Conservation & Heritage: Stone heritage Group

Stone Federation Great Britain's Stone Heritage Group comments.

Stone Federation Great Britain’s Stone Heritage Group is dedicated to the heritage sector of the natural stone industry and promoting the use of Federation members for heritage projects.

Conservation and heritage projects were among the stars of the 2018 Natural Stone Awards in December, with Award-winning projects from across the United Kingdom.

There were several categories dedicated to the conservation and heritage sector, including: Repair & Restoration, Repair & Restoration – Interiors, Carving, Lettering & Sculpture, Special Cathedral (Fellowship) Award and Reconstruction.

The standard of the successful projects was exceptionally high in all these categories with projects providing outstanding examples of excellence in craftsmanship, project management and stone selection. For example, the joint winners in the Historic England-sponsored Repair & Restoration category – Inverness Townhouse and the Palace of Westminster. 

In the heart of Inverness, the Inverness Townhouse project involved a two-phase restoration spread across three years. Phases 1 & 2 included fabric repairs to the external stone envelope, rot repairs and re-slating of Scottish slate roofs, including new lead valleys, gutters and flashings.

Almost 3,000 hours of professional conservation repairs were carried out on the remaining original carvings, the Mercat Cross and various descriptive plaque wall face panels. The Judges commented that this project showcased an exemplary range of skilfully detailed, intricate and diverse carvings, crafts skills and associated works.

The award given to the Palace of Westminster is another example. The Award was for the work on Chancellors Court.

A particular challenge was the requirement to undertake this large and complex project without disruption to the business of Parliament. This required detailed programming and stakeholder liaison with the House of Lords, with ‘quiet times’ imposed while the House was sitting – sometimes at very short notice.

The project welcomed apprentices from the Building Crafts College, who worked alongside the principal stone contractor’s stonemasons to gain their qualifications in NVQ level 3 Advanced Stonemasonry. The project proved to be an excellent training ground, providing the opportunity to set out and work gothic revival masonry from sawn six sides block on site in the specially constructed banker shop.

The Judges said the work was crisp and not too intrusive with its replacements, cleaning, repointing and repairs. They were impressed with how the new work successfully blends with the existing, leading to particularly successful and sensitive restoration. They also praised the approach of using the scheme to invest in apprentices, which added extra merit to it.

It was not just commercial projects that enjoyed success at the 2018 Natural Stone Awards. The Kirkmichael project on Scotland’s Black Isle was a multi-disciplinary community project, 18 years in the making and supported by more than 50 individual donors and 30 contributing organisations. The commitment by the local community to this site has rescued a severely deteriorating, nationally important Scheduled Ancient Monument and B-Listed structure from complete collapse.

The judges were impressed with the sensitive conservation work carried out and the extensive support for the project from the local community.

Like all the winners, the teams behind these three projects received a hand-carved Kentish Ragstone trophy from the 2018 Natural Stone Awards guest presenter, Loyd Grossman CBE FSA at the Awards ceremony in London.