In Salisbury

Stonemasons

During this tour you learn about the 150 million year-old Jurassic limestone and how it is used for conservation and construction for the remarkable Salisbury Cathedral. For me, it was fascinating to finally learn about the reasons behind the restoration process after seeing Salisbury Cathedral go through many stages of building repairs.  

Salisbury Cathedral Tour

We began the tour at the Bishop’s Archway which led us to the grounds of the Cathedral and overlooking the Bishop's Palace and Salisbury Cathedral School. The public don’t usually have access to this part of the building, as it is the Bishop's own personal entrance, so this was a unique way to start the tour.

The tour guide was very informative and knoweledgeable, answering questions and providing facts throughout the tour.  The most recent stonework addition is a gargoyle designed by one of the stone masons, parts of the Bishop’s Palace are older than the Cathedral itself and a Jacobean Mulberry tree in the Bishop's Grounds dates from early 1600s making it one of the oldest trees in the country! The site of Old Sarum is significant to the construction of the Cathedral as many of the bricks and stones originally came from here. 

Salisbury Cathedral Stonemasonry Tour

The restoration process is extremely thorough, each stone is labelled with a number for where it should be placed on the building. Nowadays the limestone comes from Chicksgrove, near Tisbury and even though the stone is quite soft the tools used vary from large machine saws to claw chisels.

On the tour you also gain access to the drawing office, here they create moulds and allocate which part of the building needs the most work using a colour coded scheme, Green (repair), Red (replace) yellow (clean). It is clear that a lot of the building needs constant mointoring which is hardly surprising with it almost being 800 years old! 

Next stop is the Masons Shop here you can witness astounding hand-carving skills that have been practiced since the 13th century. You certainly need an eye for detail especially with all the different tools you have to use! 

Salisbury Cathedral Stonemasonry Tour

A great end to the tour was the Saw Shop which included an ‘inspiration wall' featuring numerous fun stoneworks created by the stonemasons. 

Salisbury Cathedral Stonemason Inspiration Wall

Interesting facts from the tour! 

  • The cathedral naturally leans 27.5 inches to the south west 
  • The close walls are stone from old Sarum 
  • The bishop’s palace is older than the cathedral by two years
  • The Jacobean mulberry tree dates from 1550
  • The gargoyle is the most recent stone to be installed on the Chapter House
  • Local residents/celebrities include the Peregrine Falcons!
  • You can help with the repair and conservation of the Cathedral by sponsoring a stone here
  • The Columns in the interior of the Cathedral are made from Purbeck stone. The stone is stronger for the columns but mainly used for aesthetic reasons due to its vibrant colour!

Bishop's Palace

Tours are every Thursday starting at 2pm, it lasts around 1 and a half hours and the price of tickets are £17.50 with a hot drink at the end. If you are keen to find out more head to the Salisbury Cathedral website here. Also look out for their latest exhibition ‘Les Colombes’ by Michael Pendry, an art exhibition to celebrate Salisbury, and will include 2,500 paper folded doves suspended from the Cathedral Nave. If you are looking to celebrate the Royal Wedding, then BBC Wiltshire's Royal Wedding Party will be taking place in the Cathedral close on Saturday 19 May. Plus make a break out of it and have a look at some of our accommodation options here

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