An example of one of the Leaves of Southwell carvings in the Chapter House at Southwell Minster
An example of one of the Leaves of Southwell carvings in the Chapter House at Southwell Minster

A project to ensure the future of internationally-renowned medieval carvings at Southwell Minster, and restore its roof, has received an initial National Lottery grant of £352,697.

The total cost of the work is expected to be £3m, of which it is hoped £2.2m will come from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The stone carvings, known as The Leaves of Southwell, are in the Chapter House. They date back to the late 13th Century and have been an inspiration to artists and writers but are currently at risk.

The main east roof of the minster, next to the Chapter House, is leaking and must be replaced.

The project will involve structural work to make the building water-tight and measures to ensure the carvings are preserved.

The scheme is intended to enable people to learn more about the carvings. They will be digitally recorded, conserved and illuminated.

The minster’s Canon Chancellor Nigel Coates is leading the project.

“Within the Chapter House appropriate heating and environmental auditing have become essential, while the introduction of  modern lighting and an exciting activity plan will ensure future generations continue to be fascinated and inspired by the Leaves of Southwell,” he said.

'Significant educational resource'

The Dean of Southwell, the Very Rev Nicola Sullivan, said the Lottery money was welcome news.

“We are pleased to be working again with the Heritage Lottery Fund, which supported our project to open up the Archbishop’s Palace and create a new public garden,” she said.

“The Chapter House carvings are a vastly significant educational resource and we look forward to making them much better known and accessible.”

The chairman of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Sir Peter Luff, said Southwell Minster was a particularly fine example of a historic place of worship brimming with heritage treasures.

“This vital National Lottery funding will both ensure the fabric of this marvellous building is secure and enable more people to visit and enjoy it,” he said.

“Making the minster more accessible will also contribute to making it more sustainable, ensuring future generations can marvel at its glories.”

As part of the project a day-long conference will be held on February 3 when the speakers will include art historian Paul Binski, ecologist John Rodwell, archaeologist Philip Dixon and theologian Alison Milbank.