Many of our heritage sites appear timeless. Historic buildings are usually key components of the character of our streetscapes but, as they are so familiar, usually go unnoticed. Often, we only really pay attention when they are destroyed and a gap site is presented: the missing tooth in the smile !
I always take time when I am in York to pause and watch the stone masons working at the side of the York Minster in the Stoneyard. The high level of their skills is apparent in the finished pieces which sit inside the yard before being raised up onto the Minster. Some of the stone components of the Minster have been standing for about 800 years: so the ravages of time inevitably begin to take its toll. However, it is not just wind and rain which can damage stone, the Minster has also been subject to major fires in 1840 and 1984.
The work of the stonemasons is currently part of a major conservation and restoration project York Minster Revealed. As well as the work of the stonemasons, there is also a programme of stained glass conservation being undertaken by York Glaziers Trust. Importantly, the project is allowing for an expansion in training in the skills in working stone and stained glass on historic buildings.
Without constant maintenance and conservation, to ensure that they will be there for future generations to appreciate and enjoy using them, we easily lose the heritage assets which make our towns and landscapes distinct. But conserving our heritage is more than simply protecting the physical remains of the past, it is also the maintenance of understanding and skills required for the future.