There was a capacity turnout of 12 for the visit to the stoneyard at York Minster on 6th March 2018. We were treated to an introduction from Steve Bielby, Guild of Building member but also a member of the Minster staff, to explain the basic principles and materials and that our visit would ‘follow the stone’ from the cut limestone blocks that arrive delivered to the stoneyard from Samuel Smith’s quarry at Tadcaster through to their installation as formed stones into the Minster.
We were led up to the office of the Master mason through the Minster museum where there were a variety of interesting artefacts collected from ancient to modern times. John David is the Master Mason and from behind the huge drawing table that dominated his office he showed us the tools of his trade and the process for the assessment of the parts of the building when access is available; how stone works are surveyed and new stones drawn up individually. Joints between stones are 3mm wide, tolerances for the masons are less!
Our tour then progressed to the workshop where stone masons were forming the stones, carving with hammers and chisels. We were able to talk with them about their work and training. There was a lot of job satisfaction in that room.
Undoubtedly the highlight of the tour was a walk up on to the scaffold at the south side of the minster to see the works areas where stones were cut out and being replaced with new. John led the party and pointed out the physical details that he had previously explained in his office. Lots of questions were asked and John’s 38 years of experience at York Minster answered them all. The clear dry weather was an added bonus.
A vote of thanks was given to John and to Steve for their time and efforts to give us such an interactive, interesting and informative afternoon on the greatest building in York.
A further thanks goes to Stuart Dick who kindly took on the role of organising the visit and provided the above text.