The Secret Life of Ely Cathedral

Up the Scaffolding on Ely Cathedral

Caroline Forward shares her story:
For many months while we were working on The Secret Life of Ely Cathedral, the Cathedral was shrouded in scaffolding poles while stained glass windows were taken out and returned sparkling clean and full of dazzling colour. The lines of the scaffolding externally cloaked the fabric of the building with a geometric maze of lines and shadows, through which the stonemasons, glaziers and conservators wound their way up and down in their hi-vis jackets. They were laboriously and meticulously cleaning the stone by hand, drilling the old stone out with a pneumatic drill to make way for the new ready moulded stone awaiting its place and cementing in the new windows. Internally the scaffolding poles were less closely packed, presenting strong lines with an almost abstract quality of the scaffolding poles against the Cathedral’s own geometric shapes.

I was privileged to be allowed to don a hard hat and a hi-vis jacket and follow Ian Crothers (a stonemason who has worked on the Cathedral since he was a teenager), up the scaffolding both outside and in. Outside the views were amazing, and the conservation work fascinating. Inside, as we climbed higher we could look close up at the newly discovered fragments of Medieval painting way up high on the North transept wall. At the top I actually touched the ceiling of this wonderful building. It was an awesome moment.

The people who work to keep this Cathedral in good order and able to stand proud for many years to come talk about it with affection and pride. It must be quite something to know that your work will endure, usually unseen, so that the Cathedral can continue to give pleasure and solace to many people for years into the future.

These oil paintings by Caroline Forward will be shown as part of The Secret Life of Ely Cathedral, 6th April to 2nd May inclusive, in the South West transept and throughout the main body of the Cathedral.

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