Our first event of 2018 was a talk by East Devon born Peter Dare, for 15 years Master Mason at Exeter Cathedral. He explained how the cathedral’s construction took place in the Norman period 1114-1200 and Medieval period 1279 -1390, hence its features represent several different architectural styles.
Peter described how different aspects of the cathedral were fabricated with stone from various quarries. These have been identified from the Cathedral’s Fabric Rolls (building accounts) and, as restoration has been carried out, many of the original quarries have been reopened to provide the right authentic stone for the work
Quarries in Branscombe, Salcombe Regis, Beer and Luscombe have all provided workable fine quality for the dressed stone with volcanic rock being used for the hidden back-filling of walls.
Peter’s own masonry skills were illustrated in photographs of carved ornamental figure heads (known as grotesques) along the north wall. Reflecting the freedom masons were given in the past as to their choice of subjects these include Butch the pipe smoking dog, Peter’s young daughter and many humorous depictions of cathedral officials.
In his conclusion Peter reflected on the need for a fine balance between restoration of the original and replacement with something new. It is reassuring that this work continues with the announcement that, after some years of planning, one of the Cathedral’s badly eroded pinnacles is to be replaced.