Back to our roots

The Stone Federation delves into the history of using stonework and masonry within building structures.

The crafts of stonework & masonry are some of the earliest trades in civilisations’ history and have always played a well-respected part within the natural stone industry. Some of our planet’s most impressive structures are stone monuments dating back many hundreds of years. It is the skilled work of expert craftsman, combined with a naturally durable material that means we can still enjoy these monuments today.

In an age where machines now take the place of humans in a multitude of functions, the art of a skilled stonemason is still holding its own. While the impressive technology of modern day stone carving machinery allows for some breathtaking products on a grand scale, the art of a hand carved stone feature has not lost its place within the industry.

Many of the basic tools used by stonework and masonry professionals have endured the test of time, which means the tool belt of a 21st stonemason would not look greatly dissimilar to that of his counterpart many hundreds of years ago. For many homeowners this tradition and heritage gives them an invaluable peace of mind.

Natural Stone has a vast array of applications, each one requiring a different approach to achieve the desired result. It is this bespoke aspect of natural stone that allows the craft of stonemasonry to continue. No two pieces are ever the same, so you can be certain that your property is completely unique. What’s more, stone adds value to your property by providing a timeless elegance and a feeling of luxury that is instantly noticeable to any potential buyers.

In an age of pre-cast, generic construction materials and finishes, expertly worked natural stone allows you to add beautifully unique touches to your home. From bespoke natural stone fireplaces through to personalised carvings on your porch, the choice really is yours.

With handcrafted natural stone, you are not just investing in the skills of an expert craftsman, but also in the inherent durability of the material itself. Natural stone is a beautiful, durable natural material, with impressive resistance to the elements as well as the wear and tear of everyday life. You only need look around any of Great Britain’s major cities and you will see an array of century’s old natural stone buildings, monuments and carvings. As a Homeowner, this is ultimately the aim of any new build or renovation project, to combine practicality and durability with aesthetic appeal.

As the Federation for the natural Stone industry, they are involved in various competitions and industry awards, one of which is the UK Masonry Skills Challenge. This years’ competition had over 30 young stonemasons from across the United Kingdom enter for their chance to be crowned the best young stonemason. The standard of entries was as high as ever, proving that the crafts of stonework and masonry are as strong as ever.

Stonework & Masonry also received recognition in the 2012 Natural Stone Awards in the Craftsmanship category. Entries ranged from restoration work on parts of York Minster through to a natural stone mosaic at the entrance to Hereford Cathedral.

As the Award judges commented, the masonry work shown in the entries displayed the possibilities that natural stone affords for “highly visually pleasing end results with a practicality fit for purpose.”

Unlike some trades, stonework and masonry does not sit at odds with its modern counterpart, rather, the combination of technology and craftsmanship produces some fantastic results. One example of this is the growing trend within new build projects for the installation of cantilevered staircases. This often involves a combination of three-dimensional modelling alongside the hands-on stonework and craftsmanship. This merger of the old and the new ensures that the skills of stonework and masonry will long enjoy a place within the industry.

You only need to take a brief look through the past winners of the Stone Federation Natural Stone Awards to see how well the character of the owner is illustrated in the choice and application of the stone used. From quiet, understated stones to the more flamboyant use of mixed marbles, natural stone can help ensure your building reflects you from the layout and structure through to finishes and colours.

Sustainability is undoubtedly the buzz word of the moment, with domestic and commercial builders alike looking to reduce their impact on the environment and ensure a low carbon footprint. Natural stone delivers extremely well, even under the increased pressures put on materials to provide a sustainable solution.

“Natural stone used on construction projects provides a timeless aura of solidity, quality and prestige and mirrors the geological process whereby stone is worked for new build projects and subsequently re-used with time. Natural stone is a “cradle to grave” material.”

In the same vein, the desire to ‘buy local’ as part of an ethical approach to sourcing materials is another concern of the self-builder. You may be surprised to know that there are well over 70 types of natural stone to choose from on your own doorstep. British Stones have an incredible heritage and character, and cover a vast selection of colours and applications. From Portland in the South, Crosland Yorkstone in the North and from Scottish Whin to Mourne Granite in Northern Ireland.

If you are engaging a stone professional such as a stonemason, to help you in your property, it is important that you get them involved early on in order to help you chose the right type of stone for your property. Stone Federation’s website provides you with an easy to use tool to help you select the right stone professional for your project whether you are building, renovating or improving.