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Stonemasonry news

Worcester Cathedral receives funding to help preserve its heritage crafts

As part of a longer-term investment aimed at keeping alive the specialist skills needed to repair and maintain our cathedrals the Hamish Ogston Foundation (HOF) has joined forces with the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship (CWF) to fund 21 stonemasonry and joinery trainees at English cathedrals in 2021, including two at Worcester Cathedral.

Emergency funding of £535,000 will give the 21 trainees, and their employers, stability at a time of uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Without this support, some of the trainees would have had to call a halt to their studies and others would have faced redundancy, with the strong likelihood that their skills would have been lost to the heritage sector.

The funding marks the first phase of a five-year, £2.8m HOF/CWF project to expand heritage training at English cathedrals. Even before the pandemic, many cathedrals were reaching crisis point, with no dedicated public funding to help them address the backlog of repairs. Their financial position has been made much worse by COVID-19, in the wake of which it is unlikely that any cathedral will have the money to take on heritage craft trainees in the short term. The HOF/CWF Craft Training project, details of which will be published shortly, will be key to maintaining the flow of skilled craftspeople on whom the future of our cathedrals depends.

CWF Executive Director Frances Cambrook said: “We are very excited to be working with the Hamish Ogston Foundation on this important initiative. Cathedrals, like everyone, have been hit hard by the pandemic and the immediate future of our craft training programmes was in jeopardy. The funding will enable training to continue online throughout the rest of this academic year, avoiding the loss of trainee positions, and enable us to plan confidently to increase training opportunities over the next four years”.

The HOF project will support Worcester Cathedral's two Level 3 students through the remainder of their studies.

For Lewis Jones, who completed his NVQ 3 while at Worcester Cathedral in September 2020, the generous support from the HOF and CWF means he will be able to start his CWF Foundation Degree course in September 2021.

Lewis said: "The funding provided by the HOF has allowed me to continue my development as a stonemason at Worcester Cathedral, to work on a building I find deeply fascinating, and to progress academically in a field I am passionate about. This lifeline has come at just the right time as, due to Covid-19 and a worsening economy, I was stressing about getting work! The opportunity of being part of the CWF has been in my mind throughout my apprenticeship, and I’m incredibly grateful to the HOF for giving me the chance to do it!"

Darren Steele, Works Manager and Master Mason at Worcester Cathedral, said: “This funding is a complete lifeline for safeguarding the future of our next generation of stonemasons and other important heritage craft skill trades. I am so pleased for Lewis, who can look now forward to an exciting journey ahead of him. He will be able to development of his skill and ultimately achieve an esteemed FdA qualification in Applied Historic Building Conservation and Repair.”

The Hamish Ogston Foundation is a UK registered charity that provides strategic support for heritage, health and music initiatives, with the objective of securing long-term viability for projects and promoting sustainable employment.

The Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship (CWF) is an association of ten Anglican cathedrals established in 2006 to provide education and training for the craftsmen and women who maintain cathedrals and other historic buildings. Its students include heritage stonemasons, carpenter/joiners, electricians and plumbers.