Historic Churches 2021

BCD SPECIAL REPORT ON HISTORIC CHURCHES 28 TH ANNUAL EDITION 15 LASER CLEANING SCULPTURE on Lincoln Cathedral’s West Front Jane Cowan A MAJOR FIVE-YEAR conservation programme on Lincoln Cathedral’s West Front is due for completion in 2022. The process has provided an exciting, once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to study, clean and conserve some of the country’s finest ecclesiastical carvings. One of the many challenges has been the large-scale cleaning of sometimes fragile external sculptures, often retaining traces of historic paint. This required the most sensitive of approaches, and with the absence of museum conditions a bespoke multi-faceted cleaning strategy was needed. For this type of work the primary method of choice has been laser cleaning due to its unequalled controllability and the finish it provides. These advantages, however, have to be balanced with the need to overcome practical site issues, health and safety requirements and the persistent problem of laser cleaning stone where painted decoration survives. LINCOLN CATHEDRAL Dominating the town of Lincoln, the cathedral is spectacularly positioned high on the limestone ridge that runs down to the River Witham. On entering Cathedral Close from Castle Square, through the imposing 14th-century Exchequergate Arch, the scale and majesty of the building, in particular the West Front, are awe-inspiring. Begun in 1072 by Bishop Remigius de Fécamp, a relative of William the Conqueror, the cathedral was heavily remodelled in the 13th century, with later 14th-century additions resulting in a composite style, Lincoln Cathedral’s West Front: above, showing the position of the Romanesque frieze highlighted in red and the Gallery of Kings in green; and (below) photographed in the 1970s before the frieze sculptures were covered up