Lancaster Priory's prayers answered with major funding boost

Vicar of Lancaster, the Rev. Canon Chris Newlands, celebrates the funding to restore Lancaster Priory's historic clock tower.Vicar of Lancaster, the Rev. Canon Chris Newlands, celebrates the funding to restore Lancaster Priory's historic clock tower.
Vicar of Lancaster, the Rev. Canon Chris Newlands, celebrates the funding to restore Lancaster Priory's historic clock tower.
Lancaster Priory’s historic clock tower is to be completely restored thanks to an award of almost £300,000.

The grant of £291,280 is among the the first major tranche of funding from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to help heritage organisations through the coronavirus pandemic.

Scaffolding has already appeared at the site, and all the major repair work will be completed by the end of March 2021.

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Vicar of Lancaster, the Rev. Canon Chris Newlands, said: “Lancaster Priory’s tower is one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks, set high on Castle Hill, overlooking Morecambe Bay. That prominent position has been the cause of its problems with centuries of wind and rain wearing away the stone and mortar of the tower.

"The restoration we are about to begin will ensure that the Priory Church and its tower will stand for many centuries more in this sacred place where Christian worship has taken place for well over a thousand years.”

Lancaster Priory originally launched a fundraising campaign for the tower in March, just days before lockdown began and £70,000 has already been raised from donations and grants but this latest funding announcement means all the restoration work can be done within five months.

Built in 1759, the Grade 1 listed tower is one of the finest in the country and according to the renowned architectural and art historian, Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, could ‘claim kinship with Tom Tower and All Souls, Oxford and the Wren churches'.

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However, it is in urgent need of repair inside and out. Chronic water leaks are threatening the clock installed in 1886 and described as the best example of the workmanship of Lund and Blockley of London. Its chimes were specially composed, possibly by the Priory’s choirmaster at the time.

Damp is also badly affecting the frame holding the ten bells, said to be among the best in the North-West. Most churches have eight bells but the Priory’s additional two were added in 2006 to complement those installed in 1885-6 and paid for by Lord Ashton.

The clock’s restoration will be filmed for online and public distribution to encourage younger people who may be interested in the profession and, once removed from the tower, the clock’s movement is expected to be displayed in the church alongside information panels explaining its history.

When returned to the clock chamber, improvements to the lighting and access will enable visits to become part of guided tours for more able visitors.

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The drier tower will also improve the environment for the bell-ringers and develop it as a ‘teaching tower’ to encourage younger people in the art of change ringing.

"As Lord-Lieutenant and The Queen's representative , I am absolutely delighted by the news of the substantial grant from the Government's Cultural Recovery Fund for essential work to Lancaster Priory," said Lord Shuttleworth.

"This church shares its prominent site above the city with Lancaster Castle, the historic heart of the Duchy of Lancaster, and it is a vital focal point for all Lancastrians."

As part of the ongoing fundraising campaign, merchandise featuring images by Ellen Greyling of well known local landmarks, including the Priory, are now on sale online.

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The church is also hosting an exhibition of her artwork once lockdown restrictions allow.

Further donations can be made at the church or via JustGiving on the Priory website or through Lancaster Priory Facebook.

People can also sponsor a stone for £10 in memory of a relative or friend. Anyone interested can speak to a staff member at the church or email [email protected].

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