York Minster aims for excellence at new training centre
York Minster plans to develop and extend its craft skills training facilities by creating a world class campus for research, education and training in craft skills.
York Minster is one of England’s 10 cathedrals with their own stonemasonry department. The 10 cathedrals work together on training through the organisation they have established called the Cathedral Workshops Fellowship, although its foundation degree course is now also open to masons (and other heritage craftspeople) working outside of the cathedral network.
Now, York Minster plans to develop and extend its craft skills training facilities by creating a world class campus for research, education and training in craft skills on the Minster’s 15-acre site.
This Centre of Excellence for Heritage Craft Skills & Estate Management came a step closer following a community referendum of residents in the Minster Precinct Neighbourhood Area, which showed a majority in favour of the Minster’s proposed £5million, fully funded project that is being co-ordinated by the York Minster Fund.
As well as the training centre, the project includes new visitor facilities, a new public square, enhanced public realm and green spaces, and a discovery and learning centre and museum.
Following the referendum, the Minster’s neighbourhood plan is being adopted by City of York Council as part of the statutory development plan for the city, and a planning application has been submitted for the work in the Minster Precinct to progress. A decision is expected before the end of the summer and, if consented, the work is expected to be completed in 2024.
The scheme, designed by the architectural practice Tonkin Liu, will provide new facilities for craftspeople, including York Minster’s stonemasons, and house and deliver training in modern techniques and processes to apprentices and students in York and further afield, working with cutting edge digital facilities alongside the ancient craft skills for which the Minster’s stoneyard is renowned.
Existing buildings within the Precinct will be re-ordered, re-purposed and renewed to provide new workspaces and associated facilities, enable greater engagement and interaction with the public around key crafts and trades, and facilitate improved links with education. The Centre of Excellence for Heritage Craft Skills & Estate Management will bring benefits including continuing the craft of stonemasonry and encouraging global learning and knowledge sharing, as well as being a shining example of best practice in managing complex heritage estates.
The vision for the Centre of Excellence is a key element of a plan that sets out a policy-led approach to creating a sustainable future for the Minster and its estate.
Alex McCallion, Director of Works and Precinct at York Minster, says: “It takes a multidisciplinary team of skilled heritage craftspeople and experts in their field to maintain and care for the ongoing cycle of repair, restoration, conservation and development of York Minster, its ancient buildings and monuments. Our existing stoneyard houses the complete range of craft and trade skills that are vital to achieve this.
“Yet despite this, the facilities available to our skilled workforce are constrained and inadequate, set against a backdrop of declining craft skills. We also recognise the need to keep pace with innovations and modern processes such as digital technology, data scanning and computer-aided design (CAD).
“The creation of a Centre of Excellence for Heritage Craft Skills & Estate Management will, therefore, not only enable the preservation and development of the ancient craft skills that have sustained the Minster over the centuries, it will also secure the long-term environmental, financial and heritage sustainability of it for future generations to enjoy as we do today.
“It will position York Minster as leading the charge for the preservation of ancient craft skills on the international stage, facilitating knowledge sharing and exchange programmes with partner cathedrals worldwide, including Washington, Milan and Trondheim, and will also have immediate economic and tourism benefits for York and the wider region.”