Stonemason Rick is carving himself a place in history
AMONG the towering cranes and cuttingedge machinery at the Ordsall Chord site stands a traditional stonemason.
The latest computer imaging was used to design the Piccadilly-Victoria railway, but Rick Mason’s job is key.
The new bridge by Trinity Way will sit alongside the 19th century Stephenson’s Bridge.
To restore George Stephenson’s creation – the birthplace of passenger railway – traditional techniques must also be used.
And that’s where Rick comes in. Armed with his mallet and chisel, he is shaping huge sandstone blocks to restore damaged parts of the original structure.
In 1830, when the bridge was first built, there would have been hundreds of stonemasons working together.
But Rick, who has been in the trade for more than 30 years, is working alongside just two apprentices.
It’s an easier job than back in the day.
The stones come to them partially-shaped from quarries across Yorkshire and Lancashire.
Between them, they will make the finishing touches to more than 30 UP TO stones which will sit atop Stephenson’s bridge.
They have taken a template of each to replace them as accurately as possible.
The stone has also been analysed to match original colours as precisely as possible.
Rick said: “It’s great when you look at how it was done all those years ago.
“We have cranes and modern machinery now, but sometimes I look at the old workmanship and just think ‘clever guys’.
“Obviously there were a lot more of them and they just had a different mentality – they were really, really clever. You’re always thinking ‘how did they do this’? You have to work things out.”
Rick is proud of the mark he’s now making on Manchester’s railway heritage – and the legacy he’ll leave behind.
“Once it’s done you know it’s going to be here for another couple of hundred years,” he added.
“Everywhere I’ve worked I drive past and think – ‘I did that’.
“I’ll drive past with my grandchildren and show them – and maybe it will inspire them to follow in my footsteps.”
Andy Partington, from Stone Central, is managing the stone restoration. He said there are some ●● traditional techniques they won’t be using.
Andy said: “Originally, these stones would have been lifted into place by hundreds of men with a pulley system.
“They were huge – they would have weighed the best part of two tonnes each.
“That would have taken an enormous amount of the manpower.
“When you see the size of the stones, and how big they are, you can’t imagine how hard it was to move them into place.”
Thankfully, they now have modern machines at their disposal.
Peter Jenkins, architect director for BDP, said: “We’re making good progress with the stone work, there are real craftsmen restoring Stephenson’s Bridge.
“It really will be what we hoped it would be – the centrepiece of the public area here.” UP TO
Work on the Ordsall Chord and, right, Stephenson’s bridge