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A place of worship, welcome and hospitality at the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Thinking of volunteering at Durham Cathedral? Your questions, answered.

Durham Cathedral is cared for by over 750 volunteers in 100 different roles. The dedication and energy of our volunteers supports the buildings and Cathedral community, and makes this such a special place to be.  Their commitment and enthusiasm is extremely important, as they contribute to a more welcoming and inspiring experience for the 750,000 visitors we have every year. Their vital support also helps in fulfilling the purpose, values and activities of the Cathedral.

We’re always looking for more volunteers and there’s so much to us than our core purpose as a church! From bell-ringers and broderers to stewarding and outdoor conservation; from marketing and education to Open Treasure and the Cathedral Library; archaeology to Property, it’s fair to say there’s likely to be a role suited to you and your interests.

Why Durham Cathedral?

We’ll let our staff and volunteers speak for themselves…

“There are so many aspects to the Cathedral – it’s a church, a world heritage site, a museum, a library, a charity, an events and community space, a business and it has an education department – that no matter what you’re interested in there is a chance to get involved.” – Katie, a former Durham University student who now works as Development Assistant at the Cathedral.

 “Volunteering at Durham Cathedral is great for those who want to contribute to a fantastic landmark as well as gain hands on experience in a thriving and stimulating workplace. Every day is different, offering new ways to develop your skills and acquire new ones. I’d definitely recommend applying to be a volunteer and becoming a crucial part of the team working behind-the-scenes to run this wonderful landmark.” – Alice, a graduate gaining work experience in heritage over the summer.


What is expected from being a volunteer?

Volunteering involves spending time, unpaid, doing something that benefits the Cathedral.  Depending on the volunteering role that best suits, you will be assigned tasks and activities relevant to that department. Former Marketing Volunteer Clarissa (who is now the Cathedral’s full-time Marketing Officer!) recalls operating the Cathedral’s social media accounts, one of which is the Twitter account for Badger, the Cathedral’s cat – “I never knew the Cathedral had such a light-hearted side, but I could see it was really important in reaching out and entertaining audiences that may otherwise never have much contact with the Cathedral.”

The duties vary depending on the role, with the Development Team requiring individuals to help co-ordinate events and support fund-raising efforts. Whereas, our Welcome Stewards and Open Treasure Gallery Stewards have a front of house role greeting and assisting visitors.

How will volunteering benefit me?

You will get real work experience in a beautiful and stimulating environment: develop new skills and enhance your CV to set yourself apart from others in a competitive jobs market.  Volunteering at the Cathedral could be a door to a new career, where you will meet new people and build useful contacts.

Volunteering can counteract the stresses of life; give a sense of purpose; increase self-confidence; combat depression; depending on the activity, possibly Dementia; and generally makes you happier!

Volunteering also helps you stay physically healthy.  Looking for a way to get more exercise in your life without it being a chore?  Join us as a North West Tower Steward and accompany visitors up and down the 137 steps!


As a student, why should I volunteer?

Many volunteers who work with us at the Cathedral are students.  It is a fantastic way to gain work experience around your studies and add another layer of practical knowledge above and beyond that which comes from academic study.  Whatever your degree, volunteering can help you gain hands-on experience of your subject.  As well as being a bonus in the eyes of employers, practical application through voluntary work will help supplement and cement your own understanding.

We can give you references which can evidence extra-curricular activity.  Employers expect graduates to gain more from university than a degree, so it pays to graduate with a diverse set of skills and experiences. Socially conscious students with the motivation to give up their spare time and help others are ranked highly by employers.  Competition is fierce in today’s job market and a recent study by Oxfam revealed that 80% of employers are more likely to offer jobs to applicants with some experience of voluntary work.  A 2016 report by the Behavioural Insights Team and the Cabinet Office found compelling evidence that young people who take part in social action initiatives, such as volunteering, “develop some of the most critical skills for employment and adulthood in the process”.

Laura, a Durham University student and Cathedral volunteer says: “It enhances not only my CV, but gives me a sense of giving back to the community I am lucky enough to live amongst during my time in Durham as a student.”

How flexible is volunteering?

With over 100 different roles within the Cathedral, we can usually find something to suit your interests. Different volunteer roles require different levels of time and commitment.  Whether you are looking for a regular long term role or a short-term task, we will work with you to find something that suits.  There are also opportunities to get involved in exclusive events throughout the year, such as Stewarding at Europe’s largest festival of light event, Lumiere (recruitment for the 2019 event will start soon).

