East End, North Transept, and the Nave North Aisle, helping to secure the building for future generations. The slate roof coverings are in poor deteriorating condition and over the past decade have required continual repairs to ensure the building remains wind and water tight.

The funding will now see:

  • The Westmorland slate and Welsh slate coverings to be carefully taken off
  • The removal of failed fixings and battens
  • Repair and treatment of any decayed and infested exposed timber work
  • Form new treated counter and tiling batten structure with breather membranes
  • Re-lay the salvaged existing and new slates.
  • Renew and repair the failed lead items.

The risk of not carrying out this work is that timbers will likely decay and rot, causing irrevocable damage to the mediaeval roof. The mediaeval roofs are one of the glories of Hexham Abbey and rated as being of the highest significance to the Abbey fabric.

This vital funding is from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritageand the Heritage Stimulus Fund - funded by Government and administered at arms length by Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Both funds are part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund which is designed to secure the future of Britain’s museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues with emergency grants and loans.

433 organisations will receive a share of £67 million from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage to help with costs for operating, reopening and recovery. This includes famous heritage sites across the country, from Wentworth Woodhouse in Yorkshire to Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, Blyth Tall Ship to the Severn Valley Railway, the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincolnshire to the Piecehall in Halifax. The funds will save sites that are a source of pride for communities across the country.

12 organisations, including English Heritage, Landmark Trust, Historic Royal Palaces and the Canal and River Trust, will receive £34 million from the Heritage Stimulus Fund to restart construction and maintenance on cherished heritage sites to preserve visitor attractions and protect livelihoods for some of the most vulnerable heritage specialists and contractors in the sector.

The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) has also been awarded a grant from the Culture Recovery Fund through Historic England. The AHF will use the funding to support charities and social enterprises occupying historic buildings to develop new business plans and strategies for organisations affected by the pandemic.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:

“As a nation it is essential that we preserve our heritage and celebrate and learn from our past. This massive support package will protect our shared heritage for future generations, save jobs and help us prepare for a cultural bounceback post covid.”

Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator, Historic Royal Palaces, said:

“There’s no truer way to experience the past than to walk in the footsteps of those who have lived it – that’s why preserving our built heritage is so important. 

“At Historic Royal Palaces, we care for six nationally significant buildings, opening them to the public and preserving them for future generations. Sadly, the pandemic meant that we had to stop some of our critical conservation work. The grant we have received from the Culture Recovery Fund will enable to this work to resume – so we can give some of Britain’s most historic buildings the care and attention they deserve, while supporting the specialist craftspeople who are vital for the future of our national heritage. We are enormously grateful to the Government for this support.”

The Revd David Glover, Rector of Hexham said:

“Roofs are easily taken for granted but are, of course, vital for protecting the whole building. By repairing now, the most badly deteriorated sections of the Abbey roof, we are ensuring the Abbey will continue to thrive as place of worship, pilgrimage and heritage, and continue to be a place of deep blessing to Hexham and the wider region.

“We are absolutely delighted to receive a grant from Historic England for just under £357,000. We are also extremely grateful to the Hexham Abbey Restoration Trust which is providing the remaining funds to complete this crucial first stage of the Abbey Roof refurbishment.

“The value of Hexham Abbey and its Priory Buildings is of international heritage standing. It is a building that warrants the very highest quality in conservation techniques and standards, and requires the very best in skilled workmanship. This project will provide heritage skill development and high-level training opportunities for the successful contractors as we work to preserve this wonderful building for future generations.”

The Abbey will be closed to the public from the 4th January to 31st March while this work is carried out, reopening in time for Easter. The café, shop and Priory buildings will remain open. Services will continue to take place in the Priory buildings.

Duncan Wilson, Historic England’s Chief Executive said:

“It is heartening to see grants, both large and small, from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund helping heritage sites and organisations across the country which have been hit hard by the effects of Covid-19. These grants range from giving skilled craft workers the chance to keep their trades alive to helping heritage organisations pay the bills, and to kick-starting repair works at our best-loved historic sites. The funding is an essential lifeline for our heritage and the people who work tirelessly to conserve it for us all, so that we can hand it on to future generations.”

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund said:

“It is absolutely right that investing in heritage should be a priority during this crisis and this support by Government is crucial. Heritage creates jobs and economic prosperity, is a major driver for tourism and makes our towns, cities, and rural areas better places to live. All of this is so important for our wellbeing and will be particularly vital when we start to emerge from this incredibly difficult time. 

“Our heritage is still facing a perilous future – we are not out of the woods yet. But this hugely welcome funding from Government, and the money we continue to invest from the National Lottery, has undoubtedly stopped heritage and the organisations that care for it being permanently lost.”

Kate Mavor, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said:

“This support for our nation’s heritage is fantastic news. Over the last few months, our teams have been working hard to welcome visitors back safely to the great castles, stone circles, abbeys and historic houses in our care. This funding will help us invest to safeguard the historic fabric of these much-loved places, which everyone can learn from and enjoy.”


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