Historic Churches 2018

16 BCD SPECIAL REPORT ON HISTORIC CHURCHES 25 TH ANNUAL EDITION THE CATHEDRAL WORKS YARD Antony Lowe T HE UK’S towering gothic cathedrals form a fundamental part of our tangible heritage, continuing to draw in the religious and secular alike. Celebrated as the pinnacle of artistic, architectural and engineering achievement, these buildings are also the repository of an often untold narrative of cyclical renewal, inspiration and growth. Central to this process of rebirth is the cathedral works department. Of the 42 Anglican cathedrals in the UK, nine retain their own dedicated body of craftspeople, including York, Lincoln, Worcester, Winchester, Salisbury, Durham, Canterbury, Exeter and Gloucester. At the heart of these works departments is a people-based enterprise, but there is no set model dictating their form or management. There are variations in structure, professional association and remit. Some have a full range of trades, whereas others are predominantly formed of stonemasons and glaziers, a natural focus given the nature of the buildings on which they work. Some work solely on the cathedral and its ancillary buildings, whereas others also take on external commercial contracts. Furthermore, in some cathedrals all the craftspeople operate as one unit, whereas in others the association is less rigidly fixed in the cathedral’s organisational structure. The common unifying factor, however, is that they all exist solely because of the cathedral. They operate from a workshop, or a series of workshops, generally clustered close to one another within the immediate environment of the cathedral itself. The archetype would be a vernacular workshop tucked away in its own corner of the cathedral close with an enclosed yard buried by unworked piles of raw stone. Today the evolution and management of these workshops takes place against a wider narrative of declining craft skills. Reports from sector-level organisations such as Historic England have highlighted consistent gaps in the supply of craftspeople with a specific background in historic building conservation, as well as the loss of existing skills through retirement. So at a time when the ultimate sustainability of key sector skills is being questioned, it is important to recognise these sites and organisations as both historically-important and active assets so that they can be managed, developed and protected effectively. LINCOLN CATHEDRAL In order to understand the wider works department sector, it is worth considering one particular example in detail. Lincoln Cathedral Works Yard houses a full range of craftspeople including stonemasons, stone conservators, joiners, carpenters, lead-workers, glaziers and an archivist, as well as engineering and grounds maintenance staff. This multidisciplinary body is based on a single site situated at the north east end of the cathedral close, immediately east of the 13th- century chapter house and the cathedral’s east end. The ‘yard’ is simultaneously a physical historic place and a body of craftspeople whose skills are valued both Craftspeople working on the cathedral in the 1860s (Photo: Lincoln Cathedral Works Yard Archive) A temporary masons’ workshop on the North Green in the 1860s (Photo: Lincoln Cathedral Works Yard Archive)