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£200,000 grant awarded to St Paul's to help maintain Wren's iconic dome

The great paintings inside the dome of St Paul's are set to be saved from water damage after a £200,000 grant was awarded to the Cathedral.

The huge murals by Sir James Thornhill, which depict the life of St Paul, will be protected from moisture as part of a wider scheme to repair the Cathedral's Stone Gallery.

The award, from the government-sponsored First World War Cathedral Repairs Fundwill go towards undoing water damage across the Gallery, which is severely affecting the Cathedral's dome, one of the most iconic landmarks on London's skyline.

The Stone Gallery forms a key part of the Cathedral's visitor experience and provides unrivalled vistas over London. It received an asphalte coating more than a century ago in 1906, but that has now failed and moisture is escaping into the fabric in unwanted locations, with consequent damage both internally and externally.

There is now a long-standing problem of saturation in the dome's supporting stone, but more pressing is the internal damage to the dome paintings.

Oliver Caroe, Surveyor to the Fabric of St Paul's, said: "The 1906 work to the Stone Gallery has failed, allowing water to damage the incomparable Thornhill painting inside the Dome and causing serious long term damage to the Peristyle vaulting. This vital grant allows us to start a programme of essential repairs to remedy a very challenging problem - but will only get us a quarter of the way around the gallery. There is still much more to do to secure the complete gallery, and other leaking roofs of the Cathedral still await urgent attention.

The Stone Gallery repair project will involve:

  • The removal of the 1906 asphalte layer and exposure of the original Portland stone paving
  • The re-lining of the existing central gutter in steel sections
  • The widening of the rainwater outlets from the Stone Gallery, involving some adaptation of the stonework to widen the throat of the outlet to improve hydrodynamic flow.
  • The formation of new rainwater overflow outlets from the Stone Gallery to reduce the likelihood of future rainwater ingress into the fabric, involving diamond drilled penetrations of stone vaults.
  • Reinstating the tanking and paving the surface of the Stone Gallery
  • Shortening of lead rainwater pipes.
  • Tidying up and enhancing electrical services.
  • The phased closure of the Stone Gallery to enable works and associated access requirements.
Repair work to the entirety of St Paul's goes on at all times, with the money to do so raised almost exclusively by the activities of the Cathedral, including from sightseers and generous donations

The Reverend Canon Philippa Boardman, Treasurer of St Paul's said: "I am keenly aware that we need a total of some £20 million pounds for pressing repairs to maintain this remarkable Cathedral building. This important £200,000 grant will help us to do urgent works to keep the Stone Gallery watertight and to conserve it for the hundreds of thousands of visitors who climb up to it each year to enjoy.

St Paul's is one of 31 English Cathedrals to benefit from this round of funding.

For further information visit the Church of England's media centre.