THE Duke of Westminster donated £500,000 towards a £10m appeal to restore Chester’s original cathedral.
The Duke attended the launch event at St John the Baptist Church where he told the congregation of city notables his family had an historic association with St John’s.
This included a 1383 Court of Chivalry hearing at the church when the Grosvenor family lost a dispute to the Scropes over who had the right to bear a particular coat of arms.
He joked: “Chaucer made the decision because he was bribed more by the Scropes family than he was by my family.”
He added: “My family has had a long connection with this church. I would like to pledge half a million pounds from my family over the next 10 years to St John’s.”
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. Windows need sealing. The organ needs restoring.
The vision aims to generate income by installing new heating so more concerts can be held and from tourists by building into the gardens to create a visitor centre, museum and cafe.
The Rector of Chester, Father Rev David Chesters, who is determined not to charge an entrance fee, said: “The time has come where we should widen our horizons and see St John’s as a focus of our community activity – the secular as well as the sacred.”
The Bishop of Chester, Rt Rev Dr Peter Forster, said responsibility for delivering the project came down to everybody.
His first impression of the church was of its “beauty, elegance and sheer grace”.
Lord Mayor Brian Bailey said St John’s was first and foremost a place of Christian worship but he supported the vision of a “St John’s for everyone”.
Fund-raising will come from tried and tested ways such as fetes and coffee mornings, holding sponsored events, charitable bequests and donations. But monies are also being sought from local, national and international funding bodies and businesses.
In 973, it is thought King Edgar worshipped at the church after being rowed up the Dee by other British princes. Between 1075 and 1102, it became a cathedral.
Contact Rev Chesters by emailing: email@example.com. For more information visit: www.sjproject.co.uk