Conservation is just as important in the Close properties as in the Cathedral as the vast majority of the buildings are listed either Grade I or II* (the highest grades). As a consequence they must be kept in good repair and any features preserved, and if necessary undergo conservation
During the frequent refurbishment of Close properties many historic features come to light; sometimes these have been hidden for generations, sometimes they have been boarded over in the mid-20th Century. The most common finds are fireplaces and cast iron backs, but recently a medieval stone pier and arch was discovered in the former granary range (see photo). This required careful restoration by the Works Team and a mason to replace the missing keystone.
The Steward’s Chamber
The most remarkable discovery to date has been the former Steward’s Chamber. This property had been occupied for half a century without updating and features such as a copper wash tub, range, and pump all survived in the outhouse. Of higher status was the huge stone-looking fireplace on the top floor landing. On closer examination this was found to be plaster with raised panels reminiscent of pargetting (see photo). To top this, the bathroom was found to have a wall painting. This has references to the Virgin Mary and so is thought to be pre-Reformation dating to the early 16th century (see photo) making this building older than previously thought. Both fireplace and wall paintings were treated by specialist conservators in order to stabilise them. The fireplace remains on show but the painting has been recorded and covered up for its own protection.
Cathedral Works Team
Whilst these were exciting finds, the most usual conservation in the Close is the ongoing programme of repairs to window and door joinery, flint and brick walls, chimneys, etc. The Cathedral is fortunate to have a skilled Works Team consisting of carpenters and a bricklayer, with the assistance of labourers. They are experienced in these specialist repairs and have undergone conservation training to ensure all work is carried out in a sympathetic and traditional manner.
Combining the needs of the past and the 21st century
The Works Team and any specialist contractors work very closely with the Cathedral’s Estates Manager, Archaeologist and Architect. Together they ensure that the Close properties are maintained in a conservation manner so that the very special and historic nature of the Close is preserved whilst at the same time the buildings are kept in daily use.