LINCOLN HERITAGE SKILLS FESTIVAL
October 2016. Wizardry in Wood was in full swing and I was on stewarding duty. I was new to the Court and had been asked to slip away from Carpenters’ Hall to go to a meeting at the House of Lords. There I discovered representatives of twenty or so Livery Companies, plus half a dozen people from Lincoln Cathedral, the Lord Mayor of London and, in the chair, Lord Cormack, Chairman of Historic Lincoln Trust. It was a briefing for Lincoln’s Heritage Skills Festival, and I soon realised this was to be a seriously big project.
And so it turned out. Everything was focussed on two days in June 2017 when the Cathedral was to showcase the ancient skills that went into constructing one of the finest medieval buildings in Europe. How better to do it than get the Livery Companies to come and demonstrate their respective crafts? It would be the first time in memory that so many Companies had been together in one place outside London.
June 2017 duly arrived, and the Cathedral and grounds were a hive of activity. Twenty two Livery Companies were exhibiting. Inside, among the displays to greet visitors were two Bentley cars in the nave (another first?) brought in by the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers. Outside, we like to think the Turners’ marquee was the big draw. We had demonstrations from the Register of Professional Turners and from the Association of Polelathe Turners and Greenwood Workers. There was also an exhibition of our own Joey Richardson’s internationally renowned work; and we were joined by craftsmen from the Cathedral and from Lincoln College who were demonstrating other woodworking skills.
There was a steady stream of visitors, all amazed at what could be created with lathes, adzes, spoke shaves, axes, knives and chisels. At times the crowd was so thick that people were three or four deep around the demonstration lathes. And they were generous with their purchases. Almost £2,500 of exhibits were sold, and, with 20% going to the Cathedral, the Turners were able to contribute over £470 to Cathedral funds.
Many Livery Companies donated items to an auction at the end of the Festival. This raised £23,500 for the Cathedral and included a £200 hammer price for a Bert Marsh turned dish, kindly donated by Deputy Master Nicholas Somers.
There was air of celebration throughout the Festival, especially when all the Masters processed in flowing robes from Lincoln Castle to the Cathedral for a special service of Evensong and an organ recital by the Lord Mayor of London, Dr Andrew Parmley. The Masters then dined in the Cathedral chancel, a breath-taking setting that some say surpassed the splendour of Guildhall itself.
Turning was well and truly on the map at the Festival and our medieval ancestors must have been looking down on us with pride as their skills in the Cathedral were commemorated.
Chairman, Howe Committee