Salisbury (Sarum) Probus Club

Sarum Probus Club is an organisation for retired men living in the Salisbury Area.


  • Gary Price Clerk of Works Salisbury Cathedral

    On 24th January 2020 Gary Price spoke to us about his work.

    Gary has worked at the Cathedral for over 33 years, beginning as an apprentice, then as a stone cutter for 25 years. 7 years ago he took on his present job as Clerk of Works.

    He gave a brief history of the original cathedral at Old Sarum, and the conflicts between military and Church which led to the move by the Bishop down into the valley in 1219. The site chosen in the valley was in many ways ideal as it had a 27ft foundation of gravel sitting on a solid bed of chalk.

    The Lady Chapel, which was built first in 1220 is now the last to be restored. Gary mentioned the speed with which the Cathedral was built and the fateful decision to build the iconic spire in 1310. This added 6 and a half thousand tons of stone to a building that had not been designed to take it.

    The tower was buttressed inside and out, other work was done over the centuries which meant the spire stayed in place when it could well have crashed down into the Close. Strengthening work was still being done as late as 1939 when corner circular staircases in the tower were filled in with concrete.

    In recent years repairs to eroded stonework have been the main concern. The top 30 ft of the spire was renewed in the 1950’s but major work did not begin until the Spire Appeal was launched in the 1980’s, with Prince Charles as Patron. After the Spire the West front was repaired and statues renovated or replaced, with others being added. Gradually other areas have been restored with the east end coming last.

    There are still over 1400 stones to replace, each one needed careful preparation. Gary described how his team of 21people, including masons, glaziers, a plumber, an electrician go through a carefully laid down sequence of work cleaning old stone, making templates and then cutting and carving the replacements.

    We were shown the large variety of tools used by the masons, in many ways similar to their medieval predecessors, but with tungsten for chisel tips instead of just sharpened steel.

    Gary went on to describe other interests he has at the cathedral, like the peregrine falcons which nest on the tower top and keep the pigeon nuisance down. He is also involved with erecting and dismantling the enormous Christmas tree and hanging exhibits for festivals.

    This year is the Cathedral’s 800th year and a full programme of sculptures, flower festivals and shows is planned. He urged us to find out more and take part and also consider sponsoring one of the 1400 stones still to be placed on the east end. This was a first class talk both in information and presentation and those present appreciated it greatly.


  • The "Ginny Rings" of Shropshire

    On 14th February 2020 John Whitehouse, one of our Branch members spoke about the “Ginny Rings” of Shropshire. John explained that, for various reasons, he had been unable to go to University while in his teens, but the opportunity arose when he was made redundant in later life to do a course at Bournemouth University on “Heritage Conservation.” John seized the opportunity.

    Part of the course involved doing a work placement and John went to help his brother-in-law, who was developing an old farm site at Faintree Hall in Shropshire.

    He soon noticed a strange round building attached to a barn and was inquisitive to find out its history. He was struck by the beautiful roof purlins and beams which showed that this was more than just a shed knocked up for storage. He discovered it was what local people called a “Ginny Ring,” a structure erected to protect horses who walked round and round turning a drive, connected by cogs and spindles to machinery in the adjacent barn.

    The Gins were usually used to drive threshing machines between about 1780 and 1850 and could reduce the cost of threshing by about half. Some were driven by two or more horses and were then able to drive multiple machines at the same time. The horse driven gins eventually fell into disuse with the development of the steam engine for farm work.

    John decided to build his dissertation around an investigation of similar buildings in Shropshire, determining how many still existed and what their current state was. He devised data sheets to collect information.

    It turned out that, out of over 200 originally built, only 19 still survived in 1997 (when this survey was undertaken). The 19 were now all used for a variety of things, for example garages, storage, pig sties. Some current owners were reluctant to allow John access, usually because the buildings had been changed without proper planning permission. A few had even been demolished on the grounds that they were now unsafe. Telford Council had shown enterprise and imagination by turning one into a dining room as part of a farmhouse conversion to a Rest Home. Many of the original features had been retained.

    These covered gins are found in the North of England and Scotland but are almost unknown in the south where the horses were not thought to need the same level of protection from harsh weather.

    A range of questions followed John’s talk and, as time permitted, he went on to speak about some interesting aspects of work he did in the die casting industry.

    Thank you John for a very interesting talk.

  • Here are details of some earlier talks given to the Club.
  • If talks or trips out like this interest you, why not join us. Contact the secretary (01722 340508, 07553787345) or email