Bishop Rachel Treweek, Rev. Sarah Bick and Paul Synan

In 2012 at a local Forest of Dean church fondly known as “The Cathedral of the Forest” the head of the effigy of Robert de Wakering, appointed as the first Rector of All Saints Church, Newland in1216, was stolen by a prolific antiquities thief.  In 2015 the head was returned to its rightful owners after it was listed on Ebay and came to the attention of the police.

 

Following coverage by the local press, this story presented itself to Gloucester Cathedral’s Master Mason, Pascal Mychalysin as a fantastic opportunity to pilot a collaborative partnership between the Diocese of Gloucester and Chapter of Gloucester Cathedral to offer the possibility of conservation training to our apprentice masons.  The repairs to the effigy provided the perfect opportunity for James Bayliss and Paul Synan, both currently studying on the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship scheme, to learn about the conservation of ancient memorials.

 

James and Paul along with Senior Mason, Weislaw Szot visited All Saints Church to assess how to go about re-attaching the head (and feet, which were also found to be unattached) back to the body.

 

What follows is a step by step report from trainee Paul Synan of how the repairs were carried out:-

 

  1. Lining up the head and feet for re-attachment.

It was difficult to realign the head and feet accurately due to the fact that the break was old and therefore somewhat degraded. In the case of the feet, a huge gap had been filled with cement mortar.  Once acceptable positions were found, pencil marks were made to help find the correct position upon final fixing.

 

  1. Fixing

The next job was to drill holes into which stainless steel threaded dowels would be glued using an epoxy resin.  These would securely fix the head and feet back in place.

 

  1. Colour matching the mortar.

As James and Paul were unable to visit the church to assess the exact colour of the sandstone, a number of sandstone dust mortar mixes were made up at the Cathedral Works Yard. Unfortunately, it became obvious upon physical inspection of the effigy, that the samples made would not be a sufficient match.

 

It was decided that the best match could be achieved by collecting dust from the stone itself whilst drilling dowel holes.  The resulting mortar was then used to point the cracks and should dry to be a good match with the rest of the stone.

 

Paul returned to the church the next day to check that the mortar was not drying out too quickly – which would cause it to crack and lighten.  It appeared to be drying well and so the repaired effigy was unveiled to the congregation in the presence of the Bishop of Gloucester, The Right Reverend Rachel Treweek, who was visiting the church that day.

 

 

Gloucester News Centre – http://gloucesternewscentre.co.uk

Gloucester Cathedral Stonemasons repair 13th century effigy of Robert de Wakering by Kate | Gloucester News Centre - http://gloucesternewscentre.co.uk/