Next Generation of Stonemasons meet at Exeter Cathedral

29th March 2023

Stonemasons from cathedrals across the country gathered at Exeter Cathedral last week for an ornamental carving workshop designed to preserve heritage building crafts.

Next Generation of Stonemasons meet at Exeter Cathedral

The workshop was run by the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship and funded by the Hamish Ogston Foundation and is part of a post-apprentice qualification to preserve traditional craft skills for the conservation of cathedrals and other historic buildings.

Under the guidance of carver, Alan Micklethwaite, students gathered in Exeter’s nave to hone their skill. Each was tasked with transforming an eight-inch cube of French limestone into a ‘stiff leaf’ foliage – a classic feature of medieval church architecture.

Exeter Cathedral is one of eleven partner cathedrals in the Fellowship and employs six specialist masons. Clerk of Works, Chris Sampson said the week’s workshop was a valuable opportunity for the students.

“We have always been a close and enthusiastic member of the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship, so it is fantastic to see students from cathedrals across England gathering here ..

We are so grateful for everyone who has helped to organise this opportunity, and especially for the support of the Hamish Ogston Foundation in helping to preserve our country’s rich architectural heritage.”

Following an intense week of learning in Exeter, the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship students will return to their home cathedrals to finish their foliage carvings, before reconvening at Winchester Cathedral in April for a final presentation and assessment of their work.

The Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship (CWF) is a partnership of 11 Anglican cathedrals – Canterbury, Chester, Durham, Exeter, Gloucester, Lincoln, Salisbury, Westminster, Winchester Worcester and York Minster – to create a new generation of crafts men and women capable of caring for our cathedrals and heritage buildings in the 21st century.

Founded in 2006, the CWF offers apprentice stonemasons, carpenter/joiners, plumbers and electricians a recognised career path and a route to higher level qualifications in the traditional ‘master to apprentice’ way to develop the knowledge and skills of the next generation and develop craft skills is in the workplace.

The CWF approach enhances the traditional apprenticeship model by providing apprentices with access to experts from all of the cathedrals, not just their own, drawing on the particular expertise of each cathedral’s master craftspeople. In this way, all the apprentices can benefit collectively from the expertise of individual practitioners whom they wouldn’t ordinarily encounter and gain in-depth knowledge of a large number of cathedrals and historic buildings.