Friday, 19 August 2011

News - Masonry falls from Minster’s tower (Doncaster)

PARTS of Doncaster Minster’s churchyard have been cordoned off after a piece of masonry fell more than 150ft from the tower, damaging two of the building’s roofs before landing on the ground.

Senior clergy were forced to take action when one of the ornate stone finials dislodged from the south west corner of the 169ft-high tower. They have also closed the church’s south entrance.

Canon Paul Shackerley, who is in charge at the Minster, yesterday said specialist surveyors had been called in to examine the tower and the area would remain closed to safeguard the public from danger.

He added: “We have moved quickly because the finial fell at about 6pm on Tuesday and we are now making sure that all the other masonry on the building is safe. We may have to call in steeplejacks.

“The piece of stonework is about two feet square and it fell from a great height and damaged the nave and south porch roofs. It is like a huge rock.

“It is sad to witness the ornate carvings of one of South Yorkshire’s greatest pieces of Gothic architecture falling from the building. We are positively seeking solutions to the damage.”

Doncaster’s original church was destroyed by a fire in 1853 and the current building, which will remain open, was built to the designs of George Gilbert Scott, re-opened in 1858.

Canon Shackerley said in recent years the church and its congregation had successfully raised millions of pounds towards maintenance and improvement but it was now in need of around £8m worth of refurbishment.

He added: “The Minster has embarked on an exciting new vision and recently appointed a new fundraiser and development officer, in partnership with English Heritage, for the long term restoration and re-ordering of the building.

“It is unfortunate this unexpected damage has come at a time when we are considering the long-term fund raising strategy for the Minster.”

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