Craftsmanship Award November 2018

12th November 2018

The Grade I church of St Mary at Easington Village, County Durham, has been there since pre conquest times. It has seen many changes in its construction but it settled down to the shape we know today in the 14th century. It is a very old and venerable building with Saxon sculpture and fine furnishings.

In 2015 decayed stonework in one column was creating anxiety and fear of collapse. It had temporary scaffold put up whilst the repair works were planned out and funding sought from the HLF.   The repairs were completed this year and the people of Easington Village have finally ‘got their church back’ but it didn’t half take some doing.

The church is on the magnesian limestone plateau and is mostly made of this but there are some sandstones built in (they do not like each other- they react to each other’s presence when wet- the limestone wins). The columns look like sandstone but our geologist tested them in the lab and were proved to be magnesian limestone. There isn’t any local magnesian limestone. Apart from the disused Hawthorn Quarry close by. We obtained permission form Tarmac who owned the closed quarry, opened it up and extracted some stone, cut it into suitable sizes to examine it to find it was unsuitable for the column but we did use it for the clerestory repairs. Anticipating Hawthorn might not be right we had a reserve - the same stone as York Minster from Tadcaster.

New scaffold replaced the temporary. We intended to take down the whole column, supporting the arcade at the capital and build it back up, but there was a risk of settlement of the scaffold because of possible burials under the floor. So the column stones were taken out one by one. And put back one by one. There were no cramps or mason marks but the new work had masons marks added. The final question was the finish to the stone. It comes sawn but the blade marks are unacceptable and that’s why it’s polished, except that’s too smooth. So a pneumatic chisel was employed to rough it up a little so it better matches its neighbours.

Throughout the work the contractor, Classic Masonry paid diligent attention to the project and there is no doubt that the finished work is down to the skill and attention of the lead mason, Paul Robson and his team. So the Highly Commended Award for Craftsmanship awarded to the team at this year’s Durham County Council Environment Awards is a fitting acknowledgement to their dedication.

Back to news