A MASTER craftsman has honoured the memory of his wife of 50 years with a commission for St Paul’s Cathedral.

Stuart Mortimer, of Grateley, was asked by the historic London cathedral to produce a pair of prayer torchères – tall wooden stands that hold candles to illuminate prayer books.

“It was commissioned after my wife died a year ago,” said Stuart.

“What convinced me to do it was that they allowed me to make them in memory of Linda.

“The company [which commissioned me] really thought the world of her as well. I think that’s why they asked me to do it.”

Linda died suddenly in March last year, two weeks shy of the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary.

Stuart was in London at the time of her death at a meeting he had been reluctant to attend.

“I didn’t want to go – she actually forced me to go.

“And of course when I was away she died.”

Stuarts says Linda was the one who encouraged him to take up woodturning – the art of shaping wood with a lathe – when he retired from the police force 30 years ago.

“She was the one that get me going in the woodturning business. She saw something in me that I didn’t see.

“She followed me all over the world – arranged everything, did all my promotion, all my flights. Everything.”

“And then she died in March of last year. Now I’m just trying to get my life back together.”

Stuart, a former police inspector, became a proficient amateur woodturner before his retirement in 1989. He has since become a master of the craft, producing work for the Queen as well as this latest piece for St Paul’s.

The torchères for St Paul’s were constructed by re-using various materials, much of which came from the local area.

“The wood had to be reclaimed wood and some was from John Hanson school.

“It was from the top of a desk actually. And the holders for the candles were from HMS Victory.”

“They matched with St Paul’s because St Paul’s is obviously old.”

Stuart went to London last month to present the torchères at a special ceremony in the cathedral.

“The day before yesterday [Tuesday, February 26] we had the ceremony.

“There were 60 guests, and a choir which was the most wonderful choir.

“It was all very moving for me.”

As well as his commissions, Stuart has been heavily involved in training new woodturners.

He credits his wife Linda as the “mastermind” behind the Young Turners Training and Development Programme, which the couple set up in 2005.

The programme is now managed by the Association of Woodturners of Great Britain, but Stuart remains busy working alongside Help for Heroes.

“We still run a Help for Heroes club through Tedworth House.

“Heroes come here to train and just mess about doing things. All of this was done to try to help these people into the craft.”

For more information on Stuart and his work, visit his website at stuartmortimer.com.