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Monday, 27 July 2015

Rocamadour, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Rocamadour is a town nestled in - and in some instances, carved out of - the gorge about a tributary of the River Dordogne. For centuries the monastery perched high above the valley has been an important site of pilgrimage. 

It felt right and proper to walk in the footsteps of those countless thousands who have climbed the precipitous stone steps before me. And once above the clouds I was able to explore the monastery complex at my leisure. Here are some images of what I found...

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Bankers and journeyman hospitality.

We have been re-arranging the bankers shops at our lodge over the last few day. Our main all-weather shop now holds six bankers instead of three. In addition,  a three banker all-weather shop is being designed, both of these on the north side of our lodge. Two smaller shops open to the elements, with two bankers each, are situated on the south side. Our new one banker demonstration shop and tool store will be set up with webcam inside our lodge and will be operational by mid week.

This now gives us the facility to entertain visiting journeymen, compagnons and stonemasons from other guilds and organisations. 

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Malmesbury Abbey, Wiltshire.

Our Master, while working in Wiltshire, visited Malmesbury Abbey for the purpose of looking into possible links with our guild.

The Guild of St. Stephen and St. George has its roots in The Guild moot of 936 when guilds were ordered by King Athelstan to meet at regular intervals. The Guild was dedicated to St.Stephen in 1089 previously being dedicated to The four crowned martyrs.

Athelstan, meaning noble stone, was the grandson of Alfred the Great who in his childhood spent time in Rome and at the Frankish court and would have been well aware of the Latin/Roman rule guilds of Lombardi and their importance to a fledgling nation.

St.Aldhelm (639-709) was Abbot of Malmesbury.  There is a story that Aldhelm, when riding locally, removed a glove and threw it to the ground, saying something like 'dig here and great treasure will be found' they did and found Box limestone, the stone from which much of Malmesbury Abbey is built.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

1st year banker training

Over the last few months we have been working on the banker with the apprentices concentrating on boning in, flat surfaces, fillets, sharp arrises and rebates. We have been working on a couple of other projects including medieval ball flowers and a small circular tracery window. As would be expected from apprentices so early on in their training, the initial effort at tracery is not great but lessons have been learnt and we foresee higher standards on their next attempt.

Although some have already started we will be working with everyone on the geometry, template making and banker work relating to basic moulds, ovollos, cavettos, fillets, cyma rectas and reversas.
By the autumn we will expect them to be able to work all the above moulds with internal and external mitres terminating at a stop end. These projects will be carried out in Clipsham, Ancaster, Portland, Cotswold stone and Bath stone from different quarries and beds. In this way they will learn the differing tools and techniques used including fire sharp and soft stone chisels, axes and frig bobs as well as the correct application for each stone type.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Our first year at St. Clements lodge. A post from our Guild Master.

Over the last year myself the other masters and officials have been laying down the foundations of the newly re-established stonemasons guild of St Stephen and St George. 

From initial meetings, now almost 10 years ago, the masters decided we would re establish the guild of St Stephen dating back to 936, King Athelstan and the Gild Moot in its Norwich incarnation connected with St. George. Using the best of its traditions and those of the other guilds, cathedral works and Journeyman organisations from which the board of masters belong and linked with all currently accepted equal opportunities policies, we would train young people within our craft to the highest standards. After an initial trial period, if accepted, the apprentices would be taken on at face value with no question of academic achievement or background and given the training and knowledge to provide them with a lifelong sustainable career.

We now (July 2015) have a working guild court with a very hard-working and capable Clerk at the helm, and a group of young people from all backgrounds. In the next few months we are looking forward to the 'call to the guild' when members and apprentices will be accepted in to the guild and then starts the real work of building our centre of excellence, the guild motto being "summa inter mediocria".

Other than the founding ordinances we are now establishing, the direction the guild takes in the future will be in the hands of the next generation of guild masters. Find below our ordinances and aims.

Founding ordinances.

1/The guild is a group of people working within the craft of stonemasonry or with an interest in the training of future stonemasons. 

2/Membership is exclusive, gained by either being trained by the guild or being accepted as a member by the guild court, judged on merit alone.

3/The guild will be run on a traditional tripartite basis being craft, collegiate and frith (welfare) overseen by the guild court.

4/The guild court will consist of six officers and at least seven officials who will run and advise on all aspects of the guild.

5/Apart from its first five years, the guild court and guild in general will always consist of at least two craft members to every one redemptive member.

6/Stonemasonry apprenticeship training will always take at least seven years and must never be trimmed. The curriculum to be set by the board of masters around the basis of a City & Guilds qualification.

7/We will work to the template of the well rounded stonemason, re establishing the link between practical and academic, which in much of the modern world has been torn asunder.

8/We will encourage links with other craft guilds and organisations nationally and internationally to promote friendship, open sharing of knowledge and if possible training placements in both directions for our years six and seven apprentices and other guilds apprentices/journeymen.

9/Traditional guild hat and apron to be worn at all times with pride by craft members in our lodges and guild workshops.

10/The ceremonial life of the guild is an important part of training apprentices and must never be diminished. All guild members are expected to take part.

11/Only those trained within the guild can be guild craft members, The founding masters can only ever be founding members of this guild, coming themselves from other guilds and organisations. The founding masters will be custodians of the guild, the geological plus other collections, and library until the time when the guild has trained its own masters.

