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, including Lincoln, in 2021.

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”.

Joiner Wesley Blyth from Lincoln Cathedral works department is one of the trainees who will benefit directly from this grant.

Wesley said, “Being a student on the CWF course at this time has brought its challenges practically, such as difficulty gathering resources and not gaining the full experience of site visits. The Hamish Ogston Foundation funding will enable us all to stay focused and motivated with the ever changing plans and deadlines and fitting this around our work. The current situation has helped me to appreciate what freedom and opportunity was given initially and I am hopeful we can experience this again soon”.