The Stone Heritage Group is one of the sector focus groups of Stone Federation Great Britain. It includes a wide range of stone companies, from quarry operators to conservation masons and consultants working in this sector, bringing to bear a wide range of expertise.
Much of the continuation of Britain’s built heritage relies on the conservation and restoration of natural stone buildings.
Churches, monuments, town halls and residential properties across the length and breadth of the British Isles all depend on the skills and expertise of the natural stone industry’s restoration and conservation sector.
The most common challenge faced by those looking to care for these historic structures is selecting the correct professional to undertake the work.
The question that most often arises is: “How can I be sure that the job will be done properly?”
This is where Stone Federation Great Britain can help.
Stone Federation is the trade association for the natural stone industry. It has more than a century’s experience in connecting architects, local authorities and clients with the finest stone professionals.
It has a vetted membership of more than 240 firms offering clients excellence in all areas of business, from technical support and expertise through to ethical sourcing and sustainability.
Within the overall membership, almost 50% work in the conservation and restoration sector and, as a result, the Federation has established the Stone Heritage Group to reinforce the importance of natural stone in the heritage market.
The objective of the Stone Heritage Group is to highlight and champion all matters pertaining to the repair, restoration, conservation, cleaning and maintenance of natural stone in the heritage / historic / ecclesiastical sector.
As a large proportion of heritage buildings were constructed using natural stone, the Stone Heritage Group aims to make people more aware of the significance of stone to the built heritage of the nation. It emphasises the need for supplies of those stones to continue into the future in order to be able to maintain the built heritage, which is such a significant part of the nation’s sense of identity.
The professionals – architects, surveyors and structural engineers – need to understand natural stone from quarrying to its incorporation into a building. The Stone Heritage Group helps establish an understanding that there are large differences between today’s methods of construction and those of yesteryear, and to be aware of the circumstances leading to the decision-making process of when to conserve and when to replace, when to clean and when not to intervene.
The Stone Heritage Group wants to ensure that the correct training is given to both professionals and the stonemasons who carry out the work.
The Group endorses the need for further training for stonemasons who work in the heritage field beyond the normal banker skills and general site fixing.
There are specialist apprenticeship programmes and NVQ courses as well as management and business improvement programmes, some of which are available online.
These training courses include the SAP Façade Preservation and SAP Heritage Masonry, both of which are eligible for ConstructionSkills grants. The one year SAP Heritage Masonry programme is one of the most popular of the courses, providing candidates with four week-long residential placements at Fountains Abbey studying conservation, repair and maintenance of stonework.
Jane Buxey, the Federation’s Chief Executive, spells out some of the many reasons for using a Federation member when undertaking any conservation or restoration project involving natural stone: “When you use a Stone Federation member you can rest assured that the firm is operating to the highest standards of workmanship in accordance with the latest industry standards and codes of best practice, as well as having a fully trained workforce.”