New gargoyles on the way for cathedral

The weathered gargoyles that have been removed from the north east corner of Ripon Cathedral.
The weathered gargoyles that have been removed from the north east corner of Ripon Cathedral.

Ancient crumbling gargoyles at Ripon Cathedral have been removed in preperation for replacement sculptures which are currently being carved by experts.

Huge slabs of magnesium limestone from York Minster have been sent to two carvers, who have started working on the new gargoyles, worth several thousands of pounds each, after winning a design competition.

Alan Micklethwaite, from York, is carving a medieval woman, while Tom Nicholls, from London, is creating a bat based on a species that roosts at Fountains Abbey, which was founded by Ripon monks.

There are also plans to restore a third gargoyle using the original design.

Director of operations at the cathedral, Julia Barker, who has overseen the project with an architect, said: “The gargoyles are made from huge blocks of stone that are about 1.5 metres long as there is a huge chunk in the wall that you don’t see. Hopefully by the end of August they will be coming back and they will go into the wall.”

Work to renew and repair the crumbling stonework of the north east corner of the cathedral is being carried out following a £354,617 grant from the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund.

Miss Barker said: “We have got local stonemasons working up there at the moment and it is going to look much better.

“Everyone is really excited about the new gargoyles as they should look fantastic. They will be there for many hundreds of years to come.

“It’s a nice project to be involved in. It’s not every generation that can say they put gargoyles on the cathedral.”

A gargoyle is a carved or formed grotesque with a spout designed to convey water from a roof and away from the side of a building, thereby preventing rainwater from running down masonry walls and eroding the mortar between.

Gargoyles were viewed in two ways by the church throughout history.

“The primary use was to convey the concept of evil through the form of the gargoyle, which was especially useful in sending a stark message to the common people, most of whom were illiterate. Gargoyles also are said to scare evil spirits away from the church. However, some medieval clergy viewed gargoyles as a form of idolatry.