'Topping Out' in the sun | Salisbury Cathedral

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'Topping Out' in the sun

Posted By : Marie Thomas Monday 20th July 2015

On 23 June Salisbury Cathedral held a ‘topping out’ ceremony on the dizzying heights of the scaffolding of the south east transept (known as Major Repair Area 3).


The final stone was lowered into place to mark the completion of the repair and conservation work to this area. A number of sponsors and supporters of the Major Repair Programme were present, not least Becky Clark of the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England who are administering the First World War Centenary Repairs Fund grants for cathedral repairs.  Major Repair Area 3 was funded entirely by this Fund, which is a partnership between ChurchCare, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Catholic Church. The next stage of work for the Works Department is on the south east presbytery aisle, from ground to aisle level, repairing and replacing worn stones and conserving stonework.


Gary Price, Clerk of Works, said “This was a great day of celebration for the masons and the Cathedral. It was great to be able to show some of our supporters our work close up.  As they made their way back down the scaffold they had the opportunity to talk with my team and asked some fantastic questions, I hope they all enjoyed it as much as we all did.  It was a lovely afternoon that gave us a chance to give a bit back.”


There was even a special visit from Jean Spring, widow of Roy, who was Clerk of Works at the start of the Major Repair Programme, who attended the ceremony and climbed the scaffolding. After the ceremony staff and supporters were all treated to tea and cakes at the home of Canon Treasurer, Dame Sarah Mullally. 


The event provided the perfect opportunity to recognise the highly skilled and dedicated masons and conservators for their continuing work on this beautiful building. Cultural heritage at the Cathedral is precious and with the proper funding the Works Department can do their part to conserve this iconic building. The Cathedral is immensely grateful to all the funders and individuals who through their generosity make this vital conservation work possible.


‘Topping Out’

‘Topping Out’ is a term used to mark the end of a phase of work. In the type of construction found at Salisbury Cathedral, work starts from the top and proceeds downwards for practical reasons, amongst them the hazard of falling masonry.   


Salisbury Cathedral’s Major Repair Programme

The Major Repair Programme stems from a detailed survey undertaken in the 1980 by the then Cathedral Architect and Clerk of Works who were concerned about the extent of the deterioration of the stonework and glazing. They presented a report advising comprehensive fabric repairs to the entire Cathedral. Work on the spire commenced in 1986 funded by an appeal by the Salisbury Cathedral Trust called Save our Spire. The spire work was followed by conservation and repairs to the tower, west front and the roof.

The work on the south presbytery aisle is part of this continuing programme, scaffolding will go up on the Trinity Chapel in 2015 to enable work for this final phase. This will round off the Major Repair Programme fittingly at the oldest part of the building. Just under £1m is still needed to ensure its final completion, on track for 2018, for which the Cathedral is dependent upon successful fundraising.

There are opportunities for donors to be part of the completion story by sponsoring a stone which so far has raised almost £57,000 (covering MRA8, the north presbytery aisle). The second phase, launched in February at a party that also marked the major milestone of the scaffolding coming down from the front of the Cathedral, is doing well and to date has raised just over £17,000 with stones still available for this area. If you are interested in sponsoring a stone please contact the Development Office for details on 01722 555122.