Durham Cathedral engaged the services of Heritage Trust Network Partner Members Cliveden Conservation to extend an important stone monument which lists all the Bishops of Durham since the foundation of the Cathedral in 995, together with the Priors of the Durham Monastery and, following the suppression of the monastery at the Reformation, the Deans of the Cathedral.
After nearly a century of use, space on the plaque had run out for names of future Deans and Bishops. Various options were considered but it was decided to extend the plaque with new marble panels. Plans were drawn up by Durham Cathedral Architect, Chris Cotton, for the c.1929 plaque created by renowned sculptor, stonemason and woodcarver George Walker Milburn of York (1844-1941) and designed by architect William H. Wood (working 1889-1939).
Temporary removal of the plaque from the wall was required. Cliveden Conservation dismantled the plaque over several days and placed the pieces into storage at the cathedral. With the wall visible, conservators discovered names of the original masons’ ‘AB Dixon’ and ‘JW Limbert’ written alongside the date in pencil – photographs were taken of this hidden detail for the Cathedral records.
Stone conservators carved new border sections from White Alabaster, to replicate the original historic stone. Two new pieces of white marble for the lettered panels were also created. The mouldings and spacing of the original stones needed to be matched with the new pieces for an almost seamless finish. It was important that the new sections were not wholly disguised to convey an ‘honest intervention’.
As well as the panels for names, new heraldic shields were also added to continue the original design. These have been purposely left unpainted so as not to interrupt the chronology of the painted ones already there and to make it obvious that the plaque has been sympathetically extended.
Stone conservators toned in the new stone to ensure it harmonised with the original monument before reinstating the plaque on the wall at the entrance to the Feretory (the Shrine of St Cuthbert).
The Very Reverend, Andrew Tremlett has finally had his name added to the Bishops, Priors and Deans Plaque almost five years after becoming Dean of Durham. It is estimated that the new marble panels will have sufficient room to add names for the next 200 years.
All the work carried out is reversible. When the new plaque is filled, there will be the option of removing the new pieces and fitting them into a separate monument, restoring the original to how it was or leaving them as they are now and creating something entirely different for future generations.
A special Evensong service took place on Thursday 20 January 2022 to dedicate the plaque to the Dean and to thank the Friends of Durham Cathedral and the Journey Charity for their generous support on this unique project.
The Very Reverend Andrew Tremlett, Dean of Durham said: “I am delighted that we have been able to find a resolution to this interesting challenge. The careful considered work of the cathedral team and the conservators has enabled this work to be sensitively done, so as not to hamper the craftsmanship of the original plaque. It allows visitors to see and understand the additions that are needed to be made over time to a living, working cathedral and has provided a long-term solution for our future Deans and Bishops.”
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