We are grateful for any time you can offer and we understand the need to balance volunteering with other commitments. If you are unable to work on any given day, we only ask that you give us notice, where possible.


Do I need to have a faith or believe in God?

Not at all!  We encourage individuals of all ages, backgrounds; all faiths and none.  All we ask is that you respect the mission and values of the Cathedral and its activities as a working church.

I have limited mobility—can I still volunteer?

Yes! Open Treasure, our museum and exhibition space is fully accessible.  However, in the rest of the Cathedral, there are some constraints to volunteering in a medieval building.  For more information on which departments have the necessary facilities to support those with limited mobility, please contact us.

Do I need to be over 18?

For insurance and safeguarding reasons we ask that volunteers are 18 years old or older.  If you are younger, our HR Department can talk to you about work experience opportunities. There is no upper age limit but some insurance cover does cease at 80 years old and many of the roles do require a good degree of mobility.

DURHAM CATHEDRAL GENERAL VIEWS Picture: DAVID WOODWill I have to undertake any training?

The only mandatory training we ask you to do is Safeguarding training which is an interactive 3 hour session.  This is a national Church of England requirement for all volunteers and staff.   The training is portable and therefore valid in any Church of England setting.  In addition, we offer a range of optional training such as: Effective Listening; Dementia Friends; Autism Awareness; and Hostile Reconnaissance (counter-terrorism). Different roles have different requirements, but the majority of training is completed through shadowing and mentoring.

How do I find out about volunteer opportunities and how do I apply?

Current roles are advertised on our volunteer pages and through social media, so if this interests you keep up to date with our website or get in touch. Like and follow our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.  Find the role that’s right for you, or if you have specific skills or interests give us a call to discuss bespoke volunteering.

For more information or to apply now, e-mail or call either: Marie Wisson (Volunteers Manager) on 0191 374 4068 or Carol Ross (Volunteers Administrator) on 0191 374 4076.

We ask that you complete an application form with two references, to meet our safeguarding duty of care.


Why is there maintenance work on the Cathedral’s entrances? Creating a ‘wow’ factor with Vanessa Ward

If you’ve visited the Cathedral recently, or are planning on making a visit very soon, you will see white hoardings covering both the inside and outside of the North and South doors. For the last few years, I’ve been working closely with a team of people from across the Cathedral on a project to replace the lobbies on the North and South doors, with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It’s all part of the Open Treasure project; we embarked on a mission to open up the treasures of the Cathedral to our visitors, and I don’t just mean artefacts and manuscripts.

Continue reading Why is there maintenance work on the Cathedral’s entrances? Creating a ‘wow’ factor with Vanessa Ward

Shattering Perceptions: Molly Crowfoot’s remarkable replica of the Cuthbert embroideries

The “girdle” of St Cuthbert was deposited by King Athelstan (r. 927-939), first King of the English and grandson of Alfred the Great, while St Cuthbert’s tomb was at Chester-le-Street in 934 AD. It was originally part of ecclesiastical garments that were commissioned by his step-mother Ælfflæd for the Bishop of Winchester. The braid was found loose and is known as “the girdle”, although it may originally have been a maniple. This is a piece of cloth that hangs from the left arm when giving mass. The girdle is an exceptionally fine piece of weaving, created from gold thread and two different colours of scarlet, although that’s hard to make out after more than a thousand years! So how did we find out what we know about it?

Continue reading Shattering Perceptions: Molly Crowfoot’s remarkable replica of the Cuthbert embroideries

Open Treasure spotlight: claiming Sanctuary at Durham Cathedral

This is the story of the Sanctuary Ring, which has greeted visitors to Durham since the 12th century. It is likely that many visitors to the Cathedral before 1980 grabbed this original Ring and posed for a photo. For over 450 years, the Sanctuary Ring represented the possibility of safety and salvation, for all sorts of crimes. In this post, we will explore the story of the Sanctuary Ring, from its purpose to how it worked in practice.

Continue reading Open Treasure spotlight: claiming Sanctuary at Durham Cathedral

Team Durham Cathedral are getting ready to race!

Twelve members of Team Durham Cathedral are hard at work training for the third annual Durham City Run on 18 July. The team of staff from the Cathedral and Durham’s Barclays Branch and local supporters are running in support of Foundation 2020. All the funds raised will go towards the maintenance and upkeep of the Cathedral; it is especially appropriate then that the race should start and end outside Durham’s most iconic landmark! Continue reading Team Durham Cathedral are getting ready to race!