The Work of the Administrator to Lichfield Cathedral

Following the Society's Annual General Meeting on the evening of 17th January our guest was David Wallington, the administrator to Lichfield Cathedral. David has been Administrator for nine years following early retirement from one of the more secretive sections of the Ministry of Defence.

As the principal lay officer at the Cathedral he surprised us with the fact that the Cathedral is one of Lichfield's largest businesses. Besides the Dean and three Canons there are 44 paid lay staff, nine lay vicars, choral scholars and over 300 volunteers associated with the operation of the Cathedral on a day-to-day basis. Three services are held 365 days a year and to those you must add 100 special services and more than 50 special events, together with the annual Lichfield Festival. The Cathedral enjoys a congregation of up to 300 persons on Sundays, confirming the view nationally that cathedrals are the Church of England's 'growth area'.

Besides maintaining the fabric of the Cathedral, David is responsible for 40 listed properties in the Cathedral Close - which itself is listed as a historic park by English Heritage. The earliest buildings for which David is responsible are those in Vicar's Close which date back to 1470.

David briefly explained the form of cathedral government which has been in existence since an Act of Parliament in 1999. The Dean and Chapter, which govern the Cathedral on a day-to-day basis, comprise both the Dean and nine members of the Chapter, five of which are lay representatives. The makes the Cathedral quite unusual in England since the lay members of the Chapter could potentially outvote the Clergy! Overarching the Dean and Chapter comes the Cathedral Council; comprising representatives, both clergy and secular, which is charged with having a general oversight over the work of the Dean and Chapter. As an advisory body, it can advise and guide the work of the Dean and Chapter in its management of all facets of cathedral life.

The Cathedral is not immune to the bureaucratic problems of the wider world. Predictably, health and safety regulations in such an old building can be a nightmare and planing procedures apply to the Cathedral Close just as for any other building in England. Alterations to the fabric of the Cathedral itself are controlled by the 'Fabric Advisory Committee' which needs to refer proposals to the 'Churches Fabric Commission for England' which itself consults both the District Council and other statutory consultees. In terms of funding, whilst the Cathedral receives much support from English Heritage, it needs to balance its budget through income from rents, investments, donations and contributions from both visitors and the congregation. Restoration of the Flemish windows in the Lady Chapel will cost 2.75 million alone and David explained that the Dean and Chapter constantly have to perform a balancing act, ensuring that repairs are targeted to the most needy projects.

David's talk was a fascinating insight into the operation of, effectively, a multi-million pound business as well as a nationally important religious foundation.

Roger Hockney
February 2004