An apprentice will carve himself a new career after signing up to look after one of the region’s most iconic buildings.
Steven Hay beat off competition to secure his place on the four-year scheme where he will work as a joiner at the 11th century Durham Castle.
Getting an apprenticeship was something I always wanted but spending my time working and learning within a World Heritage Site was never part of the dream.Steven Hay
The 29-year-old has joined the woodworking team from Durham University – the owners of the castle – which is tasked with maintaining all the timber within the mediaeval fortress.
The newly created job with the university’s estates and buildings department has been made possible by sponsorship of up to £30,000 from the City of Durham Freemen, whose own trade guilds – which includes a joiners’ company – are believed to date back to 1327.
For more than three years Durham-born Steven worked for an international parcel company at Newcastle Airport.
The switch in career has fulfilled Steven’s dream of a craft apprenticeship that eluded him for a decade.
After leaving Framwellgate School he completed a one-year construction trades’ course at Gateshead College which he hoped would secure his future.
Work on the castle started in 1072 on the orders of William the Conqueror and now forms part of Durham’s UNESCO World Heritage Site which also includes the cathedral.
It is home to University College which currently has 800 undergraduates and 300 graduates from around the world – 68 of them living within the fortifications.
Steven, who now lives in Chester-le-Street and is engaged to be married to Louise, who works in the Durham University Business School, said: “Getting an apprenticeship was something I always wanted but spending my time working and learning within a World Heritage Site was never part of the dream.
“This is a fantastic opportunity.”
Stuart Burns, the university’s maintenance services manager, said: “The apprenticeship offers Steven the chance of a life time. “He is an outstanding candidate who we believe has every chance of completing his educational programme ahead of the four-year schedule.
“The joinery team is a highly skilled reactive service working on Palace Green within the castle, library and other university buildings in that area.
“Not surprisingly restoration, preservation and repairs within the World Heritage Site are particularly demanding and have to meet very high standards.”
The work Steven will be doing as part of his training will embrace bespoke crafted windows, doors, panelling and other key elements of the woodwork throughout the castle.
Eric Bulmer, chairman of the freemen’s eight surviving craft guilds, said: “We are delighted to make a contribution that ensures the World Heritage Site is maintained for the benefit of the people of Durham who are extremely proud of their city.
“Steven will be working on a building that ancestors of some of our current members will have helped maintain across hundreds of years.
“We look forward to welcoming him into our ranks when he completes his apprenticeship.”