The Duke of Gloucester visited the Midlands to officially launch a project aimed at conserving and restoring Lichfield Cathedral.
The Duke, who is patron of the Lichfield Inspires project, was accompanied by James Hawley, Lord-Lieutenant of Staffordshire, and was greeted by hundreds of school children and well-wishers.
Once inside the cathedral, the Queen’s cousin was given a tour of the medieval building by the Very Reverend Adrian Dorber, Dean of Lichfield, the project’s architect Robert Kilgour and the cathedral’s chief officer Timothy Pain.
During the tour, he was told about the conservation, renovation and restoration work planned for the cathedral from 2009n as part of Lichfield Inspires, which is only the sixth major, holistic project undertaken to restore and promote the cathedral and the Close in 1,300 years.
Described as a ’once-in-a-century’ project, it was initiated by the Chapter of Lichfield Cathedral.
It aims to transform the way it attracts and serves visitors, while doubling visitor numbers to more than 200,000 per year and increasing the number of educational visitors to more than 15,000 through a range of programme of work spanning the next 10 years.
The Duke was also introduced to project contractors, looked at a model of how the area will look when the work is completed, met cathedral volunteers, staff and chapter members, and listened to the sounds of the cathedral’s choristers.
Next he put on protective gloves to view various treasures including the 8th century St Chad Gospels, the famous Lichfield Angel, 17th century silverware, the 15th century Wycliffe manuscript and the first edition bible of Henry VIII from 1539.
After the tour, the Duke said he was "flattered" to be the project’s patron and wished the cathedral "every luck in their endeavour".
He added: "Cathedrals represent many different things to different people. To me it represents wonderful and historical continuity".
Timothy Pain, chief officer of the cathedral, said the project had been the culmination of five years of careful planning by the Cathedral Chapter. "We are greatly excited about the support and encouragement we are already receiving from funders and planners. We very much look forward to the next 5 years with humble anticipation," he said.
The Dean of Lichfield, added: "It has been a memorable day for the cathedral. A Royal visit always encourages volunteers and community to re-double the effort and commitment needed to launch a major undertaking like Lichfield Inspires."
The Duke’s visit comes just days after two reports were published, which suggested thousands of old buildings in the region could be at risk because of a serious shortage of specialist heritage sector workers.
The National Heritage Training Group (NHTG) reports claimed most of the workforce used to undertake repair and maintenance work do not possess the required skills.