Conserving the Building
Durham Cathedral is one of very few to have a resident archaeologist on site. The installation of 25,000 metres of cable for the new sound system in 2005 provided an opportunity to record a considerable amount of information, including the remains of the Norman apse which was hidden by the extension of the 13th century Chapel of the Nine Altars.
More recently, demolition of the western boundary wall revealed the reuse in the wall of numerous stone mouldings and window fragments which have been recovered. Part of the medieval lay cemetery was exposed during this work and was examined following approval given by the Ministry of Justice.
Erosion of the stonework on the upper section of the south wall of the Prior's Hall, including the four-light window, led to archaeological recording, including a geological survey of the affected wall. Records were made of identified phases and the methods used by the stonemasons in the past.
The Cathedral has extensive archaeological collections.
Direct Works Department
The Cathedral employs its own Craftsmen to carry out maintenance and restoration work to and around this wonderful place. Currently 6 Stonemasons, 3 Joiners, 2 Maintenance Technicians and 4 Gardeners carry out work on a daily basis to the Cathedral, its Claustral Buildings, and The Cathedral Close which is known as The College. From changing the light bulbs to carrying out masonry repairs and renewals to the Chapel of Nine Altars (a project which has been ongoing for almost thirty years), all work is undertaken by the works department to a very high standard. The Cathedral Works Department also provides training experience for its own or the University’s apprentice masons.
Recently completed projects include the renewal of the roof of the Refectory, repairs to a boundary wall, a chair lift to the Monks’ Dormitory, new Nave choir stalls, a new sound system with its 25,000m of cables, the new welcome area at the west end of the Cathedral, a small scale font and altar for the Education Department to use with visiting school groups, and a ramp to provide wheelchair access to the Quire.
Another recent project, the restoration of the Joseph window, required stone to be cut out to the glass line and new stone cut shaped and fitted. This task proved to be difficult and time consuming due to the weathering of the existing stone and the difficulty in maintaining the geometric shapes of the stone as the existing stonework to the window had settled, buckled and twisted over the centuries. The latest stage of the work to the Chapel of the Nine Altars, which is about to be completed, continues down the buttress to the pair of statues above the ”Dun Cow and Milkmaid”.
Apart from the ongoing renewal of stone to the north west pinnacle and buttress, work in progress or planned includes
- Repairs to Prior’s Hall roof
- Lighting improvements in the Cathedral
- Glazing in the Galilee Chapel
Supporting the conservation work
It comes as a surprise to most people to learn that the Cathedral receives no government funding for the conservation and maintenance of the Cathedral, although English Heritage has provided some grants for specific projects. Over £1.2 million was spent last year on the maintenance, repair and conservation of the Cathedral and its associated buildings. This has to be raised from within the Cathedral or from our visitors, and therefore we ask all our visitors and members of the congregation to be generous in expressing their appreciation of this beautiful building, which is only still standing and open to the public without charge because of the generosity of previous generations.
If you would like to make a donation to support the ongoing conservation of this beautiful building, you can do so when you visit or by sending a donation. It costs us about £40,000 a week to maintain the Cathedral's work, worship and music and to and keep it running and open. Full details can be found under ‘How can I help?‘. We are particularly grateful for legacies that have been left to the Cathedral and encourage everyone who appreciates the Cathedral to consider including a legacy, however small or large, in your will. If you would like a copy of our legacy brochure we will be glad to send you one.