While on holiday in the North East of England I have been fortunate to be able to visit York Minster to walk in the footsteps of William Shout, master mason for the restoration of the Minster between 1780’s – 1820’s.
The present master mason, John David, very kindly showed me the work of the present team of masons carrying out the continuous maintenance of the fabric of the Minster. He also showed me wooden templates produced by William for the masons to carve many of the delicate features of the structure. There were also scale drawings of various facades of the minster. These are incredibly detailed and must have been very difficult to draw with the metal nibbed dipping pens of the day
I was able to visit the archives and look through Williams Day Book between the years 1805 ~ 1825, this was fascinating because of the details of the wages paid to the masons as well as the purchase of materials and many personal notes. A return visit is definitely necessary to absorb more details of his day to day life.
We also visited the Masons’ Loft where drawings were made and templates generated. Fascinating to see but the climb up some 65 narrow steps in a tight spiral staircase was a bit of a struggle. Then another 30 or so steps took us to the roof of the Chapter House where there was a very small door to access the ancient structure.
There is a downside unfortunately! As part of my reviewing of the draft page on William I realised that in fact I seem to have a surfeit of Williams, all connected to Helmsley. So now I have to trawl through my research notes again to find if indeed there are one, two or three!