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Interviews

Creating Voices: Memories of the Abbey's Restoration

Here you can listen to the latest clips from our interviews with those who remember the Abbey's restoration from 1942 onwards. Their memories bring the layers of history in Abbey building to life.

This page will be updated with clips from the latest interviews so please visit it every so often to keep up to date with newly-recorded memories.  If you have enjoyed or learnt from the recordings here, or if they have made you experience the Abbey differently, then please let us know by emailing Ollie Taylor, Creating Voices Project Manager, at otaylor@bathabbey.org

 

Harry and Ron Kirk, East Window Glaziers, 1952-1955

Harry and Ron Kirk were a father-and-son team of glaziers from London.  During the war they restored the windows of buildings that had sustained bomb damage.  Their work led them to meet Michael Farrar Bell of Clayton and Bell (the firm responsible for restoring the East Window in the Victorian Period).  After the East Window of Bath Abbey was blown out in the Bath Blitz in April 1942, "practically every glass maker in England gave the opinion that the window could not be restored".  But Clayton and Bell thought differently.  Michael Farrar Bell brought with him craftsmen and glaziers with whom he had previously worked and so the story of Harry and Ron's involvement with the East Window restoration began...

In this Digital Story, Clare Cook - partner of Ron Kirk - describes their work, beginning with the measuring of the East Window and ending with the completion of the glazing in the harsh winter of 1955.

 

Bryan Dring: Banker Mason, 1951-1955

Bryan Dring explains how he came to work as a Banker Mason for Haywood and Wooster on Bath Abbey between 1951-1955. Banker Masons were responsible for shaping the stone after it arrived from the quarries. It would arrive in large blocks (sometimes weighing half a ton) and then be sawed, chiselled, and shaped to requirements. The stonework of the tower, windows, walls, pillars, and altar were all worked on by Haywood and Wooster's masons. Once the Banker Masons had shaped the stone, it would be given to Fixer Masons who would fix it to the Abbey using a mixture of stone dust, white cement, and water.

Here he recalls the other masons who worked on the Abbey, explains the differences between 'banker' and 'fixer' masons, and describes the details of the work being done in several photographs.  He explains how banker masons would test pieces of stone for 'ricks' or cracks by using their chisels like tuning forks.

In the second clip (below) Bryan describes the different types of stone used by the masons and what 'Quarry sap' was

 

Charlie Hatchard: Wood Carver, 1947

Charlie Hatchard, a wood carver for most of his life, worked as a carver for Hayward and Wooster (the firm responsible for the restoration of the Abbey’s stonework in the 1950s).

In this short digital story, Charlie’s niece, Margaret Davis, remembers going to see her uncle working on ‘a block of oak’ he was carving to restore the middle diamond in the lower right-hand quadrant of the lowest shield on the West Front door in 1947. The original diamond had been removed from the door for Charlie to copy.  When Margaret went to see him she remembers that his carving was almost complete.

“I remember the screeching of the saws and the hot sun and the sun reflecting off the circular saws”

Bryan Dring, whose memories you can listen to here, knew Charlie and was given a chisel by him.  Charlie’s chisel has an eagle carved into its wooden handle.

 

Click on the hyperlink to learn more about the Creating Voices Oral History Project.