Brecon Cathedral has had a lengthy battle to secure restoration funding - but the now approved funding will help to secure the building for future generations.

The Brecon Cathedral building dates back to the medieval period. Like many older building, it needs to be maintained or face falling into disrepair.

As part of his appointment back in 2014, the Dean was charged with bringing the Cathedral into good repair. This is where the restoration journey began.

An inspection soon revealed large amounts of works that needed to be completed, showing deterioration to the roof, gutters and external masonry. On November 23 2015, after an in-depth report, The Fabric and Buildings Committee recommended to Chapter that “major restoration is now necessary”.

The report found that the masonry and roofs needed attention, as well as a reordering of the interior and an overhaul of the Cathedral Close - which would lead to the new entrance. The new entrance would be accessible for everyone.

How Brecon Cathedral battled to get restoration funding
Roof (Brecon Cathedral)

How Brecon Cathedral battled to get restoration funding
Masonry (Brecon Cathedral)

After a Project Executive Board had been established, the committee made contact with bodies such as National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), CADW and the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park.

A spokesperson for Brecon Cathedral said: “It became clear that we could only proceed if the National Lottery agreed to fund us. Speaking to these organisations it became clear that an overriding priority must be to make the building accessible to all equally. No funding or permissions would be given to a building that effectively discriminated regarding access.

“Eventually, this work led to a Round 1 application to the NLHF. The Round 1 award is to develop the project. Although we had to show an indication of what we wanted to achieve, and some ideas to demonstrate our thinking, this would be developed, changed, and refined in the Development Phase leading to another application for grant money to actually do the work at Round 2.”

Round 1 of the first bid had been attempted, where the Cathedral asked for £3.87 million, which worked out to a 68 per cent grant. The project was projected to cost £5.725 million. This first attempt at Round 1 noted desired improvements of repairing the roof and masonry, improving access and to create an energetic visitor space.

“We were turned down,” explained the spokesperson.

“The cost was considered way too expensive, and the scheme included too much new development work around the proposed new entrance (below). We were told to scale back considerably on the capital build and widen our horizons as to what the Cathedral could achieve as a result of the project. Our focus had to be on our end users not the repairs in themselves.”

How Brecon Cathedral battled to get restoration funding
Proposed New Entrance (round 1) First Bid (Brecon Cathedral)

The Cathedral attempted a second bid for Round 1 - but it was rejected again for being too expensive.

The Cathedral had altered its original improvement drastically, with some of new improvements including a learning centre for life skills, improved physical access to the building, new visitor attraction and to promote sustainability and heritage.

The NLHF acknowledged that the overall costs were lower and gave positive feedback, but said it was still too expensive. Even with a new revised budget of £2.29 million against a total project cost of £3.56 million (64 per cent grant), the project was rejected by the NLHF.

Invited for a third time and with a fresh new look (designed by DCA Consultants), the intention was to make access equal for all, secure the fabric of the building, develop the building as a major cultural, preserve heritage and to create an attractive event space.

The spokesperson said: “We asked for £1.58 million against a total project cost of £3.25 million (49 per cent grant overall).

“This time, we were successful.

“Although we had indicated to the NLHF our preferred options for the work (as is required), this was all now subject to development, refinement, and even change throughout the Development Phase, especially after consulting our key partners and listening to feedback. The real work was about to start.”

The third, and successful, bid expanded their aims into eight categories, which can be read about here.

How Brecon Cathedral battled to get restoration funding
NLHF Approved (Brecon Cathedral)

Since the approval in September 2022, the Cathedral’s restoration journey has been featured by BBC Wales. Due to its significance, the project faces challenges with skilled labour as the building is Grade I listed. The BBC Wales piece focused on the heritage skills required to repair the building.

In a BBC interview, Camarthenshire council’s Nell Hellier, said: "ignorance and a lack of skills" could mean many heritage buildings don’t get the repair work needed. The Welsh Government commented saying it was working partners in an attempt to resolve the heritage skilled labour shortage.

Ms Hellier said: "We have half a million traditional buildings in Wales, we need traditional building skills to repair them.”

The BBC interviews can be watched on BBC iPlayer and an online version can be found here.

The open day will showcase the exciting plans for the building work as part of the £3.26 million National Lottery People | Passion | Priory project
New sketch of the exciting plans for the Cathedral building work as part of the £3.26 million National Lottery People | Passion | Priory project (Oliver Architecture)

The Cathedral held its most recent event on Monday, February 26 2024. Presented were exciting new plans which were showcased to the public, specifying the changes being made to the building.

Part of the £3.26 million Nation Lottery People | Passion | Priory project - the event gave an opportunity for the public to come along to meet the architects, examine the newest plans and put any questions they may have to the project team.