FEATURE: End of an era as stonemasons leave after 35 years with the Stump

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After more than 35 years’ service, brothers Phil and Tony Leonard have retired as stonemasons at Boston’s St Botolph’s Church.

Phil, 60, and Tony, 62, stepped down from the roles on Friday, positions they took up back in May 1980.

The duo came to the church with their then boss, the late Tom Tinkler; he had given them a choice of either taking on his business or joining him at the building that is known affectionately as The Stump.

They had spent the previous decade or so contracting across the country.

“We didn’t want the hassle of working for ourselves,” said Phil, in why they chose to follow their boss to Boston. “We were only young then,” added Tony.

The brothers said the job was initially only on a four-year contract; in the end, it would see them at the Stump for closer to four decades.

“It’s incredible,” said Spilsby-born Phil, a father-of-two, on the length of time. “It’s hard to believe it’s been so long.”

Grantham-born father-of-one Tony added: “It’s unbelievable.”

They credited their enjoyment of the job for them staying with the church for so long, as well as ‘the people’.

The work has seen them commute every day from Nottingham, their homes since the early 1970s.

“We have clocked some mileage up,” said Tony.

“I’m on my 10th car since I came here,” said Phil.

The roles have seen them cover a wide range of jobs, from replacing ornate stonework to replacing light bulbs.

Phil said: “I think we have done our best and I hope people think we have added something to the church by keeping it maintained.”

They said they were looking forward to retirement due to the physicality of the job.

“It’s a heavy job,” said Phil. “It’s a young man’s game.”

The pair did say, however, they would miss the friends they had made in the town.

“We will find it strange,” said Tony. “We have a lot more friends here than in Nottingham.”

“We will miss the people definitely,” said Phil. “We have got a very wide range of friends within the town.”

“A lot of people come for a cup of tea,” Tony added.

“Everyone knows we have our tea at one o’clock,” Phil said.

And of their plans for retirement, Phil said: “We are going to do the things we never had time to do.”

The Rev Alyson Buxton, team rector of Boston, praised Phil and Tony for their decades’ service to what she describes as a ‘national treasure’.

She said: “Phil and Tony Leonard are highly-respected members of the team here at St Botolph’s and it is with sorrow that we must say goodbye to them upon their retirement.

“It is often said that this is the ‘end of an era’ but in this case it is truly so. They have dedicated most of their lives to the repair and upkeep of this magnificent building, travelling to Boston from Nottingham through rain, wind and snow on a daily basis.

“St Botolph’s Church requires constant care and attention to keep the fabric in good repair.

“Phil and Tony have been central to this task for so many years and they have done this with diligence and love.

“We are grateful to them for their role in the safeguarding and enhancement of what we believe to be our national treasure.”