Photo gallery: Stonemasons with a head for heights restore 100ft tall Norfolk church

Great Yarmouth Minster covered in scaffolding whilst work takes place to replace and restore stonework to the tower.
Stone Mason John Briggs taking in the view.

Picture: James Bass Great Yarmouth Minster covered in scaffolding whilst work takes place to replace and restore stonework to the tower. Stone Mason John Briggs taking in the view. Picture: James Bass

Friday, November 16, 2012
4:01 PM

Working a dizzying 100ft from the ground, it is not a job that would suit everybody.

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Great Yarmouth Minster covered in scaffolding whilst work takes place to replace and restore stonework to the tower.
View across to Breydon Bridge.

Picture: James BassGreat Yarmouth Minster covered in scaffolding whilst work takes place to replace and restore stonework to the tower. View across to Breydon Bridge. Picture: James Bass

But stonemasons working on St Nicholas Minster, in Great Yarmouth, say restoring the 900-year-old church gives a unique buzz.

The five-strong team has had to haul more than 14 tons of stone to the top of the church, to replace balustrades damaged by bombers in the second world war.

And rusting ironwork is being replaced with steel, which cannot expand and cause the stone to crack.

Contractors Universal Stone say the £250,000 project is on track to complete next month, after hold-ups caused by high winds and rain at the seaside resort.

Great Yarmouth Minster covered in scaffolding whilst work takes place to replace and restore stonework to the tower.
Lifting one of the stones up the tower.

Picture: James BassGreat Yarmouth Minster covered in scaffolding whilst work takes place to replace and restore stonework to the tower. Lifting one of the stones up the tower. Picture: James Bass

Work began in April this year.

John Briggs, site supervisor, said: “The weather’s not been good to us, but now the stone is flowing and it’s going quite well.

“We had to take the old balustrades down and with the height of the building it was a slow process.”

There are 64 stones on the parapet level alone - around 70ft off the ground - with each weighing around 200kg.

Each is intricately joined together with stainless steel dowels, painstakingly matching the original design of the church - founded in 1101 by Herbert de Losinga, the first Bishop of Norwich.

“When it was built you would have thought all the sides were the same,” explained Mr Briggs. “But it’s not. From a fixing perspective it’s how old work was.

“The building’s not exactly square.”

Original material is preserved when possible, but some was too damaged.

Two of the four finials - the top stones on the four pinnacles - were cracked and needed to be replaced, matched to expert moulds taken by draughtsmen.

Ancaster stone is sourced from Stamford, in Lincolnshire, and takes shape at Universal Stone’s yard in Wickford, Essex.

And workmen say it is an exciting time as the grand project - funded through the Repair Grants for Places of Worship scheme - nears completion.

“When the scaffolding comes down and you see what you’ve done, rising out of it, it’s a nice feeling,” said Mr Briggs. “I love my job.”

Work on the Grade 1 listed building has included the trefoil-decorated balustrades on the parapet and all four elevations, with the pinnacles at the top.

And Mr Briggs estimates the new stonework will easily last 300 years from when the project has finished, adding “It will see me out anyway!”

8 comments

  • Great job if you can get it, but it takes a few funny handshakes.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Friday, November 16, 2012

  • I'd love to know where the scaffold has gone to in the 2nd photo, according to the description it's covered in scaffold. Archant can't even get the basics right.

    Report this comment

    Cynic

    Saturday, November 17, 2012

  • LOL, they changed the headline after IT Man's comment. The reported never credited him though, typical of the backward and entrenched dead-tree press. Any other blogger would have thanked him for his suggestion here in the comments but the reports at Archant are obviously too good to engage here with us mere plebs in the comments section, or maybe they are worried that their whole little empire will fall apart if they began to engage with the communities they parrot their propaganda too?

    Report this comment

    fcuk_the_law

    Saturday, November 17, 2012

  • LOL, they changed the headline after IT Man's comment. The reported never credited him though, typical of the backward and entrenched dead-tree press. Any other blogger would have thanked him for his suggestion here in the comments but the reports at Archant are obviously too good to engage here with us mere plebs in the comments section, or maybe they are worried that their whole little empire will fall apart if they began to engage with the communities they parrot their propaganda too?

    Report this comment

    fcuk_the_law

    Saturday, November 17, 2012

  • LOL, they changed the headline after IT Man's comment. The reported never credited him though, typical of the backward and entrenched dead-tree press. Any other blogger would have thanked him for his suggestion here in the comments but the reports at Archant are obviously too good to engage here with us mere plebs in the comments section, or maybe they are worried that their whole little empire will fall apart if they began to engage with the communities they parrot their propaganda too?

    Report this comment

    fcuk_the_law

    Saturday, November 17, 2012

  • no mention of the accident that happened a few months ago.

    Report this comment

    calmudownboy

    Friday, November 16, 2012

  • Surely your headline should read 'Head for heights'? I have never heard of a Stomach for heights!

    Report this comment

    IT Man

    Friday, November 16, 2012

  • no mention of the accident that happened a few months ago.

    Report this comment

    calmudownboy

    Friday, November 16, 2012

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