The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Stonemasonry

 

The carving of stone for buildings, working with a square, a compass and a template. See the separate entry for stone carving.

 

Status Currently viable
Craft category  Stone; Building crafts
Historic area of significance  UK
Area currently practised  UK
Origin in the UK  Roman
Minimum no. of craftspeople required
Current no. of trainees  501-1000
Current no. of skilled craftspeople  1000+
Current total no. of craftspeople  1000+

 

History

There are two types of stone mason:

  • Banker mason: Carves the stone using drawings and templates into finished products for installation into buildings
  • Fixer mason: Installs the prepared stones into the building

The historic distinction between banker masonsand stone fixers is becoming more blurred as people are required to be able to turn their hands to both. Traditional manual banker skills are being replaced by CNC machining and are more endangered than stone fixing.

There are six stonemasonry colleges in England offering different levels of qualifications, with each college probably having 100-200 apprentices at a time. The Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship is a consortium of approximately ten cathedrals which have their own masons yards who have set up a four year syllabus for apprenticeships common to all workshops and resulting in a qualification at the end.

Today, a high proportion of a stonemason’s work is repair and maintenance, rather than new-build. However, stone, marble and granite cladding for contemporary buildings is quite common in high-end construction, and is also used extensively in paving and hard landscaping.

 

Techniques

 

Local forms

 

Sub-crafts

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Closure of UK quarries – although this has no direct impact on the skills, it does mean that materials have to be imported from abroad
  • Need for flexible workforce: There is a need for people to be able to turn their hands to more than one specialist skill. The workforce needs to be flexible and to be able to turn its hands to a number of tasks so that employers are able to take advantage of the maximum contract opportunities that come their way.

Banker masonry

The need for traditional mallet and chisel banker masonry is in decline as CNC machining becomes more prevalent, especially where stones are being prepared for series production in new builds. As such, those traditional bench-based skills with mallet and chisel are much less in demand and the stone masonry colleges across the country are seeing falling numbers.

However, we can’t stand in the way of progress and employers are unlikely to commit to pure banker apprenticeships for which there are limited opportunities, and neither will young people commit to training that has limited job vacancies.

There will continue to be a demand for skilled bankers who can produce one-off pieces for repair and replacement, as heritage work is major part of the sector, and many companies will want to retain some banker skills – but bankers are unlikely to be needed in the volumes of the past. Supply will equal demand. We need to ensure these skills are protected and StoneTrain will continue to support the colleges with its annual UK Masonry Skills Competition and through CITB Skill Build.

Fixer masonry

Stone fixing is in a healthy state and has an optimistic future, particularly if StoneTrain is successful in dividing the apprenticeship it currently offers into two clear divisions: 1) interiors i.e. kitchens, bathrooms, wet rooms, flooring, walling, staircases etc. and 2) exteriors, including cladding.

 

Support organisations

Craftspeople currently known

 

Other information

 

References