York residents and visitors to the city may have spotted an unusual sight outside York Minster this week – two people abseiling down the cathedral’s 180 foot tower.
The abseiling is part of essential maintenance work to inspect and remove weathered pieces of stone from the tower’s east and south faces.
Heritage Stone Access is carrying out the work over the next six weeks on behalf of York Minster, using hammers to test and remove stones by hand and pinning grotesques which have been identified as having faults.
Rebecca Thompson, superintendent of works at York Minster, said: “The team is focusing on the east and south faces as priority areas as these are the sides which experience the worst extremes of the weather. The changes in temperature and process of freezing and then thawing causes the stone to contract and expand, meaning inspections need to be carried out and worn pieces removed.
“We hope to be able to obtain funding next year to complete the north and west sides.”
The current work is being funded through a grant from the Cathedral Fabric Repair Fund, a partnership between the Cathedral Fabric Commission for England, the Wolfson Foundation and the Pilgrim Trust.
The work on the tower is part of an ongoing maintenance programme at York Minster to conserve and restore its historic - and in places fragile - fabric, which includes the major project to restore and conserve its east end.