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Helping the next generation of cathedral stonemasons

Ecclesiastical is a major sponsor of the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship and we were delighted to see that the University of Gloucestershire Examination and Awards Boards have awarded all 7 students in 2015 with a Foundation degree (Arts) in Personal & Professional Development (Stonemasonry). 

The students graduated at a ceremony at Gloucester Cathedral in November 2015.  The students and their cathedrals are:

  • Nikola Kerridge (Lincoln Cathedral) – Distinction

  • Victoria Darley (York Minister) - Distinction

  • Lee Andrews (Salisbury Cathedral) - Merit

  • Ian Chalmers (Gloucester Cathedral) - Merit

  • Lewis Bundock (Canterbury Cathedral) - Merit

  • Sam Chapman (formerly York Minster) - Pass

  • Jake Wood (Canterbury Cathedral) – Pass

These are excellent results and reflect the focus and endeavour of the students, and the commitment and dedication of the teaching and support teams in each Cathedral.  Britain’s cathedrals stand testament to the skill and art of the master stonemasons who built them - but cathedrals are not immune to the ravages of time and repairs and maintenance are vital to the survival of these buildings – which is why the talents of the country’s stonemasons remain vital, and why the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship has such an important role to play.

The Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship

Founded in 2006, the fellowship was created as a way of offering apprentice stonemasons a career path and a route to higher qualifications. “While other related professions such as architects had their development route mapped out for them, masons did not,” explains Adrian Munns OBE, the Fellowship’s current Administrator and former Receiver General and Canon Treasurer at Winchester Cathedral. “Our objective was to find a way of laying that path and, in doing so, create a new generation of stonemasons capable of caring for our cathedrals and heritage buildings in the 21st century.”

The solution was a partnership between the University of Gloucestershire and nine cathedrals: Canterbury, Durham, Exeter, Gloucester, Lincoln, Salisbury, Winchester, Worcester and York. With external funding secured from Ecclesiastical, the Fellowship’s first course was launched in January 2010. It ran for 22 months and saw all four students achieve a Foundation degree, an honour conferred upon then in a ceremony at Gloucester Cathedral in 2012. A second course was completed in July 2013 with all seven students achieving Foundation degrees, and the third course commenced in September 2013. A new course started in September 2015.

The future

Ecclesiastical is committed to supporting the course for two more years, and the Fellowship is actively seeking further support thereafter. The students are nominated by their cathedrals and then interviewed for a place. Those chosen – seven for the current course – study a range of work-based subjects, including ornamental carving, stone selection and geometry, architecture, archaeology, setting out and fixing, structural engineering and practical conservation techniques, for just under two years.  Also included is a ‘tailored’ personal development programme, which the course Graduates have all found highly valuable.

“Most of our students will be in their mid to late-20s,” Adrian notes, “but we also welcome those of more mature years who have a wealth of experience to share with their younger peers. While many stonemasonry posts in cathedrals tend to be filed by men, this is slowly changing.  The course is completely ‘gender neutral’ and the good news is that we get a really good mix of men and women enrolling”.

With HRH The Prince of Wales as its patron the Fellowship’s immediate future looks positive. Longer term, the need for the programme is real and tangible. Britain’s wealth of religious heritage is among the finest in the world, yet such architectural treasures demand constant care and attention. Under the auspices of the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship, the nation will continue to produce master stonemasons whose traditions reach back over a thousand years, yet whose eyes are firmly on the future.

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