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.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

St Margaret's Church, Stratton Strawless

St Margaret's, Stratton Strawless, is one of the most proactively welcoming churches in Norfolk. Among its many attactions is a wlidlife area in the churchyard. This may well explain the wonderful soundscape of birdsong that seems to surround the church whenever I visit. 

For a church of relatively modest proportions there are some rather grand monuments commemorating the Marsham family. For instance, above you can see a carved ossuary full of carved skulls and bones, whilst, below, is another of the marble Marsham monuments, that includes the figure of a 'swaddled' baby. 

Dag & Puff Stone at Bathurst Estate

Dag stone used for decorative panels on entrance and puff stone used on rusticated ashlar/quoins on folly here at the Bathurst Estate near Cirencester.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

'Snuffy Bob'

There are many interesting wall monuments within our lodge at St Clement's Church, Norwich. The mural tablet pictured above commemorates Robert Harvey, who was mayor of the city in 1738. Reading his epitaph - 'Father of the city in the respective situations of Magistrate, Merchant and Citizen' - you might be forgiven for assuming him to have been a virtuous gentleman, but a bit dull. 

However, if contemporary descriptions are to be believed he was actually a lot more interesting than you might imagine. For instance, despite his considerable fortune amassed through the Harvey family worstead (cloth) business, some recalled him as a miser, noteable for the extravagant shabbiness of his clothes. This was contradicted by other contemporaries who, instead, highlighted his generous hospitality. Most likely this was a reflection of the intense scisms between the tories and whig factions in the Norwich civic elite during the latter half of the eighteenth century (Harvey was a tory). Slanders and flattery were commonplace in this context.

What remains undisputed, however, is the nickname he earned from his early days resident down the road from the church, at number 20 Colegate. His habit of standing taking snuff by the fine iron gates that once spanned the space between his residence and number 18 earned him the unofficial title of 'Snuffy Bob'. 

If you click on the following link you will see a portrait of him looking anything but 'snuffy' as he stands proud in his mayoral robes:

This portrait can still be seen on display within St Andrews/Blackfriars Hall, just a short walk from St Clement's. 

Spreading word about our work

Pleased to announce that our cards have arrived. 

And so have our flyers! 

Don't Cry Over Split Stone

Here's a sad little scene! A section of window tracery, discarded. Hours of work gone in a single blow. Every stonemason knows this one only too well. However, with experience, as the apprentices' ears get tuned into the ring of sound stone and the duller tones of the unsound, they will know when to strike hard and when to go gently. No time to spill tears over mistakes. Get on with the next one and learn from the error. 

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Generous Gestures & OHPs

One of the wonderful things about seeing our venture grow is that we meet lovely, kind and generous people along the way. One such is Tamzin, who - following an appeal on twitter - met with me in a carpark one rainy lunchtime and handed over an old-fashioned Over-Head Projector, that we needed to borrow for one of our projects. Here, you can see it up and running and projecting an early engraving of Norwich Castle from an acetate sheet. 

You will be hearing a lot more from us about this project, and when you do, just remember that without generous folk like Tamzin we couldn't build a future for our apprentices. Thanks Tamzin!

St Edmund the Martyr

This spandrel is on the west door of St Lawrence, Norwich. It depicts the martyrdom of Edmund, king of the East Angles, in 869AD. According to the legend, he was executed by pagan Vikings after he refused to renounce his Christian faith. He was dispatched in a hail of arrows before being beheaded. The creature depicted at the bottom of the spandrel represents the wolf that legend says guarded Edmund's head and called out to his followers, who subsequently retrieved it. 

The skull that was said to be that of Edmund the Martyr was held at the abbey in Bury St Edmunds. It proved to be one of the most popular relics in pre-Reformation England. The donations and bequests accruing to the abbey meant that it was one of the richest and largest abbeys in England. 

In the wake of the 'dissolution' of the monasteries during the 1530s, this huge structure - larger than Norwich Cathedral - was plundered and reduced to ruins (the transepts of which are pictured below), reminding is that nothing is set in stone. 

Monday, 25 May 2015

Saint Swithun's Church, Quenington, Gloucestershire

Saint Swithun's church Quenington in Gloucestershire is a Norman church known mainly for the rich carving on the north and south doorways which are dated stylistically to 1140. Over the church's north entrance, carved from one piece of stone, the harrowing of hell is depicted. Christ is shown thrusting his cross into the devil's mouth while three naked figures are rising from the dead - one of them out of the mouth of hell. Both Christ and the small human figures appear to be wearing wigs (as in the Chichester relief panels) and this is a reminder of the importance of liturgical drama in church art.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Norwich Cathedral - shadows & reflections

Wind Erosion

Here you can see the effects of wind erosion on what was once a sandstone shaft at Holy Island of Lindisfarne. Our thanks to Dave Tonge for sending us this photograph. 

