A famous TV architect has popped in to Durham Cathedral to take a look at the ongoing restoration work to its Central Tower. George Clarke, who has starred in programmes such as Restoration Man and The Home Show, recently got to see the £800,000 repair project close up.
Mr Clarke, who is from the north east, went up in a lift on the side of the tower. He said, “I think it’s incredible – what an experience.”
“It’s quite a privilege and an honour to be able to come to the top of the tower during a very important and historic restoration of the building.”
“It’s a building that needs love and care and what a great team they have on board. I’ve met some great people making their mark on history.”
“Everyone that is part of it is writing their chapter in Durham Cathedral history, which is quite an amazing thing.”
At the very top of DURHAM Cathedral tower on an external lift…what an amazing day to remember… https://t.co/Lb0qQVYWX9
— George Clarke (@MrGeorgeClarke) November 18, 2016
The repairs to the 66-metre-high Central Tower began earlier this year and are expected to take around two years to complete. Although most of the cathedral was constructed in the 12th century, the tower dates to 1484. The tower, which houses the cathedral’s 10 bells, also underwent significant restoration work in the 1860s.
So far, the team have dismantled the balustrade at the tower’s top and have lowered its blocks to the ground. The blocks can weigh up to 450 kilos.
Christopher Cotton, who works as an architect at Durham Cathedral, said, “We’ve got them down in the workshop so we can carry out repairs to the historic stones, where they can be repaired by patching in new bits of stone. But there are a number of stones that have failed so are being replaced with new stone.”
“There are a number of really complicated carved stones that have eroded away and need replacing because of the risk of them falling off.”
“They’re all hand carved so we’re using traditional craftsmanship and masonry techniques.”
The stone being used in the restoration is Dunston blaxter stone, from Staindrop, which will blend in well with the cathedral’s original sandstone. The cathedral’s original blocks were dug out of a quarry in Durham, on the other side of the Wear. Although beautiful, the sandstone is highly susceptible to erosion.
The cathedral has a team of seven stonemasons and two assistants working on the tower. It took around three months to put up the scaffolding and around five weeks to dismantle and bring down the balustrade.
Stonemason Scott Richardson said, “It’s been an interesting challenge. Logistically it’s difficult. When you have to move something that’s 450 kilos, you need to think about how you’re going to lift it and get it down.”
In August, the cathedral won a £599,000 grant to help with repairs to the belfry section of the tower.
During his visit, Mr Clarke took a look at Durham Cathedral in Lego, which he praised as “the most brilliant thing I’ve ever seen”. He also visited the cathedral’s Open Treasure exhibition and was present at the opening of Virgin Train’s Cathedral Room – a space at Durham Station, with magnificent views of the cathedral, which has been provided for the use of the local community.
— Durham Cathedral (@durhamcathedral) November 18, 2016
Commenting on George Clarke’s visit, the Dean of Durham Cathedral, Andrew Tremlett, said, “We are delighted to welcome George back to Durham and the cathedral, a building which is particularly special to him.”
“His advocacy for the cathedral is hugely appreciated, and I know it means a lot to the people of the north east.”