March 9, 2021
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As part of the ongoing conservation of Winchester Cathedral, structural work has started on the North and South Nave Aisle ceilings, carried out by its own in-house stonemasonry team. In total, there are eight vaults requiring work, five bays in the North Nave Aisle and three in the South Nave Aisle, with plans for completion by the 23rd April.
The recommendation was made, following a consultation and inspection with an external structural engineer for remedial works to take place within six months, after the stonemasons recorded that some of the rib stones to the Nave Aisle vaults had dropped slightly from position and in some cases were loose. When the stones are secure, they ‘pinch’ each other in place, however, this is not currently happening as some of the stones have now dropped so it is essential for this repair work to be carried out.
The Cathedral has tried to ensure minimal disruption to worship, both online and in the building, so the repair and maintenance work has been planned outside of services, wherever possible. As the Cathedral is currently quiet, and open for prayer and reflection only, the decision has been made to undertake these works to ensure completion before receiving general visitors on the 17th of May, following government guidance.
Stonemasonry is one of the oldest crafts which has played a part in the life of the Cathedral since it was first built. The stonemasons are key to the preservation of the building, and keeping a specialist stonemasonry team is essential if the work of conservation and restoration at the Cathedral is to be done to the highest standards.
Will Davies, Stonemason at Winchester Cathedral said, “Stonemasonry is an unseen but vital part of conserving the building for future generations to experience. The Cathedral is a testament to the skill and art of the master stonemasons who built it, but like so many other heritage buildings, it is not immune to weathering and time, and repairs and maintenance are vital to its survival. It is a privilege to look after the Cathedral and I always feel a great sense of achievement, knowing that the work I have completed will be there for many years to come.”
Winchester’s team of masons is made up of Pourang Tajally, winner of the Duke of Gloucester Award in 2015, Will Davies and Chris Herron. The team, which conserve the Cathedral’s fabric are highly skilled artists and craftspeople and their work requires sensitivity to the history of the building. The aim is to slow down the process of decay, and to replace only those parts that are beyond repair.
Winchester Cathedral is one of the nine Cathedrals in the country to have its own dedicated stonemasonry team and stonemason yard, all of which make up the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship and are behind the development and delivery of a foundation degree programme for stonemasons and other Cathedral craftspeople. To promote the development of the next generation of talented craftspeople and the craft of stonemasonry generally to everyone, Winchester Cathedral will be running a series of workshops led by the stonemasons in the summer. Further details to follow.
The stonemasons consider it a great honour and privilege to look after and conserve the Cathedral, and are committed to ensuring that the beautiful architecture is preserved and that the building is secured for worshippers and visitors to enjoy now and in the future.