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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Stories in the Stones: Mice & the Cheese Sandwich

On the Philpot Lane side of 23 Eastcheap is one of London's smallest statues. It depicts two mice fighting over a piece of cheese. The story is that it commemorates an incident where an argument broke out between two stonemasons, when one accused the other of eating some of his lunch (cheese sandwich), and during the ensuing altercation one of the men fell from the building to his death. It was later found that mice were the culprits responsible for the missing food.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Working & Learning

The sun is shining this morning and the master and apprentices are busy working and learning...

Work continues on a small round window. The apprentices first attempt at tracery

Here, the master roughs out the early stages of a classical scallop shell.
Later, I got a text from a friend that read: 

'Went past the Guild today. Didn't have time to stop but the tap tap sound of stone working outside in the sun was lovely!'

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Chip off the Old Block

Right up until the 1970s there were all sorts of informal support networks between working people in different areas of Britain. For instance, when our master mason, Stephen, first started his training, the stoneworkers in London would send bags of steel files up to the Glasgow shipyard. The shipwrights would make these into chisels for them during their lunchbreaks and send them back down to London. The steel of these chisels is so durable that a chisel made from them will last a stonemason the whole of their working life. 

Thanks to the generosity of the Norwich Men's Shed project members something of this tradition of mutual support continues. They have recently donated old files to us which will become the trusty tools for our apprentices during their working lives. 

A Rooftop View of Norwich

Please click on image in order to enlarge

View from the tower of St Miles Church, Norwich, looking down Colegate with the tower of St George's on the left and that of St Clement's, where our lodge is located, to the right. 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Building Heritage

Here is a panoramic image of the Norwich Cathedral cloisters. Construction work on the aisle to the left of the photograph started in 1298 following the destruction of the original Norman cloister during the Tombland riot in 1272. It is, I think you will agree, a stunningly beautiful piece of architecture! 

Meanwhile, within the cathedral itself, we can only marvel at the rib-vaulted ceilings and the tower crossing. 

The skin of an ancient building like this - just like that of an old person - wears out and needs constant replacement and maintenance. Thus, when master stonemason, Stephen, recently visited the cathedral with the apprentices, it was for a very practical purpose. 

If they dedicate themselves to their craft, then one day then part of their work may well include working to conserve historic buildings like this. It is really important, then, that they listen and learn from the master. Being part of a guild with a thousand years of experience behind him, means that he has knowledge and expertise that will be invaluable to them. Their are no shortcuts when it comes to acquiring genuine expertise. They will be building from the same tradition that informed the original masons who conceived and constructed this wonderful building. That is why we, in The Stonemasons' Training Partnership, speak about building heritage and creating a living legacy.  

Sunday, 22 March 2015

The only Medieval Guild in Norwich

Here is a picture of the apprentices processing through the city streets behind the banner of the Guild of St Stephen & St George. The guild is over 900 years, so they are walking in the footsteps of many who have passed before. These young people are building on centuries of heritage. 

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Fundraising Storytelling Event Coming Soon!

Dave Tonge - 'The Yarnsmith of Norwich'
The Stonemasons' Training Partnership are delighted to announce a fundraising event that will take place later this year. Nationally acclaimed storyteller, Dave Tonge - 'The Yarnsmith of Norwich' - has agreed to come and tell tales at our lodge at St Clements (date to be confirmed). When we have finalised arrangements for this event, please do come along and listen to stories about working people within the home of Norwich's only medieval guild. 

For more information about Dave's work, please click on the following link:

Finally, here is a woodcut from Dave's forthcoming book, 'Tudor Tales' (History Press), that is due to be published soon. 

Illustration from Dave's interpretation of
The Lady Prioress and the Three Lusty Knaves
© Dave Tonge, 2015

Friday, 20 March 2015

Finding Wonder as you Wander

Today, we welcomed the Eureka Wellbeing Photography members to the lodge at St Clement's. Their slogan is, 'find wonder as we wander'. There was certainly no shortage of wonder to be found as they explored the site, talked to the apprentices and the master mason.

