Scaffolding to the Rescue! How Scaffolding is Saving the Books of Worchester Cathedral

When most people think of scaffolding,
they usually think builders. Repair work. Dust and cement and loud
noises, something new and exciting being created. However,
Worchester Cathedral has proved that’s not always the case. The
cathedral – which dates back to the 11th century – is currently
wrapped in scaffolding, but it’s nothing to do with the building.
Scaffolding was used to remove 6,000 rare books out of the
cathedral library so that the leaking roof is repaired.

Buildings are Built to Last – But Not
Books

The cathedral library boasts the second
largest cathedral based collection of medieval books and
manuscripts in the UK, some of them dating back to the 7th century
and this precious store came under threat when the roof of the
cathedral library began to crack.

Therefore a team of staff and
volunteers spent four months packing the articles up in acid free
paper and bubble wrap, before storing them in protective cases.
However, they hit a snag with removing the protective boxes from
the library. The room is only accessible via a spiral staircase,
too narrow to remove the bulky protective boxes through.

Scaffolding to the
Rescue

The only option was to remove the boxes
out through the cathedral library window, but how to do so safely?
Scaffolding was the only option. A scaffolding tower was
constructed, allowing the boxes to be lifted out of the library
window and onto a scaffolding lift. Once transported down to the
ground, the boxes were lifted straight into a van and taken away to
a secret storage location. The whole operation took two days to
complete.

Though costly, the scaffolding method
proved efficient and effective and was partly funded by a 250,000
grant from the government’s First World War Centenary whilst the
Cathedral Repairs Fund is helping to fund ongoing work.

Now that the books have been safely
removed, attention has now been turned to repairing the leaking
cathedral library roof. The ceiling dates back to 1866 and had been
threatening to collapse, being made of simple oak lathe with the
hair of horses, yaks and cows to strengthen it. It will be replaced
using similar but stronger methods.

It’s hoped that the books and
manuscripts will be returned to their home in July – and who knows,
maybe it will be scaffolding to the rescue once again.