ONCE every four years, there is a vacancy for an apprentice
stonemason at Salisbury Cathedral. This year,
there were more than 40 applicants, and there was a rigorous
selection process that involved a two-day trial working through a
series of tasks in the specialist works department under the eye
of the head mason, Chris Sampson.
The choice finally fell on a local 18-year-old, Christian
Sullivan, seen (right), with Mr Sampson. "His keenness and
commitment to the job were key influencing factors in appointing
him," Mr Sampson says. "Christian is the ideal apprentice - young,
enthusiastic, bright, and highly motivated. It's a bonus that he
lives locally, and knows the Cathedral, and recognises its
importance and all it stands for."
They particularly wanted an apprentice with no prior knowledge
of stonemasonry, he says, because to work on one of the finest
medieval cathedrals requires "a very particular set of skills,
and understanding of its archaeological and architectural
features, and how we work round them".
For Christian, "it's just the perfect apprenticeship in the
perfect place." He became interested when he read in the local
press about the experience of the previous apprentice. The
Salisbury Cathedral works department has had apprentice masons for
generations. Apprenticeships last four years, with a further
"improver" year, and are generously funded by donations from
grant-making trusts that enable the Cathedral to keep up the supply
of highly skilled masons.