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Hamish Ogston Foundation Supports New Generation of Stonemasons

Hamish Ogston Foundation funding supports Exeter’s new generation of Cathedral stonemasons


A carved grotesque by Joe Milne, part of Exeter Cathedral’s current phase of works on the South Quire Clerestory pinnacle.

New funding from the Hamish Ogston Foundation means that Exeter Cathedral’s Improver Stonemason, Joe Milne, can now continue to develop his skills with a Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship training programme.

The training programme, a Foundation Degree in Applied Historic Building Conservation and Repair, is designed to help craft apprentices, improvers and more experienced craftspeople gain specialist skills, knowledge and understanding of the cathedrals in which they work.

As Joe explains, it has proved a huge help for others in Exeter Cathedral’s masons department:

“It’s great to be finally joining the CWF Foundation Degree in Applied Historic Building Conservation and Repair, having seen the benefits it has brought to four of my colleagues, who have followed the course already.

“I’m really looking forward to hearing from the module leaders and absorbing their knowledge and experience. Hopefully Covid restrictions will soon relax enough to be able to visit some of the other host cathedrals, and exchange experiences with my contemporaries.

“I’m very grateful for this opportunity and for the funding – I know how much effort has been made by all involved – and how much it helps to secure our built heritage.”

Exeter Cathedral’s Clerk of Works, Chris Sampson sees training and recruiting the next generation of stonemasons as critical to the long-term conservation of Exeter Cathedral:

“Although the tools and techniques of stonemasonry have remained largely unchanged for centuries, proper training opportunities in this ancient craft are rare.

“The work of the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship is critical to the survival of these skills, and only made possible with generous support from funders such as the Hamish Ogston Foundation.”

The Hamish Ogston Foundation’s new award of £700,000 will support heritage craft training through the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship for ten cathedrals in England, including Salisbury, Gloucester, Winchester and Canterbury as well as Exeter.

The award builds on a Hamish Ogston Foundation Covid Emergency grant of £535,000 announced earlier this year.

It marks the second phase of a five-year partnership project with the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship in which the Hamish Ogston Foundation is contributing £3.1m to expand heritage training at English cathedrals, enabling them to continue to develop the next generation of craftspeople despite the devastating impact of COVID-19 on cathedrals’ finances.

For Frances Cambrook, Executive Director of the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship, the impact of the pandemic has made this support more important than ever:

“We are delighted that the Hamish Ogston Foundation has recognised the value of the training we provide for craftspeople in cathedrals and the importance of ensuring its continuation as cathedrals start to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

“Craft skills take time to develop and it is vital that we maintain the training momentum through the difficult years ahead.”

Robert Bargery, Heritage Director at the Hamish Ogston Foundation, concludes:

“We are excited to be working with the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship on this timely project, which not only supports the heritage sector at a time of crisis but invests in the skills needed to conserve our cathedrals. Our oldest and finest buildings will not survive without a continuous flow of skilled craftspeople and a key part of our strategy is to give trainees a helping hand as they embark on a truly rewarding career.”

Find out more about the Hamish Ogston Foundation here.