Making their journey possible...

Gildencraft Stone Masonry C.I.C.: quality products made under the guidance of Master Masons, backed up by over 900 years of excellence and tradition.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Carved at Speed

This little figure was hastily carved in 20 minutes by a master stonemason as a roughed out demonstration piece. The face was loosely based on a carving in Notre Dame Cathedral, France, which the master recalled as he carved. 

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

An Apprentice at Work

One of our apprentices, Peter, hard at work on a piece of window tracery. Not bad for someone who has been with the guild for only eight months of his journey (our apprenticeships last seven years). 

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Monday, 27 April 2015

The Saint Stephen and Saint George Collection

The growing collection of the Guild of St Stephen and St. George consists of building stone, minerals, fossils, sand, aggregates and allied building materials from across the UK and the world. In addition, it includes original and reproduction historic tools and a reference library of books regarding stonemasonry and all its allied subjects and sciences.

A working resource such as this is essential to a stonemason. One stone type such as Headington for instance used widely in Oxford for over 500 years was quarried from at least five sites stone for different applications were taken from four formations spanning over 100 million years. When sourcing stone for the conservation of our historic buildings sometimes it is the presence or absence of accompanying minerals and  fossils that allow us to understand the actual Stone used.

Our geological, paleontological, mineralogical and craft samples take the form of:  

Rough samples
Sawn six side samples 
Polished samples   
Microscopic slides
Mineral formations
Gravel and aggregates 
Roof slate
Historic fixings
Current fixings
Historic architectural carving

Clipsham Stone - a medieval mensa

Here is a huge altar slab at St Mary, Eccles, in Norfolk. It is actually a medieval mensa slab marked with crosses symbolising the five wounds on Christ's body (see below), most of which were smashed into pieces during the Reformation. It is a fantastic piece of stone, originally from the Clipsham quarry hard bed. 

The quarry is still in use and we do have a sample in our stone archive (albeit, sourced from a softer bed). Here is is:

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Creating New Masterpieces

A Restored Oil Painting?

 'There comes a time in the life of all old cities when the city fathers should form a coalition government to decide whether their city is to preserve its ancient beauty or to become a second Leicester or a little Birmingham. Norwich, it seems to me, has reached this point.

    In fifty years' time Norwich will either not be worth looking at or it will be one of the most beautiful old cities in England. Few cities possess so many complete streets or half-timbered houses, some medieval, some Tudor - most are disguised by ugly Georgian plaster, which, if scraped off, would reveal the old red-brick and oak. Under intelligent treatment Norwich would emerge like a restored oil painting.' (H.V. Morton 'In Search of England' [1933])

Adding Value to the City...

Reading this today, over eighty years after Morton considered the city's future, I am struck by his insight into the value of heritage as a cultural and economic asset. I am also thankful that, due to the efforts of organisations like The Norwich Society, the Norwich Historic Churches Trust and, more recently, the Heritage, Economic And Regeneration Trust (HEART), Norwich can claim to have emerged as something of an 'oil painting' in terms of its heritage assets. 


A piece of 15hC worked stone, donated by the Ely Cathedral
stonemasons to our rapidly growing stone archive. 
*Please click on images in order to enlarge them.

Although, during their seven year training period, our apprentices will learn to master contemporary stonemasonry skills and techniques, they will also be playing a vital part into the future, in preserving the historic buildings of cities like Norwich, Trier, Rome, Istanbul, London etc. However, our presence in the city also has huge potential to enhance the marketability of the area. Not only will our Lodge, within the medieval church of St Clement's, be a centre of excellence for the craft of stonemasonry, we will be enriching the cultural life of the city through our regular guild processions through Norwich's streets. 

We are already negotiating with potential partners to showcase apprentices working at their bankers (benches) within other sites. We have huge potential to attract new visitors to the city. We are not re-enactors; we are the real thing. Our Master Mason and apprentices are carving a well-chiselled path stretching back to 1096 when our guild was founded. As I often tell people, some of what the Master is teaching the apprentices is part of an oral tradition whereby knowledge has been transmitted from Master to apprentice for over 900 years. 

Spectacle, Spectators, Spending...

And in terms of place marketing, authenticity sells. We will be adding value to the city in social terms, training young people for a lifelong career; actively engaging with 'marginalised' local communities etc. After less than a year in Norwich, we are already receiving visits from masters, journeymen and apprentices coming to see us from Europe's great guilds and cathedrals. We will also be using our international networks to, for instance, bring German journeymen and French compagnons to the city during the summer. We will also be inviting masons from other areas of the UK to the Lodge for carving competitions and other 'social' activities (tug of war etc). We will be bringing spectacle to the city - together with spectators with pounds in their pockets. 

