A look back at 30 years contracting for Salisbury Cathedral

A look back at 30 years as Salisbury Cathedral’s structural engineer

A look back at 30 years as Salisbury Cathedral’s structural engineer

An interview with AWAs founder, Andrew Waring, who has been the consulting engineer for Salisbury Cathedral since 1992.

People often choose the career path of a Structural Engineer because they appreciate the beauty and complexities of buildings.

Still early in his career at the age just of 32, Andrew Waring found himself looking up at the spire in Salisbury Cathedral in awe. He had just been told he had been appointed the structural engineering consultant and can still remember the immense responsibility he felt in looking after such an iconic building.

Over his time in the role, there have been over 20 major repair programmes to the elevations, including major works to the west front and tower. This year marks the end of a long period of major conservation and repair work at the cathedral.

Andrew said: “As well as ongoing projects, my role involves advising the cathedral team if they have any structural engineering concerns. The issues can be complex and wide-ranging, however, there should be fewer now that most of the major repair works are complete.”

Working with historic buildings often centres around measuring the level of intervention that is required. Andrew explains: “It’s judging how much you need to do to make the building safe and stable for as long as possible.

“There’s quite a lot of instinctive engineering needed for the role, it’s about working out what’s the most appropriate way forward and how much intervention is needed.

“With conservation work, the starting point is to do the minimum amount of intervention to lose the least amount of the building’s original fabric, but enough that you can still achieve the end goal of making the structure safe.”

Most historic buildings are constructed with stone, brick or timber and very few with early concrete.

“In the case of Salisbury, we’re lucky in that most of the stone comes from Chilmark and Chicksgrove the latter of which is still open and available for stone so we can get the same geological stone to do the repairs.

“The vast majority of the timber used in Salisbury is oak; which is still available in areas of the UK but requires a little more sourcing.

The role naturally involves working with others in the industry such as architects, conservators, stone masons, builders and scaffolders. Andrew said: “My role is to maintain an overview of the process and work with those on the project to ensure the engineering needs are met. These people are experts in their field and work on buildings like this every day, so it’s very much a collaborative effort.”

As with any structural engineering project, the role requires problem-solving. When it comes to problem-solving for historic buildings, it’s about doing so in the least invasive way.

Andrew said: “Issues always raise their heads when you’re working with older buildings. For example, how to repair things like decaying timber. It’s very niche but over the years you learn the best ways to resolve them.

“It’s a part of the job I think as engineers we all enjoy, it’s satisfying when you resolve the issue. I find a lot of the time, it’s one thing to have a drawing and plans but you need to be incredibly clear to everyone involved about how you want the work carried out and what you want to achieve at the end of it.”

Andrew also lectures to the apprentices who work for the cathedral. This is part of the cathedral’s Cathedrals Workshop Fellowship Course where professionals in the industry talk to trainees, mostly masons and carpenters about engineering principles and specialist consultancy.

Andrew explained: “It’s about sharing with them what we’re trying to achieve and how structural engineering works. It helps give them a broader understanding of what they do and the bigger picture.”

This article is the first in a three-part series about Andrew’s work at Salisbury Cathedral. Keep an eye out for the next which will be looking more in-depth at some of the major restoration projects that have taken place over his time in the role.

Why choose AWA Engineers

AWA is a structural engineering and civil engineering consultancy established in 1987, with a hard-won but deserved reputation for delivering excellence in our profession.

Our philosophy is simple: we put people first. This has resulted in a high number of repeat clients and an impressive track record of successful award-winning projects. We are proud to be professional, and approachable; we believe this makes us the ideal partner for your project.

AWA has chartered engineers in our offices located in Romsey, Hampshire and Bath, Somerset. We deliver services to clients across the South, South East and South West.

Our team includes both chartered structural engineers and chartered civil engineers committed to continuous professional development ensuring you benefit from up to date industry expertise, whatever your project entails.

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To find out more about how AWA can help with your project, get in touch today. Call 01794 524447 (Romsey) or 01225 251498 (Bath)  to speak to a member of our team. Alternatively, email and one of the team will be in touch.

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