12/The founding guild masters and future guild masters will always work for the guild on a voluntary basis earning no money from training, this independence is considered crucial.

13/Future guild masters must be educated to at least to the standard of an academic masters degree plus have at least 30 years experience on appropriate projects to be judged by the existing board of masters. The head guild master to have a doctorate or be chartered as well as stated experience.


Guild craft members - those trained within the guild.

Craft members - those having been trained as stonemasons elsewhere and considered by our board of masters to be the correct standard for our guild.

Redemptive members - those working with the guild to facilitate the training of apprentices without themselves being trained stonemasons.

The purpose of the Guild is

To be a conduit for those accepted by the Guild to train as stonemasons, carvers, fixers and mates and those masters who are willing to give their time to train them. No business is done by the guild with any trading arm being a totally separate entity.

To give personal training to the apprentices, allowing the time needed to reach the highest level achievable for the individual.

To be a meeting place for members where high quality craftsmanship is discussed and knowledge is shared.

To be a place where stonemasons of all nationalities and levels can meet socially.

Visit to St. John the Baptist, Inglesham, Wiltshire

Whilst working in the West Country our master took the opportunity to visit the 11th century St. John the Baptist, Inglesham, Wiltshire.

The main interest lays in the original state of the interior and the 14th century wall painting.

Also the Saxon sculpture of Mother and Child.

The apprentice hat: An instrument of pride

The journey of an apprentice starts with the Master's approval and a paper hat. A paper hat we learn to fold each Monday morning, protect from gusts of wind, label with our individual stone mason's marks, and defend fiercely. Each apprentice had to earn the right to wear the hat by proving that they would be able and willing to learn, reliable and consistent. We have to prove that we are going to be useful additions to the guild. By the time we are given our hats to fold we are proud of our place in the guild and pleased that the master saw potential in us.

The public usually responds to our hats with curiosity and maybe a little bit of awe, but sadly we sometimes have to deal with the occasional disrespectful comment. 

Besides signifying our position in the guild, the hat also serves a very valuable purpose. It rests on top of the widest point of the crown, making it easy for it to fall when we bend over. By making us concious of our stance and posture we are less likely to ruin our backs while working with our tools, standing for long hours or even lifting heavy stones.

Since joining the guild in the beginning of May, I've grown fonder and prouder of my hat every day.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

King Street Carving

Three of our apprentices represented the Guild of St Stephen & St George at the King Street event in Norwich yesterday. They were demonstrating some carving techniques in the street outside Dragon Hall and drew the interest of lots of people. 

The feedback they received from the public was really positive. 

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Sustaining Intangible Heritage

Intangible heritage was defined thus by UNESCO in 2003.

''Intangible Cultural Heritage means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity. For the purposes of this Convention, consideration will be given solely to such intangible cultural heritage as is compatible with existing international human rights instruments, as well as with the requirements of mutual respect among communities, groups and individuals, and of sustainable development.''

The board of Masters of the Guild of St Stephen and St George agree with the need to protect intangible heritage and strive to pass on to the young that knowledge which has been given to us in the past and the experience gained by us in our lifetimes.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

St Mary's Gressenhall

During our travels into south-west Norfolk today we paused to look at St Mary's Gressenhall; a very fine sight draped in the early July sunshine. 

Walking around the exterior of the church, this is an impressive structure and has some interesting carved figures adorning it. 

We didn't have time to obtain the key on this occasion, but we will certainly return to explore the interior at some point. 

Friday, 3 July 2015

Medieval Yarns!

Guild members, visitors and supporters enjoyed a fantastic evening of entertainment at our St Clement lodge this evening. We were delighted to welcome professional storyteller, The Yarnsmith of Norwich, who regaled us with medieval tales and riddles. It was a fanulous performance punctuated with lots of laughter in the fabulous surroundings of a medieval church! Dave generously waived his fee and all proceeds went to support the apprentices training. 

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Guild Procession

In keeping with our traditions, the Guild of St Stephen & St George processed through Norwich city centre today, with drum beating, banners unfurled, led by a hefty henchman more than six feet seven tall. 

By all accounts, the impression we made was really positive. Lots of people were genuinely interested and wanted to know more. There is still an appetite for pageantry in this city! 

At the culmination of our perambulation our Prime Warden, Mr Jack Burton (former city sheriff) and custodian of St Clement's Church (where we're based) for forty six years, gave a short speech. Upon conclusion he shoved some notes in the senior apprentices hand and told them to go and have a well-earned drink. Our Guild Master added to the pot and off they strode. A great day!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Guild Parade Day

Here are some of our apprentices preparing for our guild procession through central Norwich today. We certainly chose a scorching hot day for it! Lots of sunshine; lots of people. With drum beating and banners unfurled we paraded proudly through the city. In keeping with guild tradition we were headed up by a henchman. 

Here he is - all six feet seven and-a-half of him! The original henchmen would have been sturdy fellows like Paul, and it was their job to clear the way and keep crowds at bay. However, in these gentler times folk were very respectful and cleared a path for us as we passed through the city. We had fantastic feedback and people told us how much they enjoyed the spectacle of us in our livery.