Emergency funding offers lifeline for cathedral stonemasons

Trainee stonemason Tony Murphy can now complete his studies at Gloucester Cathedral thanks to the emergency grant

Cathedral stonemasons have been giving a funding lifeline to the tune of over half a million pounds to help them through the pandemic.

The £535,000 fund has been made available jointly by the Hamish Ogston Foundation and the Cathedrals' Workshop Fellowship (CWF). 

It will be shared among 21 stonemasonry and joinery trainees, and their employers, across English cathedrals this year. 

Without the financial support, some of the trainees would have been unable to continue their studies. 

A workforce of skilled craftspeople is essential to the repair and upkeep of the nation's historic cathedrals.

Announcing the fund, Gloucester Cathedral said that many cathedrals had reached "crisis point" even before the pandemic, with no dedicated public funding to help cover the often substantial cost 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," a cathedral spokesperson said.

One of the trainees to benefit from the grant is stonemason Tony Murphy, who would have had to give up his place on the CWF 2-year Foundation degree course without financial support. 

The grant has made it possible for him to take up a new place at Gloucester Cathedral, meaning he can complete his course this year. 

Pascal Mychalysin, Master Mason at Gloucester Cathedral said: "We are delighted to welcome Tony to our workshop and to provide him the means to finish his degree course here at Gloucester Cathedral.

"It is vital that we can continue our training activities in the here and now to protect our heritage for future generations, and we are hugely grateful to the Hamish Ogston Foundation for stepping up in this time of need."

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."