CHESTER’S original cathedral is launching a £10m appeal to restore the building as part of a vision to attract more visitors.

Next Tuesday, the Duke of Westminster will launch the 10-year project at St John the Baptist Church, by Grosvenor Park, in the presence of the Bishop, the Rt Rev Dr Peter Forster, and Lord Mayor Brian Bailey.

Founded in 689 AD, the walls of St John’s have seen more than 1,000 years of prayer. Crumbling stonework and the rotten roof are in urgent need of repair.

But with just 90 parishioners, funding must come from the wider community as well as bodies like English Heritage.

The vision aims to make the church financially self-sufficicent by installing heating so concerts can be held and generating income from tourists.

The Rector of Chester, Father David Chesters, who is determined not to charge an entrance fee, said: “Christians have worshipped on the site of St John’s since 689. The funds are needed to ensure the church stays open for future generations.”

In 973, it is thought King Edgar worshipped at the church after being rowed up the Dee by other British princes.

The church was rebuilt by the Normans and, between 1075 and 1102, it became a cathedral.

From the 13th century, its reputation was enhanced by the possession of an important religious relic – the Rood of Chester – which attracted pilgrims and, significantly, income.

The church suffered damage during the Civil War when it was captured by Parliamentarians, who used the church as barracks and the churchyard as a gun battery during the siege of Chester.

Anyone interested in helping the appeal can email Fr Chesters at parishof

Tomorrow, Grosvenor Museum will present Chester Through the Ages at St John’s and on Sunday, for the first time, the Chester and District Scouts will march from The Castle to attend the St George’s Day Service, which begins at 11am.