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Fixed for four years

07 September 2012

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.

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