'Stone is bloody marvellous' - Tony Hawkes at Awards ceremony

Projects spread as far afield as Orkney and County Tipperary won Awards in Stone Federation Great Britain's 2004 Natural Stone Awards, presented this month at the Park Lane Hilton Hotel, London, before an audience of 250.

On Orkney, the replacement in local limestone of an 1856 window in the capital\'s St Magnus Cathedral by Boden & Ward Stonemasons won the Restoration Award. And in Kilkenney, new Portland and Kilkenny limestone statues and fountains created for the grounds of an 18th century mansion gained Cliveden Conservation Workshop and the project team the Craftsmanship Award.

A new Purbeck limestone floor laid in the 14th century Lady Chapel at Ely Cathedral by Mowlem Rattee & Kett won the Award for Interiors, while offices in Paternoster Square near St Paul\'s Cathedral that had been clad in Portland limestone by Szerelmey gained the New Build (cladding) Award.

A new 3,500m2 mansion built by APS Masonry in Massangis limestone from France for a private client in Bicester, near Oxford, won the New Build (traditional) Award.

The conversion of a Victorian stable block in a private Hampshire residence into a swimming pool and leisure complex, complete with pools, Jacuzzi, gymnasium, steam room, showers, toilets and kitchen, making extensive use of Burlington\'s Elterwater slate fixed by Stone Productions, won the Slate Award.

One category, Landscaping, did not have an Award winner and the only project recognised, with a commendation, was, controversially, a maze called the Minotaur at Kielder Forest Park visitor centre in Newcastle that had been built using gabion walling. The judges thought it was "a beautifully conceived idea" with an "imaginative use of stone".

This was the 12th time Stone Federation Great Britain had run its two yearly Awards scheme and the winning projects once again reflect the versatility of the use of natural stone in new build and restoration, inside and out.

The Awards were presented by HRH The Duke of Gloucester with introductions by the irreverent Tony Hawks, author and TV and radio personality.

After a slick and well produced audio-visual presentation about the projects featured in the Awards, Tony Hawks said: "I think we all agree stone is bloody marvellous."

Of course, most of the entries in the contest did not win, but John Burton, the chairman of the judging panel of five internationally respected architects, told them: "Take heart - the competition was extremely fierce."

The Duke of Gloucester said: "I\'m delighted you have these Awards to highlight the excellent craftsmanship and ability your industry has to translate the whims and wishes of architects and designers and turn them into solid buildings."

He said there was a place for concrete, but it never quite compared with stone that had taken millions of years to form and the industry "a slightly shorter time" to quarry and work.

Stone was, he said, designed to last centuries rather than decades and because of that the skills of stonemasons would remain in great demand into the future.

The Awards also raised the profile of the industry and made youngsters aware that here was an industry worth joining and that offers them a career.

The judging panel had travelled widely in the British Isles to inspect the shortlisted entries.

John Burton said: "It is obvious to the judges that more property owners, developers and architects are seeing the value of using natural stone on their buildings.

"We have seen this year some very innovative uses of stone which, if taken up as we hope, will be a springboard for even more exciting projects.

"Stone, while being the best natural material for building, does need a clear understanding of how it performs in varying situations. There is so much knowledge and skill in the stone industries of Great Britain which, by a few, is left untapped when choosing, detailing and fixing stone."