Building Heritage - a Living Legacy

St Clement's: located on the junction between Magdalen Street and Colegate

The Norwich Lodge of the Guild of St Stephen and St George is based in the church of St Clement-at-Fyebridge on the north side of the river Wensum. There has probably been a church on this site since the late Saxon period (c1040), although the current building dates from the early 15th century. It is believed that this is an example of what historians and archaeologists call a 'proto parish church' i.e. one with a large initial parish, out of which later parishes were formed. This would explain why the medieval records show many churches in this area paying tithes to St Clement's (for more information about the church and its history, click on the following link: Norwich Historic Churches Trust - St Clement's). 

In bringing a stonemason's lodge to this church, our master mason is seeking to create a legacy. For us, the most important part of this is the investment in the young apprentices who, in time, will be active in maintaining and building heritage. There are no short cuts. It's all about quality, just as it was for the mason's in the early 1400s who built the church we see today. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Hard At Work

The master has set them their tasks and the apprentices are hard at it this morning...

Keeping In Touch - Automatic Updates

We hope that you are keen to keep in touch with our project as it grows and develops. In order to make this easier for you, we have added a 'Follow by Email' feature that will email you every time we update the blog. Connect with us in four easy steps...

Step 1: On the right-hand side of the blog you will see the box (pictured above)

Step 2: If you enter your email and click on submit...

Step 3: ... you will then see the 'Email Subscription Request' message. Copy the green code into the text box and click on 'Complete Subscription Request. 

Step 4: open your emails and click on the auto-generated link and from then on you will receive updates every time we post something new on the blog. 

Monday, 16 March 2015

Visitor Feedback

Here are some excerpts taken from the comments book at the stonemasons' lodge at St Clements Church, Norwich...

As you can see, folk feel inspired by the work of the Guild of St Stephen and St George. Our gate is open. Come in and take a look around and see some of the work of Norwich's only working medieval guild.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Friday, 13 March 2015

Growing in Partnership

Bigger than any of us...
Everyone working as part of The Stonemason's Training Partnership has a healthy sense of humility, that this project is bigger than any of us. Working with the Guild of St Stephen and St George - that has been in existence continuously since 1096 - makes us aware that we are part of an enduring tradition ('living tradition'). 

Building for the future...
Engaging and recruiting the mason's and labourer's ('mates') who will be working to build and maintain heritage into the future, also means that we are aware that this will be continuing long after our days are done ('living legacy' and 'building heritage'). Working alongside an international Guild with members working across the UK and beyond, we will be making links between our base in the historic city of Norwich and places well beyond our borders. 

Reaching out...
In addition, we aim to work hard to connect with communities within and around Norwich in order to educate, inspire and explore mutually enriching connections. In our opinion, there is no such thing as a 'hard to reach' individual. It is just that organisations too often sit back and expect people to come to them. In contrast to this we will be actively getting out there and meeting people who, perhaps, feel marginalised and excluded, but who will find opportunity through The Stonemasons' Training Partnership ('connecting with communities'). It is also about challenging perceptions. For instance, the building industry may currently be male dominated, but we will certainly be doing all we can to encourage women to sign up as apprentices. 

A connected education...
For the apprentices themselves, they will be receiving an amazing 'connected education'. During their long (7 year apprenticeship) they will be acquiring knowledge from their master that may have been verbally passed on from master to apprentice from nearly a thousand years. But it is so much more than this. It is about learning to do things the right way - no short cuts. In addition, the master will help to develop the apprentices wider development, in terms of thing like learning how to conduct themselves respectfully; how to negotiate; how to feel self-respect without arrogance. 

Character and excellence...
Finally, make no mistake, the journey from apprentice to full membership of the guild will be tough. The apprentices will be working out in all weathers, sometimes at great heights. They will get cold and dirty and feel tired and hungry. They will have to learn to be respectful within their working environment ('the lodge). They will sometimes feel that no matter how good they think their work is, their master won't be satisfied. That is because, he worked and studied and endured for thirty years in order to be become a master, and he wants them to be even better than he is. 

To summarise then, that is what we are about

-> Building heritage
-> Nurturing potential
-> Connecting with community
-> Sustaining ability
-> Living tradition and Living legacy

~ Colin, Chair of The Stonemason's Training Partnership ~