Our Craft & Commitment
Stonemasonry has existed since man could make tools to create buildings, structures and sculpture using stone from the earth. The Taj Mahal, Easter Island’s statues, the Pyramids, Angkor Wat, the Parthenon, Stonehenge, and Chartres Cathedral all give testament to the international ancient craft of shaping rough pieces of rock into accurate geometrical shapes.
Different skills are required for each different phase when creating a stone construction.
- Quarrymen split veins, or sheets of rock, and extract these blocks of stone from the ground.
- Sawyers cut the rough blocks into cuboids of different sizes with diamond-tipped saws.
- Banker masons specialise in shaping the stones to a set design and produce anything from simple forms to tracery windows, detailed mouldings and classical architectural masonry.
- Carvers use their artistic ability to carve stone into foliage, figures, animals or abstract designs while Fixer masons specialise in the securing of stones onto buildings, a highly skilled job using a large variety of tools and applications.
- Memorial masons or monumental masons carve gravestones and inscriptions.
Each of these masons will have intimate knowledge of stone types, applications and best uses and will specialise in one or all of the various branches of stonemasonry.
Medieval stonemasons served a seven-year apprenticeship while a modern apprenticeship lasts three and combines on-site practical learning with the theory of building, shaping and preserving stone. Electronic Stonemasonry training resources enhance traditional delivery techniques and apprentices should be comfortable working at height, have hand-eye coordination, be physically fit and have a basic grasp of mathematics.
Actively supporting vocational students the Masons’ Company works closely with the Building Crafts College and the City and Guilds of London Art school which provide instruction in stonemasonry and carving. City and Guilds is the leading body for vocational training worldwide and the Company is represented on the Council of this remarkable organisation.
The Masons’ Company also supports a number of stonemasonry students through education grants at Moulton College (Northampton) and Bath, Weymouth and York Colleges.
The Duke of Gloucester Awards, created by the Worshipful Company of Masons, provide a competitive opportunity for skilled stonemasons to be recognised for their expertise. The Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship (see below) was established to provide higher level education and training to masons, and exchanges between Cathedrals enhances knowledge of working with different types of stone in different environments.
In the field of general education the Masons’ along with 43 other Livery Companies supports the work of the Livery Schools Link, which assists in raising aspirations of pupils from areas of deprivation across the UK.
An apprenticeship provides on-the-job training for people between 16 and 24 and today take the form of National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) which are recognised by employers across the UK.
The Masons’ Company Apprentice Support Scheme supports trainees employed by Cathedral Masons’ Yard or other appropriate institution or charitable body engaged in training masons with an approved formal training programme over a period of three years. During this time the Company will make payments to the Cathedral on behalf of the student.
For a scheme to qualify the establishment must offer an approved mix of work and ideally be in a position to offer the apprentice an adequate position once they have served their initial apprenticeship. Those starting out on careers in masonry have been supported by the Company at the Cathedral stone-yards at Canterbury, Durham, Exeter, Gloucester, Lincoln, Salisbury, Winchester, Worcester and York (all within the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship – see below) as are students at Weymouth and other approved colleges, mentioned under Educational Support. The Company also contributes by connecting commercial stone companies with these ecclesiastical training establishments to provide wider experience and insight into the requirements of potential future employers.
Applying for a Grant
Any student who has gained a place at an approved training establishment to work towards a City and Guilds qualification, an NVQ level 3 or a diploma in stonemasonry leading to an NVQ level 3 or a diploma in stone carving (providing an NVQ Level 3 has been achieved in previous training) is eligible to apply.
The support of an employer is also necessary to apply for funding for either a full or part-time training in stonemasonry but in exceptional circumstances applications may be considered from those training independently provided the committee is comfortable that the individual will stay within the industry post-training.
Continued funding is subject to conditions of attendance and reports are submitted by the training establishment to the Craft Fund on each student concerned. Providing progress is made a grant is likely to be awarded each year to ensure those who start training with the Company’s backing are in a position to finish it.
In order to further the objectives of the Craft Fund in maintaining standards and interest in stonemasonry it is this charitable element of the Company that provides the financial assistance to those starting out as apprentices.
Colleges and Workshops
As a Company we support a number of training establishments, amongst them the two below that are key to the standards and future of our craft.
Established by the Carpenters’ Company in 1893 as the Trades Training School. The present purpose-built college was established on land owned by the Carpenters’ Company in Kennard Road, Stratford, East London in 2001.
Today the establishment teaches fine woodwork, stonemasonry and other associated skills all connected with construction, conservation and restoration.
