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Dean of Durham’s name finally carved in stone as historic plaque gets an extension

25 January 2022

The Very Reverend, Andrew Tremlett has finally had his name added to the Bishops, Priors and Deans Plaque at Durham Cathedral, almost five years after becoming Dean of Durham.

The addition of the Dean’s name was unable to be made when he joined the cathedral in 2016 as, after nearly a century of use, the original plaque had simply run out of space for the names of any future Deans and Bishops.

After looking at various options, it was decided to extend the plaque, with new marble panels to allow more names to be added. Made possible with generous support from the Friends of Durham Cathedral and The Journey Charity,  plans were drawn up by the Cathedral Architect, Chris Cotton and after a delay due to covid, Cliveden Conservation were able to commence work in Spring 2021. 

Specialist stone conservators dismantled the plaque over several days, and placed the pieces into storage at the cathedral. New border sections were carved from White Alabaster, to match the original historic stone, and two new pieces of White Marble were provided to add additional names.

Cathedral Architect, Chris Cotton said: “It is estimated that the new marble panels will have sufficient room to add names for the next 200 years. In addition, all the work carried out is reversible, so when the new plaque is filled, there will be the option of removing the new pieces and fitting them into a separate monument, restoring the original to how it was, or leaving them as they are now and creating something entirely different for future generations.“

Cliveden Conservation's stone mason matched the mouldings and spacing of the original stones so that the new pieces were an almost seamless addition to this important monument. The team rebuilt the plaque in August 2021, inserting the new blanks sections. Chris continues, “As well as the panels for names, new heraldic shields have also been added to continue the original design. However there are no plans to paint these as we feel this would interrupt the chronology of the painted ones already there. Also, we did not want to wholly disguise the new sections, so leaving them blank makes it a more ‘honest’ intervention.”

The final work was completed in December 2021, by toning in the new stone, to ensure it harmonised with the original.

The Very Reverend Andrew Tremlett, Dean of Durham says, “I am delighted that we have been able to find a resolution to this interesting challenge. The careful considered work of the cathedral team and the conservators has enabled this work to be sensitively done, so as not to hamper the craftsmanship of the original plaque. It allows visitors to see and understand the additions that are needed to be made over time to a living, working cathedral and has provided a long term solution for our future Deans and Bishops.”

The plaque, located at the entrance to the Feretory (the Shrine of St Cuthbert) lists all the Bishops of Durham since the foundation of the cathedral in 995, together with the Priors of the Durham Monastery and, following the suppression of the monastery at the Reformation, the Deans of the Cathedral. 

When the plaque was dismantled, conservators also made an interesting find. Names of the original masons who worked on it were found written alongside the date in pencil and were not visible once in place. The names, ‘AB Dixon’ and ‘JW Limbert’, were once again hidden when the plaque was reassembled, but the team ensured to take photos of this hidden detail for the cathedral records. 

A special Evensong service took place on Thursday 20 January to dedicate the plaque to The Dean and to thank the Friends of Durham Cathedral and The Journey Charity for their generous support on this unique project.

Caroline Peacock, Chair, Friends of Durham Cathedral says, “The Friends of Durham Cathedral have been delighted to support this important work, which continues a precious tradition in an entirely sympathetic style, and will now permit many more names to be added over the years to come.”