Raising the Christmas Tree at the Cathedral is always an event but this year we shared it for the first time ever with the press and our photographer Ash Mills captured the action!
The day started not long after 8am with the Works department team, under the instruction of Gary Price, Clerk of the Works, and ecclesiastical carpenter, Richard Pike, preparing the ropes and winches and wheeling the giant tree round to the West Door on a flatbed trailer. It took a team of ten to lift the enormous spruce fir, no mean feat given that is 32ft long with a trunk 10 inches in diameter!
Preparation for the actual hoisting took the team around an hour and the actual lift was a test of nerves, particularly with the press photographers' lenses trained on them ready to record any slip up. Luckily the ascent was smooth and both Gary and Richard managed to give live interviews to BBC Wiltshire' Rebecca Rooney while it was in progress. You can watch the footage here.
BBC South Today's Briony Leyland covered the story too, with cameraman Trevor Adamson, and at half past eleven the Dean stopped by to admire the team's handiwork and comment on the recent report claiming that we are no longer a Christian nation - and to extend a welcome to all during Christmas at the Cathedral.
As the centrepiece of our wonderful medieval building, the Cathedral Christmas Tree needs to be spectacular and this one didn't disappoint. Every year Richard Pike has the unenviable task of sourcing the perfect specimen and that's harder than you think with a tree of this size. Few are allowed to grow this tall and when they do, their shape is often compromised by other trees around them. On display any gap will show as will even the slightest curve - in fact one year Richard had to perform cosmetic surgery to improve the look of the tree, drilling holes in the trunk and moving branches around. On another occasion it actually broke during hoisting and emergency measures had to be applied.
In the end it came down to a choice of just three suitable trees at the Cranbourne Chase estate that was supplying us and Richard's selection was vindicated. No alterations were needed and when the tree opened up it was a beauty.
By two o'clock, Richard was high up on the cherrypicker fixing the lights to the trees (with 100 bulbs on each of the 10 rows) reporter Lesley Bates looking on and all photographers, bar Ash Mills, flagging a little bit by four o'clock. When it was finished, spirits were raised, the press had their special Christmas pictures and everyone had time to step back and admire.
All that remains is for the Lydian Society Ladies to add their decorations, made from a dismantled glass chandelier, and it'll be all dressed up and ready for Christmas.
We wish you a very special and happy Christmas 2015!