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“What many might not realise is that our work goes beyond just the Minster building.”
Louisa, head of Precinct
With a passion for cultural property, head of Precinct Louisa Hood is responsible for the day-to-day care of the Minster and its Precinct. She is instrumental in ensuring its buildings and surroundings are correctly cared for so that they can be enjoyed for generations to come.
We speak to Louisa about her role, her favourite things about working at the Minster and find out what’s hiding in the tower…
What’s your background and how did your York Minster career start?
“I studied art and architectural history at the University of Manchester and The Courtauld Institute of Art, before studying for my doctorate at Tate and the University of Exeter, looking specifically at how the public use the cultural built environment.
“Whilst I was studying, I did lots of volunteering and internships in the museum sector, and also for organisations that look after historic buildings. I’ve always enjoyed studying art history, but it was through work experience that I developed real enthusiasm for being involved in practical projects.
“When I graduated, I worked as an assistant curator for the National Trust, particularly focused on buildings, before moving to City of York Council, to look after the city walls. Since November 2019, I’ve been head of Precinct at York Minster.”
What appealed to you about the job?
“The level of development on the horizon for the Minster and its Precinct to safeguard its future, set out in its 15 year Neighbourhood Plan, really stood out to me. To be part of something that was about to embrace change in a big way was very appealing.
“The actual place appealed as well. A lot of organisations care for historic buildings, but for various good reasons many of those buildings don’t operate in the way that was intended by their original designers and builders. I wanted to experience looking after historic buildings which are in use every day and continue to serve their original purpose. The cathedral is a great example of this, it’s still here for worship, and we get to look after it.”
Can you tell me about your role at York Minster?
“Head of Precinct at York Minster essentially means I am responsible for the day-to-day care of our seven hectare estate. I manage the joiners, plumbers, heritage builders, labourers and painters and decorators.
“What many might not realise is that our work goes beyond just the Minster building, and I also oversee our portfolio of investment properties in the city of York and how they are cared for. This includes properties that staff live in, like the clergy.
“We have a total of 50 or so properties in the portfolio. All are within the bounds of a scheduled monument – a site that’s legally protected because of its archaeological significance. Many are listed, some grade I, others grade II* and II, so they can’t be looked after in any other way than with a conservation focus.
“ I also look after components of the Precinct itself, like paths and open spaces, as well as overseeing maintenance works in the Minster on elements like locks, bells, and flag poles – all the bits you don’t necessarily think of, but which would make a difference if they weren’t there!”
“It’s been great to contribute to a project that will make a substantial difference to maintaining the window.”
What’s your favourite project that you’ve worked on and why?
“The rose window access project stands out. The window is extremely special and not many people can get close to it as it has only been partially accessible and only for maintenance purposes. To make it more accessible, I have been working with a team of specialists to install new edge protection, which will allow full access for maintenance. It perhaps sounds like it’s a simple case of installing a new handrail in, but it really isn’t! We’re working at heights and the solution has to be entirely bespoke and failsafe.
“It’s been great to contribute to a project that will make a substantial difference to maintaining the window, as once the edge protection is up, it means our stained glass experts can reach it safely to learn what works need doing.”
“Getting to see peregrine chicks in a nest is really very special.”
Finally, what’s the most unusual thing you experience at the Minster?
“We have peregrines living at York Minster and every year their chicks are weighed and tagged by bird experts who visit for the day. Getting to see peregrine chicks in a nest is really very special!
Find out more about other members of the team here.
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