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Coming from the quarry

18 December 2007

by Margaret Duggan

CAEN STONE is special. Quarried in northern France, it was a favourite with the master masons who built the great cathedrals of southern England, because not only is it a beautiful colour, but it has no grain and can be finely carved.

  The stonemasons at Canterbury Cathedral were delighted recently when they received 25 tonnes of it for the work that is taking place on the Corona. “We have now sourced a good supply which is close in structure to the high-quality stone used in medieval times,” says Heather Newton (above), the head of stone conservation. “It will ensure an excellent match with much of the original stonework of the cathedral.”

Some may be surprised that the senior stonemason on such a huge project is a woman, but Mrs Newton decided to train as a stonemason after four years at art school. She gained a distinction in the conservation of stone and plaster from Weymouth College, Dorset, and in 1988 came to Canterbury Cathedral, where, she says, she has been training ever since, as well as involved in training the apprentice stonemasons.

Mrs Newton also lectures on sculpture and conservation, and has been involved in the development of the Cathedral Crafts Fellowship, which co-ordinates the training of all cathedral masonry apprentices, including exchange-visits of apprentices between cathedrals to widen their experience and create a pool of talent to care for our cathedrals in the future.

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