December 24, 2022 8.00 am This story is over 11 months old

Flashback 2022: Lincoln Cathedral west front scaffolding-free for first time in 36 years

After decades of work, Lincoln Cathedral revealed its makeover

2022 was a momentous year for Lincoln Cathedral, as the historic monument returned to its former glory by shedding its scaffolding on the west front for the first time since the mid-1980s.

For many people, scaffolding has been a regular feature of Lincoln Cathedral’s structure for their whole lives, due to a series of works on the west front of the building to protect the future of some of its most iconic sections.

Recent years saw the scaffolding required for a near six-year long project to conserve the Romanesque Frieze. The 900-year-old sculptures at the front of the cathedral’s main entrance were cleaned and fixed by a team of stonemasons.

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

It comes after the northern frieze run was removed from its space on the Lincoln Cathedral outer walls in the 1990s due to the fragility of the stone, replaced instead by copy carvings.

Thanks to £1.5 million of national lottery heritage funding and the hard work of masonry experts, the frieze has now been given a full conservation makeover to return the site to its former glory.

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

A project that started in 2016, but has been discussed for decades. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

March 2022 marked the memorable occasion of scaffolding being removed from the Lincoln Cathedral west front, it was the first time this area of the cathedral was free of structural assistance since 1986.

The timing couldn’t have been better, with filming taking place at Lincoln Cathedral that month for Ridley Scott’s upcoming Napoleon film – which saw Joaquin Phoenix and the Oscar-winning director grace Lincoln with their presence.

Copy carvings can be found at the visitor centre as well. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Each sculpture tells a tale from the Bible. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

At long last, people visiting our city and residents alike could take in the sights and enjoy the Romanesque Frieze, as the copy carvings of the 1990s and 2000s were moved into The Old Deanery visitor centre.

Utilising the same technology that is used for laser eye surgery and tattoo removals, masonry workers laser cleaned the southern run of the frieze in a bid to carefully maintain all traditional features.

All eleven kings sit proudly on their thrones. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The face designs on all sculptures are based largely on the same drawing. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

These works also included conservation of the centrepiece of the frieze – the gallery of kings. It is where 11 sculptures of kings sit in their own designated area, with each king sat in a different pose to best describe their characteristics.

Michael Sheppard, director of works and properties at Lincoln Cathedral, was in charge of the conservation project and called it a true career highlight.

Michael Sheppard is the director of works for this project, and he has taken great pride in the work so far. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

He said: “It’s a huge honour to work on a project of this scale and magnitude, it’s a really unique opportunity particularly for a cathedral.

“For many of us here it is a career highlight, as these kind of works won’t need to be done again for another 100-150 years.

“I might be biased but this conservation work is world class. It is completely bespoke and whatever we do has an implication, so it’s really important that we maintain the original fabric with as little intervention as possible.”

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

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