The Black Princes Chantry Canterbury Cathedral Repair To Mullion

Jan Leeming

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Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.


Date: 27th February 2014

Last year there was an unfortunate accident which resulted in damage to the mullioned window on the East side of the Chantry Chapel at Canterbury Cathedral.

The Huguenot congregation have a quarterly newsletter for which I have been writing short articles on matters such as the serene Green Man and the superbly carved Pelican in her Piety.  For the Spring edition I suggested writing about the repair to the Mullion.

Heather Newton, Head of Stone Masonry and Conservation readily agreed to my request but then suggested it might be better to interview the young man who actually did the job.  What a charming and charismatic young man is Sam Matthews - it was a joy to talk to him and learn something of the intricacies and difficulties of stone restoration and replacement.

Sam did a Fine Arts degree at Canterbury University and achieved a BA Honours degree.  Subsequently he studied for a further 3 years at the Building Crafts College in London.  Then he undertook a further 2 years Cathedral Workshop Fellowship.

Although the repair appeared 'relatively simple' it took Sam seven months from getting the financial go-ahead, making the drawings, carving the stone, liaising with the glaziers and 'fixing' the repair.  His work wasn't helped by having to keep the Chapel in a habitable condition because of the ongoing sunday services.  He couldn't just leave the work open to the elements at the end of the day.

Sam took me to the 'Drawing Room' for our chat and then we went to the Chantry for photos of Sam in situ with his work.  Although I've looked at it for the last three years, I'd never really noticed how worn the mullion had become (well it has been there for nearly a thousand years).  Now with the repair work the difference is very marked.

We can admire Sam's work but  will never see his 'Bencher's/Mason's' Mark.  This is carved at the end of each piece of stone which is then hidden as the stones are fixed together.

His Fellowship at an end, Sam is now on contract to the Cathedral.  He would like to be a Sculptor but has his head screwed on correctly and knowing how hard it is to earn a living as a professional artist, he has chosen a superb way to practice his craft whilst putting bread on the table.  

He greatly admires the work of Barbara Hepworth, Anish Kapoor and Antony Gormley and proudly boasts that he has a napkin signed by Gormley but has never actually met him.  

I'm not a great lover of modern art, nor modern sculpture, but I do love Gormley's 'Transport' in our Cathedral and also another work in the crypt of Winchester Cathedral.

So I wish Sam every success whether he remains working at stonemasonry or whether he eventually earns his living as a Sculptor.  I shall remember him every time I visit the Black Prince's Chantry/Huguenot Chapel in Canterbury Cathedral.


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