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).
|Historic area of significance||UK|
|Area currently practised||UK
Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire,
|Origin in the UK||Palaeolithic, Neolithic|
|Current no. of professionals (main income)||6-10|
|Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
|Current no. of trainees||11-20|
|Current total no. serious amateur makers
|Current total no. of leisure makers
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.
Flint was the earliest industry from Neolithic period. Flint was being used as a building
material as early as the Roman times.
- Laying flints as found
Galleting, Flush work, Field flint, Shuttering, Laying to a line, Flint quoins, Squared and coursed, Random style, Chequered Pattern, Use of Chert, Puddingstone, Flint Grottos, Pressure Flaking and Cobbled
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
- Producing Flint quoins which is highly skilled.
- Knapping Flints to shape
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. Because of the shortage of skills flint laying has been de-skilled by the creation of flint blocks which are concrete blocks with flints pressed into them. The quality and the aesthetics are not the same as a wall built free hand. This has created a means where any brick layer can produce flint by laying blocks. This is not the way forward but a short cut because of the lack of skills. There is a current fashion to clad contemporary new builds with flint.
Market issues: There have been developments with the demand for architectural flintwork on new properties recently, including properties that have used gauged flushwork and flint quoins.
Craftspeople currently known
- Will Lord
- Mark Clifton
- Duncan Berry
- Lynn Mathias
- David Smith, Flintman
- John Lord
- Dan Dunne
- Ally Finken
Companies employing two or more makers