'Naughty' Old Booton!

Eclectically influenced 'fairytale' gothic from the brain of Whitwell Elwin, St Michael the Archangel at Booton. Descended from Pochohontas, Elwin studied at Caius College, Cambridge, before holding the position Rector of Booton from 1849 until his death on the first day of the twentieth century. During his tenure he completely remodelled the church in a unique way that earned this memorable pronouncement from the architect, Edwin Lutyens: 'very naughty but built in the right spirit.'

This is a building that tends to divide opinion. However, according to our Master Mason, the masons working here were quality craftsmen and we will certainly be using this remarkable structure as a teaching resource for our apprentices. 

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Wodewose Carving

A fabulous depiction of the Wodewose, mythical wildman of the woods. This funereal carving is on one of the Woodhouse family ledger slabs in St Peter, Kimberly, Norfolk.  

Norwich Cathedral Cloister Perambulation

Construction on the current Norwich Cathedral cloister started in 1298, over twenty five years after the original was severely damaged in a riot involving citizens from the city ransacking the cathedral precinct. It took around one hundred and fifty years to complete, largely due to spending being prioritised on the main cathedral building. Here is a stop-go animation that gives you a high-speed virtual walk around the cloister. We hope that, having seen this, you feel inspired to go and see it for yourself - hopefully, at a more serene speed. Once you've done that, come and see us at our lodge nearby in St Clement's Church

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Streaky Bacon

This is an old weathered quoin (corner stone) in our lodge at St Clement's church. Stonemasons call this, 'streaky bacon' due to the distinctive marbled stripes caused by differential erosion. This is a telltale sign that the stone is middle Jurassic oolitic limestone quarried around Ancaster in Lincolnshire. It's easier to call it streaky bacon

Monday, 18 May 2015

The Parker Commemoration

Members of the Guild of St Stephen & St George were pleased to welcome the Master and Dean of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and guests to St Clement's on Sunday. The reason for this gathering was the annual reading of a prayer written by the Tudor Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker, at the grave of his parents in the churchyard. Corpus Christi holds Parker's library of ancient books manuscripts as part of his bequest  in 1574. Among the many important works he donated to the college is the earliest surviving copy of the Anglo-Saxon chronicle. For this he is rightly regarded as their greatest benefactor. 

Sunday, 17 May 2015

An Abbey Gatehouse

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to explore the abbey site in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Architecturally, one of the magnificent survivors from the once mighty medieval abbey is this 14thC gatehouse. 

On one level this massive edifice simply served as a means to control access to the monastic precinct. It was a defensible structure and also something a of power-projecting 'statement' by what was once one of the great abbeys in Western Europe. Given that it was a replacement for a tower destroyed in  a riot by the disgruntled citizens of the town, this defensible function was a very real concern. However, it also played a symbolic role demarcating the boundary between sanctified and 'ordinary' life - a meaning entirely lost to most among the thousands of folk streaming through this gate yesterday to see an event taking place within the beautiful abbey gardens. 

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Stone Carving Workshops

Here is our digital invitation for the workshops
(Click on image in order to enlarge)

Genuine Expertise!
Interested in turning your hand to some stone carving? We are offering you the opportunity to learn some skills under the guidance of our Master Mason who not only has over thirty years of experience behind him, but is also informed by more than nine hundred years of tradition handed down from master to stonemason within his guild. 

Contribute as you carve...
We are offering whole day sessions with stone and use of tools included for just £50 per day. Contact us via to arrange a mutually convenient date. All proceeds from these workshops go towards the work of The Stonemasons' Training Partnership in supporting our apprentices on their journey. 

Friday, 15 May 2015

St John de Sepulchre

The sun was shining as I had a wander around the graveyard of St John de Sepulchure, Norwich, earlier today. The church is larger than I remembered it. We have done some work here already and will be doing more during the summer. Lots to do!

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Norwich Cathedral: trick of the eye

I wonder how many people exploring Norwich cathedral cloisters realise
that two sets of the tracery therein are actually made of wood? The most likely explanation for this is that these 'skeuomorphs' (one material made to resemble another) were originally intended as temporary replacements. Perhaps the money ran out, or maybe they were so convincing (or both!). Whatever the reason, they remain to this day and trick the eyes of most people who glance upon them.