From the start of construction to the present day, the Cathedral has needed a lot of looking after.
It takes a very special team of skilled workers to protect a building so complex and important. Lincoln is one of only a few Cathedrals in England to have its own workforce dedicated to the conservation of the building and we are committed to preserving traditional skills. We encourage apprenticeships; we participate in the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment and in the Skills for the Future Project funded by Heritage Lottery which we are running in conjunction with Lincoln Castle.
Each part of the Cathedral has its own team of specialists. To preserve stone and sculpture there are the Masons, Carvers and Sculpture Conservators. The windows are conserved by the Stained Glass Conservators. The roofs are restored by the Lead workers and Joiners. Traditional craft skills are used with modern technology to ensure the life of the Cathedral.
The Cathedral’s own team of crafts men and women maintain and restore the Cathedral and Close House Properties.
Restoring an area of stonework
Scaffolding is put up to an area which is to be cleaned and restored. A survey is done to produce drawings for the Architect and masons to decide which stones are to be replaced, repointed or conserved. Templates are taken from the original stones and full size drawings are made. Full size block measurements are sent down to our quarry on Riseholme Road north of Lincoln and sawn on six sides from the rough quarry block. The stone is worked using the templates from the original stones. Archstone, stringcourse, capitals, columns and many other types of stone are worked by hand to an accuracy of 1mm.
The tools used have not changed in shape, but have changed in material: chisels made from tungsten steel rather than fire-sharpened metal, nylon mallets instead of wooden ones, tools run on compressed air and machine saws are the modern mason’s tools. When stones are finished, they are transported to the Cathedral and hoisted up the scaffold using compressed air hoists or electric goods lifts. Old stone is cut out and the new stone fixed using lime putty mortar.
Stone conservation begins with a full survey which produces a detailed document showing all the details of the stone, enabling us to carry out an archaeological survey. This then shows types of mortar, stone types, evidence of decoration, previous repairs, scaffolding evidence and other materials i.e metals, wood. Then the hands-on conservation starts. This includes water washing which uses water booms that spray a fine mist of water for a set period of time. This process dissolves the black pollution crust. Secondly, a variety of abrasive cleaning systems are employed. The Torc system mixes water, air and an abrasive powder. This is primarily used on large, flat areas of the Cathedral. The other technique is a dry system using compressed air and a finer abrasive powder which is only used on sculpture. The final stage is to carry out colour-matched mortar repairs and final recording.
The roof of the Cathedral is in constant need of repair and restoration which involves both the Joiners and Lead workers. The Joiners to preserve where possible, repair or replace the original wood beams and the Lead workers to strip off the oxidised lead which is recycled, recast and used again.
The lead is stripped off the roof with a hammer and hacking knife. Once it has been melted down it is recast into sheets and then rolled for transportation. Each roll can weigh between forty and one hundred kilos. The sheets are unrolled and formed into either gutters or sheets for the roof and dressed by hand using lead dressers, bossing mallets, bossing sticks and chase wedges. The tools are made from boxwood and lignum vitae. New and replacement downpipes and hopper heads are also made by hand. Oxyacetylene welding equipment is used to weld the joints and roof flashings.
The roof area alone is vast and the timber used in the construction would have covered many acres of woodland. The joiners use a wide variety of hand tools in their day to day work including carving chisels. Some of the tools are even home made, adapting more conventional tools for the specialised work required from the team.
The Lincoln Cathedral Glazing Department is responsible for the conservation and preservation of the more than 720 plain and historic stained glass windows.
Restructured in 1988 to become a centre of excellence the glazing department stands unique amongst other British ecclesiastical stained glass conservation studios in being the only workshop set up specifically for the care and needs of the building’s historic glazing.
Although the department does not carry out any commercial contracts we are happy to advise churches and individuals.
An international team of experienced crafts individuals and university trained stained glass conservators are dedicated to their work. Up-to-date with current conservation technology such as documentation, digital imaging & IT, chemical edgebonding or microscopic analysis the specialist work still relies upon traditional core skills. Cutting glass, leading & glazing, painting and site work are all craft processes dating back to the medieval period with methods having changed very little.
The glazing scheme covers a long period of time with a substantial collection of 13th & 14th century glass and an interesting arrangement of 19th century monumental glass. Many of the well known large Victorian stained glass studios are present such as Clayton & Bell, Ward & Hughes, or the Hardman studio. Local artists such as the Sutton brothers are also represented.
How you can help
It is huge task to raise the money needed to pay for all this work. Please have look at the Support Us page to see ways in which you may be able to help.
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