Trainees work to set a new benchmark

How the bench will look when it is finished
How the bench will look when it is finished
Picture: Paul Jacobs (142476-229) PPP-140824-032155001

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THE young have met the very, very old, after a unique stone bench was commissioned to be installed in London.

Six trainee stonemasons who work at Cathedral Works Organisation in Chichester were given the honour of creating a unique stone bench from 10 pieces of 150-million-year-old Portland stone.

The bench weighs 10 tonnes and will be the centrepiece of a new public space in the capital.

Sam Elgar, 20, from Chichester, and Ed Shaw, 29, from Eastbourne, who have recently completed their three-year apprenticeship training at CWO, were the lead masons on the three-week manufacture of the bench at CWO’s headquarters in Chichester and will lead the two-week installation in London.

They are being helped by guest trainees Jake Potter from York College; Martin Holmes and Jack Herniman from Weymouth College; and Toby Robson from City of Bath College.

Working alongside the architects, the trainees have been given the opportunity to practise and develop their stonemasonry skills as they bring their designs to life.

Sam said: ‘For me, the greatest challenge of this project is learning to work with the speed and accuracy needed to achieve an excellent quality end result.’

The bench, which is to be installed in Cheapside, next to St Paul’s Cathedral, will be unveiled on October 24, meaning time is tight to get it in place.

The imposing 6.5m-long stone bench consists of 10 hand and machine-carved Grove Whitbed, Portland stone blocks, which continuously increase in size, giving the appearance of the bench growing out of the ground.

Entitled Stone Bench, the work was designed by Liverpool architecture students Chris Dove and Craig Mitchell and was the winner of the City of London Stone Bench Competition 2012.

Adam Stone, Technical Director at CWO, supervisor of the stonemasonry and one of the judges, said: ‘We are all looking forward to seeing the bench take shape as it is installed over the coming weeks.

‘We are delighted that our two newly-qualified masons are gaining invaluable experience from working on a high-profile project, learning to respond to the pressure of not only having to produce excellent quality work, but also working to a tight timeframe.’