Restoring Selby Abbey: The Challenge We Face
The great Norman Abbey of Selby, founded by William the Conqueror in 1069, has been placed in jeopardy many times in its 950 year history. The North Yorkshire Abbey, which rivals the great English cathedrals in size and historical significance, is one of the few monastic foundations to have survived the Reformation and vandalism by both the armies of Charles I and Oliver Cromwell.
Although it has withstood centuries of political and religious upheaval as well as fire and flooding, the Abbey's limestone has been eaten away by pollution over time. Continuous repair and renovations have been carried out but inspections in 2000 revealed the full scale of the deterioration. Carvings, both inside and out, and extensive areas of high level stonework were found to have been eroded and much intricate tracery had been lost.
In 2002, Selby Abbey was included in the World Monuments Watch List of The World's 100 Most Endangered Historic Sites and an appeal was launched for £4.5 million estimated to be the cost of restoring the Abbey's exterior fabric. The appeal was supported by English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Robert Wilson Trust New York, and many other charitable trusts, local businesses and private individuals. Other major donors were The Pilgrim Trust, The Garfield Weston Foundation, The Alan Evans Trust, The Yorkshire Historic Churches Trust, The National Churches Trust, The Headley Trust and Drax Power Ltd. The response was truly heart-warming and thanks to the generosity of our many supporters, the final appeal target was reached in July 2008.
The Abbey's medieval West Front, the Latham Chapel, the whole of the North Choir Aisle as well as the detailed work of re-glazing and repairing the great East Window have all been restored. High level damaged stonework has been replaced and statues and gargoyles extensively re-carved. The South Choir Aisle, its' Eastern Bays and the Scriptorium with its pinnacles and statues have also been restored.
Preserving the Future
It is inevitable that time and the elements will adversely affect the fabric of a building as old as the Abbey. A maintenance and repair programme will always be required. Our biggest challenge is that, with no endowment to fall back on, finance for each new project has to come from current fundraising. During 2010-2011, £220,000 was raised to restore the medieval North Porch and work began on 10th April 2012 and is expected to be complete by the late summer.
Now we are concentrating our attention on the interior of the Abbey and a decision has been taken to launch a major new £1 million appeal to repair and restore the Abbey's world famous Hill Organ. For further details of the Organ Appeal and how you can help, please go to www.selbyabbeyorganappeal.org.uk.
With Your Support
Selby Abbey has survived and will continue to survive because so many people care about its future. The Abbey fascinates historians, delights visitors, inspires artists and fills the towns-people with pride. It provides comfort and joy to all those who worship here because, above all, Selby Abbey continues to perform its primary function as a parish church.
SO MUCH HAS ALREADY BEEN ACCOMPLISHED BUT WE NEED YOUR HELP TO CONTINUE TO PRESERVE THIS BEAUTIFUL ABBEY CHURCH FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS TO ENJOY
Recently Completed Works
Stonework restoration of the Western Bays of the South Choir Aisle £482,000
Restoration of the Scriptorium and Choir School, including pinnacles and gargoyles £800,000
The stonework restoration of the Eastern Bays of the South Choir Aisle £400,000
Re-glazing of the fourteenth century Washington Window costs met in full by The British American Tobacco Company £35,000
Replacement of Heating System £120,000
Restoration and re-glazing of the great East Window and restoration of the East End £545,000
Restoration of the Latham Chapel and North Choir Aisle £1,1 million
West End restoration £587,000
Abbots' Tomb Slabs £16,000
Choir Lighting £12,000
Bell Augmentation and Tower Safety Works £38,000
Upgrading of the Electrical System £190,000
Installation of a modern Lavatory Facility £80,000
Conservation and repair of the medieval North Porch (ongoing) £220,000
Our Next Big Project
The Organ Appeal
The launching in May 2012 of a £1million appeal to repair and restore the Abbey's renowned Hill Organ, one of the finest romantic instruments in Britain. The Organ was installed in 1909 after the Great Fire three years earlier and was then considered to be the best that money could buy. It has been played by many of the world's leading concert organists and achieved iconic status with the 3 LP recordings for HMV by Fernando Germani, the Pope's Organist at St Peter's Basilica in Rome. The Italian Virtuoso was considered by many as the greatest organist of his generation. Now, the organ is seriously unwell and is nearing the end of its active life. Within 5 years, this world famous instrument will be unplayable.
The great Organ of Selby Abbey, redesigned and carefully restored will more faithfully reflect the original instrument and will be a fitting legacy for worshippers, listeners and musicians.
For further details on the Selby Abbey Organ Appeal 2012 and for ways that you can help, please go to: www.selbyabbeyorganappeal.org.uk. Alternatively, contact the Appeal Office:
Brigadier Jeremy Gaskell OBE
Selby Abbey Appeal Office
The Rose House
Tel No: 01653 697320