US$2.5M to restore St George’s Cathedral …Iwokrama, Farfan Mendes supporting efforts

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St Georges Cathedral

THE IWOKRAMA International Centre (IIC) and its joint venture partner Farfan and Mendes Ltd. are supporting the restoration of the iconic St George’s Cathedral, which is located in the heart of the capital city Georgetown.

This year marks 122 years since the dedication of the Cathedral, renowned as one of the tallest wooden churches in the world, at a height of 43.5 metres (143 ft). It is not only one of the great landmarks of Georgetown, but also one of the great Cathedrals of the Anglican Diocese in the West Indies.

Some of the materials assembled for the restoration project

According to a release from Iwokrama, major repair works on the Cathedral were done some 15 years ago but the Anglican Church saw the need to have an assessment done to determine the state of the structure. The Grenadian firm which carried out the assessment found that while the building was structurally sound, the Cathedral needed an overall restoration – not just repair works. To accomplish the restoration works, a very conservative cost of US$2.5M was put forth. But the Trustees of the Anglican Church, in whom the cathedral is vested, could not afford it. Hence a decision was taken to carry out the restoration in phases.

In the first phase, the eastern face of the Cathedral was restored three years ago with contributions by the Trustees and a $1M contribution from the National Trust of Guyana, under which the Cathedral is protected as a national heritage building. This month, works have commenced on the restoration of the northern face of the Cathedral. This phase of the project has been estimated at $61 million with a contribution of $13 million expected from the National Trust of Guyana. This conservative estimate takes into account the concessionary pricing for the wood that is being used in the restoration. The wood is being harvested from the Iwokrama Forest, the only internationally certified forestry concession in Guyana.

Dane Gobin, Chief Executive Officer of Iwokrama noted: “I am pleased that Iwokrama, a Guyanese iconic institution itself, was able to provide first quality certified timber to another Guyanese iconic institution”. Mr Gobin went on to say the fact that the Cathedral wanted to use certified products was testament to “their contribution towards encouraging the sustainable management of Guyana’s forests”. Gobin also noted that “in October last year Iwokrama and its partners were able to encourage the UK authorities to lift its ban on Guyana’s Greenheart through the provision of FSC certified wood.

Iwokrama’s forestry operation is being done in partnership with Farfan and Mendes Ltd, which was happy to support the restoration of the Cathedral. “Iwokrama and McVantage (a contractor of Farfan and Mendes Ltd) very kindly stepped in and gave us some concessionary prices for kiln dried, cured Greenheart, which is required for the building,” said the Very Reverend, Father Andrew Carto, Dean and Rector of the Cathedral.

He added: “I was quite happy when Iwokrama came on board as part of the restoration. It’s very easy to go out there and buy wood but to restore this structure we need cured, kiln-dried wood, and once we’ve finished the job then it’s good for 20 years. “So Iwokrama’s certification and McVantage (contractors of Farfan and Mendes Ltd) coming on board with them to do harvesting, kilning, and preparing the wood was a tremendous relief for us.”