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End of Cathedral mason's apprenticeship is set stone

Posted By : Marie Thomas Tuesday 27th September 2016

(Picture: Chris Sullivan with the Dean on the scaffolding)

Stonemason Christian Sullivan marked the end of his four-year-long apprenticeship by laying the last stone on the latest area of the Major Repair Programme (MRP) to be completed.


Christian, who has now embarked on a Foundation degree in stonemasonry, spent the last two months carefully carving a copy of a damaged finial for the south east side.


The original finial was damaged as a result of Victorian restoration in which the masons used an iron pin to fix the finial to the stone below. The iron rusted and expanded causing the stone to split. Nowadays masons use stainless steel pins which do not rust.


Head Mason Lee Andrews, who also joined the Cathedral as an apprentice, said:

“Christian came to us looking for a job that would engage both his hands and his mind. As a mason you form a very strong bond with the Cathedral, learning as you work and getting to know the fabric intimately. It is no surprise that we have a very low turnover of staff here because people grow to love the building and the very close team who work to preserve it.”


Christian Sullivan said:

“I knew I wanted to make things but never saw myself as a mason in particular, that is something that has grown with the job. It is amazing to think that my work is now up there on the East side and will be for the next few hundred years.”


Salisbury is one of only nine English cathedrals to have its own Works Department, which includes a team of stonemasons, glaziers, a dedicated ecclesiastical carpenter and a lead plumber. It takes on one apprentice every four years, a much sought after training post in which the trainee learns traditional stonemasonry skills.

Joining the Masons on the scaffold for the ceremony were forty donors who participated in the Sponsor a Stone project. Donors have their initials carved into their stone and it is fixed into the Cathedral wall. They also receive a diagram that shows the position of their stone and can spend time in the Works Yard, visiting the mason who is creating it.


Amongst the stones set into the completed repair area is a stone dedicated to Megan Goulding, a former Salisbury Cathedral school pupil and the Dean’s daughter. Meg ran the London Marathon is just 3 hours 38 minutes and 11 seconds and raised over £7,000 towards the MRP programme.

The Cathedral also received funding in the form of grants from a number of charitable trusts and foundations towards the repair and conservation work in this particular area, including a generous grant from the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund.

If you want to know more about Sponsor a Stone project contact Natalie Downing or Jilly Wright on 01722 555122 or


For any other enquiries contact Marie Thomas 01722 555148