Heavy rain puts cathedral at risk
In May, the ET reported Peterborough Cathedral has launched a huge fundraising campaign to help protect the roof of the nave. YVONNE MARTIN finds out more.
EVERY time there is a heavy downpour, one of the city’s most precious treasures is in potential danger.
The nave ceiling at Peterborough Cathedral faces this possible threat because the pipes which take water away from the roof would not be able to cope with the increased volume of water that could come with particularly heavy rainfall.
The cathedral wants to tackle the problem to prevent the unthinkable happening – water seeping in and damaging the priceless nave ceiling beneath – and so has launched an appeal to raise £100,000.
The money will be used to put hoppers on 40 of the cathedral’s 60 downpipes, so increasing the capacity of the pipe system.
The Dean’s assistant Canon Richard Cattle said: “They simply don’t have the capacity to take away large quantities of water in a hurry.”
There has been no damage done so far, but Canon Cattle said: “We have had one or two near misses. When there’s a heavy downpour you can see the downpipes are struggling to get the water away. We felt once or twice it’s been dangerously near the capacity.”
And the thought of this causing damage to the ceiling is “unthinkable” he said, so the plans were put in place to install preventive measures.
He explained: “We are the custodians of a great treasure and we take that responsibility seriously.”
He believes climate change is bringing increasingly intense rainfall and it is the cathedral’s responsibility to guard against the potential threat from this. Doing nothing is not an option.
“If it never happens – fantastic, but if it happens what will people say and how will we feel? Our own observation tells us rainfall is coming down with greater intensity.
“We have seen that the water on the roof is approaching danger level because the downpipes are working to capacity. Climate change is impacting on us.
“Our feeling at the moment is this is a real risk. In the balance of probability downfalls of rain will become more intense.”
Canon Cattle described the nave ceiling as “one of the best kept secrets in Peterborough”.
For many people the West Front is the image that comes to mind when they think of the cathedral, but he said: “The ceiling is in many ways far more dramatic.”
It consists of 40 lozengeshaped pictures showing the arts and education of the 13th century and the images portray musicians, teachers, monks, saints and angels.
There is an image of the sun and moon in chariots. A woman portrays astronomy with a sphere in her hands. Mathematics is shown with a man holding an abacus.
Geometry, rhetoric and grammar are also portrayed. An ass is seen playing a harp. Visitors can see the ceiling pictures by using the interactive screens at the Cathedral.
The pictures were originally painted on to oak before being put in place and are irreplaceable.
Canon Cattle said: “If you get water in, it would go into the timber on which these paintings are mounted and the paint peels off and then it’s lost for ever.
“It’s a challenge, but it’s something we have to respond to.”
appEal: Canon Richard Cattle in the cathedral. (8BD0111400)