 © Wandern on Pinterest German Journeymen

Building Heritage...

The whole focus of the Stonemasons' Training Partnership is to work to facilitate the training of the apprentices. We are currently developing products that will generate income to make this sustainable. However, we are also aware that our presence will be to the economic, social and cultural benefit of the wider community. For that reason, we are really pleased with the positive response we have received from local partners - not least, from our 'landlords', the Norwich Historic Churches Trust. I genuinely believe that, together, we will not only restore 'the oil painting'; we will also be creating some new masterpieces into the future. 

Feedback from our visitors at the St Clement's lodge

~ Colin Howey, Chair of The Stonemasons' Training Partnership ~

Friday, 24 April 2015

A Working Welcoming Place

The banner of the Guild of St Stephen & St George stands proudly outside the lodge at St Clement's Church, Norwich. This is a working space.

But it's also a welcoming place too! Our gates are open. Come on in...

And when visitors enter, we hope they pause to look at the worked stone - old and new respectively. 

Stonemasons' Tool Chest

A proper old stonemasons' tool chest donated to us this week. Some of these tools are probably over a century old. Thanks! (You know who you are.)

Thursday, 23 April 2015

A Stonemasons' Plant

Okay, it might not look like much but this little plant is something with great historic meaning to a stonemason. Does anyone know why?

Stories in Stone: Norman doorway at Quenington

Here are some photographs taken by our Master Mason during some of his recent explorations in the West Country. These were taken at St Swithin's, Quenington in Gloucestershire. This is the north door dating from 1140's depicting the Harrowing of Hell. Christ is shown thrusting a cross into the Devils mouth while three naked figures rise from the dead.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Keep Watching This Space!

Carved stone from Ely Cathedral - now part of our growing
archive used for reference purposes by the apprentices

We're very pleased to have reached 2,000 hits on this blog. Not a bad start at all - but it's just the beginning. We have lots of exciting plans and will be sharing things with you here as they develop, so please continue to follow us and spread word of our work to your contacts. Thanks for your continuing support!

Early English architecture - Binham Priory

© Paul Judkins 2014

Here is a fantastic image of the west front of Binham Priory, Norfolk, that photographer Paul Judkins has kindly agreed for us to share with you. This is probably the earliest known example of the Early English gothic style of architecture in Britain, dating from before 1144. 

Donations - Feedback Please

In this early stage of our development we need feedback as we seek to develop ways of financing the project. You can help to support the apprentices' training by voting via the poll on the right-hand side of this blog. Thanks for taking the time and trouble to do this.  

Gates Are Open!

Yesterday, the lodge re-opened following the Easter break. It was great to hear the sound of chisel carving stone once again. Our gates are open once again so, if you are passing, please look in again on us and speak to the apprentices. 

Sunday, 19 April 2015

A Medieval Masons' Design

Examining the 15thC East Anglian style font in St Edmund church, Caister St Edmund in Norfolk, I was interested to note that the original masons' setting out lines are still intact. 

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford

Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford, Suffolk: long by name long by design - it took a panoramic shot to capture this edifice. The church is generally agreed to be one of the finest in Britain. Standing here, I was struck by the fact that the structure is actually more window than wall. The design of these late perpendicular arches is the key to this light airy framework being stable and being able to stand the test of time. 

And upon entering the church, the light poured in and illuminated the spectacle. I felt comfortable within this space, designed with harmonic proportion. 

We are building on firm foundations. 

Stone Collage

© Stonemasons' Training Partnership, 2015.
Please click on image in order to enlarge

Friday, 17 April 2015

News: Cirencester Lodge in 2017

Following a meeting in London of the board of masters for the Guild of St Stephen & St George, a decision has been made to open a small lodge in Cirencester in 2017 to work with our main lodge in Norwich. Each apprentice will work from here for 2 months every year covering the Cotswolds, Bath, Bristol and Oxford.

As well as being important area for the apprentices technically and financially it is also historically apt. From the 2nd century the Imperial Roman Collegia Opificum, their version of a crafts guild, had a school of stone carving and mosaics in Corinium, (which carried on in some form until 577 when the Saxons defeated the Romano-British at the battle of Deorham, also taking Bath and Gloucester). This makes it one of the last strongholds of the guild brought over by the invading Romans.

St Augustine was building a stone Cathedral in Canterbury by 602 using Comacine masters from Lombardy who also work under a form of Collegia Opificum rule. So as you can see the 'dark ages' weren't very dark for the craft of Stonemasonry.

As for work for the modern mason, Cirencester is like many small towns throughout the country where stonemasons are required for new build, restoration, conservation and design work.