At a meeting of Toxteth Lodge No 1356, which meets at the Geoffrey Hirst Masonic Suite within Woolton Golf Club, members and visitors gathered to listen to a presentation from Tony Baker.
In the absence of the WM due to ill health, Stephen Robinson opened the lodge and the minutes of the last regular meeting were confirmed. A ballot for a prospective member who was introduced through the Pathway Scheme was held and proved in favour.
Stephen asked the brethren top gather round and invited Tony Baker to start his presentation which was titled, ‘A stonemasons working tools and the building of Liverpool Cathedral’. Tony is a Stonemason and he has worked on the building of Liverpool Cathedral, so his knowledge was immense. He was a member of Aigburth Lodge No 4103 which met at Garston Masonic Hall, so his face may have been familiar to many.
Tony began by informing everyone that the majority of the stone for the Cathedral was hewn from Woolton Quarry, but the foundation stone came from Runcorn and was laid by King George VII. There were an immense number of Freemasons who worked on the building which began in 1904 and the architects were Giles Gilbert Scott, aged 22 at the time, George Frederick Bodley and Frederick Thomas. The building was consecrated in 1924 and completed in 1978.
The 188m long building lies on a north-south axis, on the prominent sandstone ridge roughly parallel with the River Mersey. The original design placed great emphasis on the nominal ‘east end’ with two towers placed at what is actually the north of the building. However, Scott revised this plan while building was in progress, placing one giant tower at the centre of a symmetrical plan. Built in red sandstone the gothic revival structure demonstrates a simplicity and unity of masses on a giant scale.
Tony was keen to point out that the stonemasons of the day used little or no power tools with everything being done by hand even round holes were hammered into the rock. Tony demonstrated how a Lewis was used to lift the stone saying that ropes were hardly used as they tended to mark the stone.
Stonemasons work on what is called a banker as opposed to a bench, and the mallets they used were mainly made from beech, apple or pear wood and were heavy so it was important to know how to use them correctly letting the mallet do all the work. There are also mallets made from nylon.
Most stonemasons preferred the wooden mallet. Stonemason’s mallets are cylindrical, so that there is no need to keep the mallet facing in any particular direction and wear is evenly spread all round. They are usually quite heavy and made of fairly soft material. A metal hammer would damage the struck end of the chisel.
Another interesting fact that Tony gave was that the black floor in the Cathedral is made of Belgium black stone which was formed many 1,000,000s of years ago and if broken gives off an unpleasant sulphur like odour. While listening to Tony, eyes were drawn to the ashlar on the floor of the lodge as it bore Tony’s mark. When asked how this came about, he replied that many years ago he made many ashlars for the local lodges.
On completion of his fascinating presentation Tony was thanked by Stephen who then asked the brethren to resume their seats. Stephen then called upon Philip Birch to present Grand Lodge Certificates to Paul Edwards and Harry Robinson.
The lodge was closed in due form and the brethren retired to the dining room where a raffle was held which raised £136.90. It had been a fascinating evening and one which the brethren thoroughly enjoyed.
Story and pictures by Colin Roberts.