A FALLEN angel has prompted the start of once in a generation works to preserve medieval carvings at Ripon Cathedral.

Years of dust and wear and tear have taken their toll on the cathedral's remarkable carvings, which are of international significance.

And one angel, which fell from the canopy directly above the choir stalls, needs to be re-attached whilst the rest of the heavenly host need a good clean.

This prompted the launch of a £120,000 'Restoring Fallen Angels' project which will see the preservation of some 70 carved angels residing in the medieval quire as well as work to restore the canopies above the choir stalls to their former splendour.

In addition, the misericords - the tiny seats with ornate carvings underneath upon which the choir and clergy perch- also need to be mended.

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One such carving – in the Mayor’s Stall – is said to have inspired Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

Carroll’s father was a canon at the cathedral and the carving depicts a rabbit going down the rabbit hole.

Scaffolding is now in place in the quire as a team of conservators from Bainbridge Conservation embark on this painstaking process and over the next eight weeks, fallen angels will be restored, misericords conserved and canopies cleaned.

Tristram Bainbridge, owner of Bainbridge Conservation, explained: “The woodwork of the quire has been used, altered and admired for over 500-years and over this time dirt has built up and the structure degraded.

“As the carving is incredibly intricate, we will also be using solvents and thousands of cotton swabs to remove the embedded dirt.

"High up on the scaffold we can get rare access to the work, giving us a unique window into the mind of the medieval craftsman.

"We can see construction techniques as well as the styles of the different carvers.”

An expected 1,500 hours will be spent simply dusting and with scaffolding in place until late March there will be no access to the stalls.

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However, visitors to the quire will be able to see conservators at work with cameras streaming their activities and an exhibition on the project's progress.

A beeswax compound will be applied to the carvings and the end result will see the woodwork transformed from a dusty grey to a soft brown colour.

Ripon Cathedral’s director of operations Julia Barker said: “Ripon’s misericords are one of the cathedral’s crowning glories and it’s wonderful that they are still in use today.

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"The work we are carrying our will make sure that they can be enjoyed by future generations and can continue to be used by our choir and clergy much as they would have been 500 years ago.”

The Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson added: “I am very grateful to those providing the funds to make this crucial conservation project possible."

He added: "This project might just prompt us to consider what God is asking his angels to communicate to our society today.” The project is backed by the Headley Trust; the Harrogate-based Charles and Elsie Sykes Trust and the Pilgrim Trust along with fundraising.