Category Archives: Volunteers

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.


It’s the final countdown!

On 11 July 2013, the first brick was laid on Durham Cathedral in LEGO, an ambitious project which sought to recreate Durham Cathedral from 300,000 LEGO bricks to raise funds for Open Treasure, the Cathedral’s new world-class exhibition experience open from 23 July 2016.

Exactly three years later the model is almost complete, with only 15,000 bricks to go! We are hoping to complete the model in just two weeks and you can help by visiting the Cathedral in person, texting LEGO16 £2 to 70070 or donating online at

And if you’re still not convinced about the awesomeness of this project, here are ten surprising facts about Durham Cathedral in LEGO which might just change your mind!

  1. Durham Cathedral in LEGO has been designed by Bright Bricks, a UK-based company licensed by LEGO to design large-scale LEGO models. Other creations by Bright Bricks include a gigantic working scale model of the Rolls Royce Dreamliner aero engine and a world record breaking 35 foot high Christmas tree!
  2. The first brick was laid on the model by TV presenter and historian Jonathan Foyle on 11 July 2013, marking the start of an epic three-year LEGO build.
  3. Durham Cathedral in LEGO will eventually contain almost 300,000 bricks and over 1,450 individual modules.
  4. Durham Cathedral in LEGO has taken 1097 days to build so far (including today), with only 14 days left to go!
  5. When complete, Durham Cathedral in LEGO will be 1.7m tall, 3.84m long and 1.53m wide.
  6. Durham Cathedral in LEGO is the first large-scale LEGO model to have been built by the general public.
  7. Durham Cathedral in LEGO has been built by visitors across the globe, including visitors from as far afield as Alaska, the Seychelles, the Solomon Islands and the Cook Islands!
  8. Over 27,000 volunteer hours have gone into the making of Durham Cathedral in LEGO, which has been open almost every day for the last three years.
  9. An online mini-series has been produced inspired by Durham Cathedral in LEGO, retelling the story of Durham Cathedral through LEGO animation. You can watch the videos here:
  10. The final brick will be added to the model on Monday 25 July 2016 by Pearl Richardson from Newcastle who won our LEGO Lottery, but don’t worry if you can’t visit the Cathedral before the model is complete! Durham Cathedral in LEGO will remain on display at Durham Cathedral for visitors to admire for many years to come.

To find out more about Durham Cathedral in LEGO, please visit

To find out more about Open Treasure, please visit

Behind the Pages – Discovering the hidden treasures of Durham Cathedral Library

I have recently been fortunate enough to participate in Behind the Pages, a special programme being offered to groups as a series of discussions and visits to Durham Cathedral. The project is linked to Open Treasure, the Cathedral’s exhibition experience open from 23 July 2016.

As a volunteer at Durham Cathedral, I first saw the project advertised in the Volunteers Newsletter and felt it was too good an opportunity to ignore!

Behind the Pages gives existing book groups the opportunity to study a book before being invited to the Cathedral’s Refectory Library (not normally open to the public) to examine rare texts, supported by informed staff.

My U3A Book Club were equally enthusiastic about the prospect of engaging with the Cathedral’s collections – it was our first experience of such a project!

A number of books spanning across different genres were selected by the Cathedral’s Head of Collections and Assistant Librarian. We were asked to select a title that we felt was appropriate to our group, with each title being linked to an object or artefacts held in the Cathedral’s hidden treasure collection.

We chose ‘English Passengers’ by Matthew Kneale almost by default, having previously read several of the other books suggested. We were then free to read the book at our leisure before being invited to visit the Cathedral and view the hidden treasures. It proved to be a very good decision!

‘English Passengers’ is an ambitious novel spanning 40 years of colonial history, told in the first person by 20 narrators. The action takes place in England, on the high seas and in Tasmania, taken over by the British as a penal settlement.

In Tasmania, British actions completely wiped out the indigenous people, through disease and murder, with the last person dying in 1879. Surprisingly against this background there is hilarity in the book as well as absolute horror.

Overall, ‘English Passengers’ is a satisfying read which races along and subjects us to the full range of emotions, and we would happily recommend the book to other readers.

After reading the book, we were invited to the Cathedral’s Refectory Library for a fascinating ‘Show and Tell’ session. We were shown books which predated the 19th century and others contemporary with it. Books of hand-coloured maps used by travellers in the 18th and 19th centuries were especially beautiful.

We also saw etchings made from drawings done during Captain Cook’s voyage to New Zealand and could imagine the wonder felt by those who saw the people, plants and animals shown, for the first time. The library staff were both enthusiastic and knowledgeable and happy to share their passion for the books with us. We felt privileged to be there surrounded by the many treasures and would love to be involved in further outreach projects.

This experience has made us more aware of Open Treasure and we look forward to visiting the exhibition space when it opens in July.

Maria Mekins, Cathedral Volunteer and Member of Sedgefield U3A Book Group

*Behind the Pages is a new and exciting project, which aims to transform access to the Cathedral’s collections and previously hidden wonders including never before seen objects and artefacts.

For more information, please contact or call 0191 374 4070.

Lilian Groves – A National Treasure!

Here at Durham Cathedral we are blessed with the support of over 700 volunteers, who work tirelessly and selflessly to create the best possible experience for those visiting Durham Cathedral. With Open Treasure due to open in summer 2016, our need for volunteers continues to grow!

Every single volunteer at Durham Cathedral is a superstar in their own right but one of our volunteers, Lilian Groves, has recently stepped into the lime light as one of only 11 people short-listed for VisitEngland’s Tourism Superstar Award 2016!

Lilian epitomises the commitment and dedication of all our volunteers and last summer Lilian’s invaluable support was recognized when she was crowned the Durham Tourism Superstar 2015. Now Lilian has been short-listed for the national award and with your help could be crowned the nation’s superstar, an accolade which she thoroughly deserves.

We hope the following facts will convince you to vote for Lilian, an incredible lady who is an asset not only to Durham Cathedral, but to Durham, the North East, and the whole nation. She truly is a national treasure!

  1. Lilian has volunteered at Durham Cathedral for over 25 years, making her one of our longest-serving volunteers.
  2. Despite being 87 years-old, Lilian delivers over 100 tours each year.
  3. Lilian’s tours are in such high demand that they are often booked up to two years in advance!
  4. Lilian is well-loved by everyone she meets and regularly receives thank you letters from admiring visitors and fans from across the globe.
  5. Lilian has given tours to many well-known guests during her time at Durham Cathedral, including Princess Anne, P D James, Sheila Hancock, Jeremy Vine, Sting and Bill Bryson.
  6. When Bill Bryson heard that Lilian had been voted Durham’s Tourism Superstar he sent a card saying that he’d always known she was a superstar.
  7. Lilian was awarded an MBE for services to education amongst other accolades, and for 20 years was honorary Secretary of the Friends of Durham Cathedral.
  8. Lilian is a former Vice-Principal of Hild Bede College, Durham University, and the gym at Hild Bede College is even named after Lilian!
  9. Lilian is a former PE lecturer and a former President of the Physical Education Association of the Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
  10. Lilian holds a Durham MEd for research into PE for children with special needs.

Lilian is one of the most generous, selfless, and inspirational people you could ever meet. In the words of Lilian herself, winning the Tourism Superstar Award will be wonderful, not only for her, but ‘for the Cathedral, for Durham City, and for the North East’.

So what are you waiting for? Please #Vote4Lilian today at

If you are interested in volunteering for Open Treasure, the new visitor experience opening at Durham Cathedral in summer 2016, please contact our Volunteers Manager at

For other volunteering opportunities at Durham Cathedral, please visit