Video: Terrington sculptor commissioned to carve the York Minster cat memorial

17 Oct 2020 @ 7.40 pm
| News

Since this story was first published there has been an update which you can read here

YorkMix can now confirm the name of the sculptor who will carve a stone statue of Gerald, the world famous York Minster cat.

Martin Coward, from Terrington, has 30 years of experience working in cathedrals across the country and has been commissioned to carry out the work.

A crowd funding page and other donations have raised over £1350 to help pay for the memorial to the popular Bengal who roamed the city streets along with his brother Donald.

Video – Justine Spencer, Gerald’s owner talks to David Dunning

Gerald died last month and it wasn’t clear what caused his death, but sadly his body was found in the early hours near the Minster.

A campaign was launched to create a sculpture that can be included in York’s cat trail.

This celebrates the fact that in 1920 Sir Stephen Aitcheson placed two on a building that he owned in Low Ousegate.

Some say he put them there to scare away rats and mice though it’s more likely that he thought they would be eye-catching and attractive.

Others followed his idea and the odd cat appeared around the city in the hope that good things would happen!

A familiar face: Gerald, the York Minster cat
The York Cat Trail

Justine Spencer, who was Gerald’s owner and still looks after his brother Donald, said that she was very excited to report that Martin Coward has agreed to carve the Gerald sculpture.

“He’s incredible and of course he did the replacement Statue of St Peter in 2013.”

Gerald the York Minster cat. Photograph: Lewis Outing

Martin designed and carved the statue which sits at the top of the Great East Window of York Minster. He worked closely with The Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England (CFCE) and used his own research to produce a full size 7 foot tall clay model which he then cast in plaster and then finally carved in stone.

Justine added that they were still looking at where the statue of Gerald will be sited.

He’s buried in the gardens between Dean’s Park and the city walls in the Clergy Gardens.

She said the Minster had been very kind and supportive. “The Minster community were very fond of him” she added.

A very varied career

On leaving college, Martin Coward started employment at the Cathedral Works Organisation in Chichester, on the south coast, where he worked on various projects including Blenheim Palace, the War Office, Chichester Cathedral and other buildings of note.

An opportunity arose at York Minster which allowed Martin to return home to Yorkshire.

Working in the highly acclaimed carving workshop he was able to work on many gargoyles, carvings and pinnacles.

One of the most fascinating projects at this time was the re carving of the Great West Doorway and Martin working alongside Sculptor Rory Young, carved many of the scenes which included the “creation of Adam & Eve”, and “the fall of the tower of babel”.

Martin started his own business, Martin Coward Stone Carving in 2015 at his studio at Terrington in the Howardian Hills.

Work has included a new gargoyle for Ripon Cathedral and regular consultancy work for the drawing office at Lincoln Cathedral.

In 2016 Martin was awarded the Master Craftsman Certificate and Yeoman Certificate by the Worshipful Company of Masons in London.