When looking through the arches of Durham Cathedral’s Cloister, have you ever found yourself wondering what is happening behind the hoarding and scaffolding?
As one of the stonemasons at Durham Cathedral, I am one of the lucky few able to access this area of the Cathedral and witness the extraordinary transformation taking place.
A major stone conservation project is currently underway as part of the Cathedral’s Open Treasure project, preserving the façade of the Cathedral for generations to come. At the moment, the stone conservation work is focused on the exterior of the Monks’ Dormitory, which will mark the start of the new exhibition route opening in 2016.
Here at Durham Cathedral we have our own Works Department, with masonry and a stone-carving workshop that employs around 8 stonemasons including myself. Together, we have been working hard to remove the old cement based pointing and clean out all of the joints.
We are now repointing with a traditional technique and an eco-friendly hot lime mortar mix. Whilst achieving the highest temperatures possible, this process will allow the medieval stone to breathe and prolong its life.
When working with a 1,000 year-old building, the decay of stonework is inevitable and along the parapets we will be conserving as much original stone work as possible, stones which cannot be saved are to be removed and replaced. These stones will be exact replicas worked to the lines of the original masonry, all hand-carved and worked with mallets and chisel here at Durham Cathedral.
All of this traditional work takes time and money and we rely on the generous donations of visitors to help to keep this magnificent building in good structural order for many generations to come.
If you’re interested in learning more about the work of the stonemasons at Durham Cathedral, please visit www.durhamcathedral.co.uk/heritage
Scott Richardson, Stonemason