The shaping of flint by percussive force of a hammerstone or billet, specifically for masonry purposes, such as for building or facing walls, and flushwork decoration. See the separate entry for flintknapping (objects).
|Craft category||Stone; Walling and hedging; Building crafts|
|Historic area of significance||UK|
|Area currently practised||UK|
|Origin in the UK||Palaeolithic|
|Minimum no. of craftspeople required|
|Current no. of trainees|
|Current no. of skilled craftspeople||6-10|
|Current total no. of craftspeople||6-10|
Most masonry flintwork is for the repair of historic buildings, especially churches. This often involves reusing old flints, or visiting a pit to select the required flints. St Lawrence’s Church in Ipswich is quite rare in that it uses new flint.
There are very few people who specialise in knapping for masonry purposes. The fixing of flint is also a specialist skill in itself.
There are currently two types of flintknapping in the UK:
To make replicas of prehistoric objects such as axeheads and spearheads for use in museums, schools and archaeological research – perhaps about 5-6 people doing this professionally, and many more doing it in a non-professional capacity
To shape flint for use in masonry and wall faces – perhaps about 10 people doing this professionally
The fixing of flint is also a specialist skill in itself.
Issues affecting the viability of the craft
Flintknapping is an extremely challenging craft as flint is a very restrictive and inconsistent material. The difficulty lies in the skill – such as understanding the material, the correct angle to hit it and the probable outcome, and requires technique, accuracy and hand-eye co-ordination – rather than in the physicality.
Quality (rather than quantity) of the raw materials: There are very few sources of good quality flint in the UK – while there are a few quarries, none produce particularly good, reliable, consistent flint – although it is hoped that there will be a good quality source again in the next couple of years.
Training issues: very little training in historic building crafts – most people go into the new-build sector
Shortage of skills: Heritage buildings, especially churches, need heritage skills but very few people have the necessary experience as training is focused on the new-build sector
Craftspeople currently known