Volunteers’ Week – Thank You, Stuart

02nd June 2023

Stuart McIntyre has been a volunteer Tower Tour Guide at Gloucester Cathedral for 27 years.

Volunteers’ Week – Thank You, Stuart

“To borrow a couple of lines from the Church of England’s very own poet, Sir John Betjeman: ‘Our churches are our history shown in wood and glass and iron and stone.’I hope my efforts guiding the tower tours have helped to preserve these priceless monuments and the historic values they represent.”

If you’ve taken part in one of Gloucester Cathedral’s Tower Tours, you might have met Stuart, one of their volunteer guides. In the 27 years he has been a Tower Tour Guide volunteer, Stuart has climbed the tower an incredible 645 tours and in one year alone, he climbed the tower 66 times!

It was a school trip as a nine-year-old to York Minster where Stuart was first inspired by the history and heritage of medieval buildings.

“I was ‘blown away,” he said. “And remain so to this day.”

His involvement with Gloucester Cathedral came about following a chance meeting in 1996 with one of the minor canons at the cathedral who had come across him studying the choir vault through his binoculars and asked him if he would be interested in joining the guides course which was about to start in a few weeks time.

“I accepted. What isn’t there to like about the tower tour?

“Well, for both guides and visitors, it ticks all the boxes and the views from the top never disappoint, the effort is always rewarded, and by the positive reactions from the visitors when they reach the top, even when the rain is being swept horizontally on a stiff south-westerly, they just smile, pull up their hoods, take photographs, and enjoy the experience. It’s a win-win,” he said.

Stuart says there have been too many memorable tours to list but does recall an evening tour with 22 Brownies from nearby Hucclecote who were all very excited by the experience and on their return to ground, sang him a ‘camp fire’ song to say ‘thank you’ in the dim fading light of the cathedral.

He remembers the Cathedral used to sell ‘Ascension’ certificates for £1 to confirm visitors had in fact climbed the 269 steps – one visitor, a lady of 87, who had been in the WRNS during WW2 and had served at Bletchley Park, insisted on buying one to show to her great-grandchildren – but they let her have it for free.

“No two tower tours are ever the same, there are so many interesting features; the overall history, the materials used, the origins and ages of the timbers and stone, the ‘how’ of how the medieval masons did it, the bells and the casting, and the story of the ‘Great Peter’ bell; that could be a tour in itself!

Do you have time to offer or skills to share. Your cathedral needs you! Do get in touch with your local cathedral this #VolunteersWeek.

All the contact details for cathedrals can be found here.