Offering City & Guilds diplomas, apprenticeship schemes and NVQ construction award courses in Banker Masonry, architectural stone carving, bench joinery and shop-fitting, with conservation options and various short courses. Evening classes are also available.
Many of the students and apprentices currently supported by the Masons’ Company attend the College.
Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship
Cathedrals are among few buildings which still use the traditional methods of stonemasonry and carving. Nine of the 42 Anglican Cathedrals in the UK house masonry workshops, these comprise, Canterbury, Durham, Exeter, Gloucester, Lincoln, Salisbury, Winchester, Worcester and York.
The Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship was created in 2009 by these Cathedrals to provide a common programme of education and training for those who have completed apprenticeships to progress to Foundation degree level. The programme had since been expanded to include all masons qualified to NVQ level 3. The two-year programme is work-based and delivered primarily through study workshops in the participating Cathedrals and other historic buildings. Successful completion leads to the award of the ‘CWF Foundation degree in Applied Historic Building Conservation and Repair’. The degree is validated by the University of Gloucestershire.
His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has been the Royal Patron of the Fellowship since 2011. It is supported through grants made by the Worshipful Company of Masons and the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group.
The Worshipful Company of Masons has encouraged and supported this enterprise from the outset and committed funds towards this key source of future masons.
Building Crafts College
City & Guilds of London Art School
The City & Guilds of London Art School is an independent, fee paying art school with a strong overall craft base. The school is based in Kennington in South East London and offers stone carving students their own yard and workshop space.
Fellowships & Awards
Duke of Gloucester Awards
The Company’s award scheme focuses on rewarding individual success in stonemasonry and stone carving. They are named in honour of the Duke of Gloucester who, through his architectural background, has a keen interest in the construction industry, the national heritage and in the training of craftsman. The Duke has been a Liveryman with the Company since 1975 and was made an honorary member of the Court in 1995.
The awards are made jointly every two years with The Stone Federation of Great Britain. Prizes are in cash, tool vouchers and certificates of achievement.
This award is made to honour an individual whose excellence of work and contribution is acknowledged by their peers. Nominations for the Gold Medal can come from any field but at least one of the following must have been achieved:
- national recognition in any aspect of the craft
- changed within the industry through entrepreneurship, vision or innovation
- designed, restored or developed outstanding buildings using stone
- provided opportunities for or supported the training and development of craftsmen
- mentored to those in their field
- enhanced the reputation of, and demonstrated dedication to, stonemasonry or the natural stone industry
- earned the respect of their peers
Excellence in Stonemasonry
Entrants for the Excellence award need to have between two and nine years’ experience post qualification and judges look for the highest standards across all aspects of stonemasonry within a detailed and client-supported portfolio. The winning mason will have experience on site and within the workshop and demonstrable ability in drawing interpretation and producing templates.
Nominations can be made by individuals, employers or professionals with whom they have worked.
Natural Stone Awards
Carving, Lettering and Sculpture are grouped together in a category sponsored by the Livery Company at this biennial competition with the Stone Federation of Great Britain.
In 2016 the winner was 8 St James’s Square in London where acclaimed sculptor Stephen Cox collaborated on an original Lutyens building. Cox was the ideal artist for the project having spent over 25 years working in India, as Lutyens was instrumental in design across New Delhi and Eric Parry, architect of the project, has echoed this influence within this modern design.
The Pillars Project in Harrogate received Highly Commended recognition and the Korean War Memorial in London, and the restoration of Knebworth House in Hertfordshire were both Commended by the judges.
Details of the Winners (Including those sponsored by the Company) are listed on the Stone Ideas Website.
Entry details and application forms for the 2019 awards will be published in the spring.
Stonemasons have used distinguishing marks on their work for many centuries to ensure they receive payment. Masons who were free from their Masters travelled all over the country for employment and signatory marks had even greater value when the artistry was spread geographically.
When weathered or broken stones are removed from ancient buildings during renovation, these marks are often exposed on the back of the stone. They are interesting in their own right, but it is rarely possible to match them to the original mason.
Many traditional masons working today, maintain the built heritage of cathedrals, churches, municipal buildings and stately homes and maintain the tradition of identifying their work by adding their own personal marks. The masonry and carvings therefore carry the mark of the mason who made the latest contribution to the building and the Company is recording modern Masons’ marks to ensure that work can be identified in the future.
So that future generations can match a mark to the mason who fashioned the stone, the Masons Livery Company has launched an initiative to capture current Masons’ Marks.
All Masons are invited to submit their distinguishing mark as we endeavour to build a comprehensive online directory.