Earlier this month the Stonemasonry department went on a trip down to Gloucester. Level 1 and level 2 Students travelled south early on the Monday morning, to visit Gloucester’s Cathedral and its workshop. Once we arrived, we met the head stonemason, Pascal. We were given a tour around the inspirational stone yard. It featured beautifully carved pinnacles and sections of tracery, either in the process of being carved or waiting to be replaced with the deteriorated, aged stone.
Sculpted pieces of clay were dotted around carved as gargoyles and grotesques used as mock ups before being carved in stone. We learnt a huge amount of how a Cathedral stone workshop worked.
The process of assessing, cutting and replacing eroded stone on the Cathedral. The masons did everything and anything that related to maintaining the Cathedral from gutter cleaning to carving a huge biblical figure. We were educated on the local stones around Gloucester and how in recent years they have been shipping and using French stone as the quality and availability is much better.
We then explored the wonders of the Cathedral itself. We first entered the world famous site of refectory, with its staggeringly beautiful vaulted ceilings, famed and featured in Harry Potter as Hogwarts School. The detail and skill involved in constructing such an awe inspiring feat of engineering is mind blowing. We then entered the main body of the Cathedral, stepping into the north aisle and then the nave. It was difficult to take in the sheer scale and size of such an historic building covering 30,600 square feet.
The Cathedral’s nave was extremely interesting as the main structural supports (columns) are Romanesque with its semi-circular, thick arches, whereas the rest of the Cathedral is Gothic English perpendicular. Walking through the nave and into the choir and presbytery to witness the finesse, and delicately carved dark wood on the pews and the walls that enclose it, was astonishing. It created a strong and bold contrast to the softer colour of the stone.
Continuing to walk around in amazement, the tracery and stained glass window on the east side of the ambulatory was one to take in. The thinness of the tracery was a really good example of Gothic architecture pushing the laws of structural construction.
The trip was really good. It inspired, motivated and encouraged the stone masonry students. We all came away awe struck by the skill and beauty that can be achieved in stone. It made us appreciate the history of the craft. Gloucester Cathedral is such an important historical and religious building and it was certainly well worth travelling down to appreciate it first-hand.
Written by student Theo Brogan