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Cathedrals contribute £235m to their local economies, says C of E report

by Cara Bentley

Church of England cathedrals provide 6,065 full time jobs and are visited by 9.5 million tourists. 

In a report into the economic and social value of the C of E's 42 cathedrals, their worth to local people and local economy was noted. 

For example, over 90 per cent of the 127 people employed by Liverpool Cathedral in 2019 lived within the city and the cathedral tries to fill all roles locally where possible. The cathedral also recently renegotiated its catering contract for the cathedral restaurant and any corporate events, giving it to a locally based company. The cathedral shop also supports local artists through its products. 

In terms of entertainment, in 2019 cathedrals collectively hosted 9,580 music, heritage, arts and culture events (such as Liverpool Cathedral, pictured) - as well as film shoots for The Crown, Doctor Who and Avengers: Endgame.

Norwich Cathedral's helter skelter


Southwark Cathedral host a fashion show 


The historic venues also provide volunteering posts for 15,400 people who gave 906,000 hours of their time. They welcomed more than 14.6 million visits, 308,000 by schoolchildren and 9.5 million tourists. 

The report also details the outreach that Cathedrals do, such as food banks and activities for children and older people. 

During Covid-19, visitor numbers slumped by 75 per cent compared to 2019, spend was down proportionately and over 70 per cent of cathedral staff were furloughed. 
The fall in visitor numbers has had a significant effect on cathedrals' income, particularly ones more dependent on the visitor economy. 
Closure and restrictions on congregation size also meant fewer people attended services in the cathedral, down from a midweek average of 362 adults and 108 children in 2019, to 84 and 25 respectively in 2020, leading to a drop in congregational giving too. 
But the research also found that Covid-19 prompted creative opportunities; new services like food deliveries, shopping and online pastoral support developed, digital technologies enabled cathedrals to reach more people and host online initiatives such as prayer walls, virtual candle lighting, tours and pilgrim trails. 

The Bishop of Bristol, Right Rev Viv Faull, the Church of England's lead Bishop for cathedrals and church buildings, said:

"This report comprehensively demonstrates the value and importance of our nation's cathedrals, not only to those who worship in them but to their whole community.

"They are beacons in their cities and counties, at the heart of our civic life, centres for arts and heritage and bringing increasing numbers to faith.

"While the pre-Covid growth in many areas indicated in this report is very encouraging, the report also highlights the significant losses and cutbacks that have been necessary to meet the challenges of the past year. 

"Cathedrals are not alone in the challenges faced, however this is a timely reminder of all they offer which justifies the support they have already received, for which we are grateful. 

"It is imperative this support continues to help cathedrals to grow back and to develop all they offer to their communities and economies."
The Very Revd Adrian Dorber, chair of the Association of English Cathedrals, said:

"Cathedrals stand at the heart of their communities and regions - places of faith and worship, welcome and service, wonder and education. By our welcoming and inclusive ethos, millions are drawn to our cathedrals every year. It is touching to receive so much public attention and endorsement. We have, though, been badly affected by the pandemic; the data proves that very clearly. But we've risen to new challenges. We've gone digital, streamed our services, and reached out to provide practical and spiritual care to be beacons of hope in tough times. 

"This study gives the evidence of our impact as sacred spaces and places of compassion, community and solace.  England's cathedrals are resources for our local communities and the nation," he added.

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