City jobs axed for skilled craftsmen

Picture by Makaela Papworth
Picture by Makaela Papworth

A CITY stonemasons with a lasting legacy has crumbled.

Cathedral Works Organisation has gone in to administration – with more than 70 jobs being axed.

The company, based in Terminus Road, Chichester, was established in 1965 by the Dean and Chapter of Chichester Cathedral to carry out repairs.

As well as the restoration of Chichester Cathedral’s historic cloisters, the company’s skilled stonemasons have worked at Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace and restored the Monument in London.

Administrators from Worthing insolvency specialist IRL have laid off 73 staff, while ‘keeping a small core team on to help complete jobs’.

“It is all very hectic at the moment and we are talking to several interested parties about the business and its assets,” said a spokeswoman from IRL.

“There is no further comment at this time.”

CWO became independent of the cathedral more than 20 years ago when it was bought by the Osbourne Group.

But it was a management buy out in 2006 which boosted the company away from its humble beginnings in a hut in the cathedral grounds.

Cathedral Works grew to employ 99 staff members – mostly skilled craftsmen – with a turnover nearing £10m.

A spokeswoman for Chichester Cathedral said: “Our thoughts are with all the staff and their families who are affected by this very sad news.”

She said despite the company being independent from the cathedral, it was still ‘valued’.

“Throughout those years, along with a number of other external contractors, CWO have helped to restore and conserve the Cathedral on a number of important projects – they have been a valued and significant source of specialist expertise.”

The cloisters, which date back to the 15th century, were restored in 2010 with money raised by the cathedral’s restoration trust.

Work included restoring stone work on St Faith House and restoring stonework to the windows and buttressing.

Once called a ‘haven of craftsmanship’, the company has some of the most advanced facilities in the industry, including cutting turning and handling equipment.

It has also taken on a host of apprentices to train them from scratch in the age-old techniques of stonework – with much of the work still being done by hand.

Sam Elgar, from Chichester, was just one apprentice who was given the honour of creating an award-winning stone bench in London.

After completing a three-year apprenticeship with CWO, he worked alongside architects to create a six-and-a-half metre bench for a public site in Cheapside, near St Paul’s Cathedral.

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