Final stone is laid, in the restoration of the Durham Cathedral's Monks' Garden Wall

A two year restoration project is nearing completion as the final stone has been placed in the Monks’ Garden Wall at Durham Cathedral.

The final stone was put in place on Tuesday 13 February 2024 by Durham Cathedral stonemasons, Graham Penfold and Grace Impesi, the last of over 200 newly cut and reclaimed stones which have been placed as part of the extensive conservation work.

The conservation work began in 2022, after a survey was carried out and it became clear that some stones within the wall were either missing, damaged, or had a crack or void behind them. Scaffolding went up on the East perimeter wall of the cathedral shortly afterwards and, after two years, came down in the week commencing 26 February.

The majority of the work has been carried out by Durham Cathedral’s team of skilled stonemasons. Durham Cathedral has a team of eight committed and skilled in-house stonemasons, including four apprentices. The expert team have removed stones in bad condition and carved new stones to make them the right shape and size, before securing them into the wall with lime mortar.

Once started there was unforeseen work and added complexities to the repairs which caused unexpected delays and meant that the project was extended. The work also relied on the expertise of a conservation structural engineer, close liaison with the cathedral’s Fabric Advisory Committee and consideration of listed building consent, which all added to the extended duration of the process.

Gary Holliday, Stonemason Supervisor said:

“Although it has been a challenging and lengthy process, working in all weather, the most satisfying parts of the project have been in the workshop cutting stones to our templates. Once we completed these we carefully moved them on to the site and fixed them in place. This process is the most satisfying for our team, seeing all the hard work coming to fruition.”

The Monks’ Garden Wall surrounds an open green space, next to the 12th-century Galilee Chapel. In the Middle Ages, it was used by monks in their free time, when they could enjoy games (it was at one time a bowling green) and take inspiration from the environment to contemplate God in his creation. With the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, the space became a garden for the clergy.

Until recent years, the garden remained private and enclosed, however today, it is open to the public and when scaffolding is removed and a new handrail installed, will once again be a great space for visitors to enjoy picnics during sunny weather.

The restoration of the Monks’ Garden, like so many projects at the cathedral, has relied upon vital third-party funding. The cathedral would like to acknowledge, in particular, the support of the Benefact Trust (formerly, AllChurches Trust) and the Banks Community Fund.