Skills on show

Toby BrookToby Brook, who completed his apprenticeship in September, won highly commended in the World Skills UK National Finals at the 2015 Skills Show and has been selected for the WorldSkills UK training squad, in preparation for the next international WorldSkills competition in Abu Dhabi in 2017.

The 19-year-old went head to head with some of the country’s most skilled stonemasons during the three-day competition, held at the Birmingham NEC. Competitors were given a drawing, asked to produce templates, mark up a stone and carve it by hand following industry standards and specifications.

Toby hopes to follow in the footsteps of WCS stonemason Rob Broomsgrove who won Silver at the Intermational Worldskills in 2013.



Award success

Three phases of conservation work at Balliol College, Oxford was amply recognised at the Oxford Preservation Trust Awards in November.  The elevations on Magdalen Magdalene Street East elevation of Balliol after conservationStreet were initially cleaned using the Thermatech steam cleaning system: an efficient way of removing organic grime. Any sulphation was then removed using the Vortech system. The stonework was surveyed and the condition of each stone was individually assessed, with conservation, not restoration being the guiding principle. Any remedial treatment was then assigned: consolidation, repair with lime, repair with stone, replace completely in stone. Any mortar repairs were undertaken using a combination of putty or hydraulic lime, gauged with washed sands and dusts to give a suitable colour and texture. The elevations to Bristol, Basevi and Henry Keane are constructed from fine-grained Bath stone, Salvin from Box Ground, 1912 Warren from Clipsham and 1906 Warren Building from Guiting. Much of the Bath stone is held to a brick core with iron cramps, many of which had rusted and spalled the stone. Replacement stone used was Hartham Park Bath stone from the mine at Corsham, except for Clipsham for the plinth to Henry Keane Building and Box Ground for Salvin. Much of the damage to the window surrounds and the string courses to Bristol and Basevi had been previously repaired in a white cementitious mortar. Some of this stone had continued to decay and the stone was replaced. However some of the repairs were still sound with good detail, but however unsightly: it was decided to treat these using an Earthborn silica paint (seen as a more robust solution to a traditional shelter coat), blending in the repairs and consolidating vulnerable areas between the cement mortar and stone.

Other repairs included replacing/renovating existing leadwork, minor roof repairs, joinery and rainwater goods redecoration.

Salvin after - carved head - CopySalvin before - carved head


Conservation continues…

Radcliffe ObservatoryEvening
Five months of conservation have just begun on the 18th century Radcliffe Observatory in Oxford. The Observatory, part of Green Templeton College, once cleaned and conserved, will be treated with a limewash, evidence of which was discovered during the first tranche of repair works undertaken in 2004.

Of particular interest are the Coade stone panels, representing the signs of the zodiac and the allegorical figures of Morning, Noon and Evening (pictured below).

Natural Stone Awards 2014

Figure 2 (b)The Palmery at Tedworth House has been recognised in The Natural Stone Awards 2104. These awards are the celebration of the use of natural stone, and are held biennially. The Palmery was Highly Commended in the ‘New Build, Traditional Style Stonemasonry’ category. and the judges said ‘the project…maintains high standards of impeccable design and craftsmanship. In terms of choice of stone, design and detailing, all is first rate.’

Silver medallist

Steve Lebourn

Steve Lebourn has won silver medal in the national finals of SkillBuild.
SkillBuild has been running for over 45 years and sees the very best in construction talent compete against each other to be crowned the SkillBuild winner in their chosen trade.

Lest we forget

A new war memorial, carved and installed by WCS, has been unveiled in a Somerset town which had never had one before.
The Watchet Remembrance Project Group spent five years raising the funds to pay for the memorial, which is next to the town’s library.
A total of 42 men from the town died in World War One while 16 were killed in World War Two.

Award winner

WCS have supplied and fixed stone to a RIBA Award winner.

The McCall MacBain Graduate Centre, at Wadham College, Oxford, designed by Lee Fitzgerald Architects, was one of 11 buildings to receive an award for architectural elegance by the RIBA South East

The RIBA Awards programme champions and celebrates the best of British architecture, and has been giving awards for buildings since 1966. RIBA-Award-winning schemes set the standard for good, excellent and outstanding architecture all across the country.

The Judges said of  the stonework: ‘The use of coarse Ashlar stone in the wall adjacent to the monastery, with cleverly specified materials has been executed skilfully’.


World Skills Silver

world skills

Robert, who completed his apprenticeship last year,  has won Silver at WorldSkills Leipzig.

This year’s event in Germany was the 42nd WorldSkills competition during which 1,000 competitors from 52 countries competed in 46 vocational skills. During the week, there were some 200,000 visitors to the event.

Robert said after receiving his medal: “To win Silver in stonemasonry is just amazing. It still hasn’t really sunk in. The last few months have been really tough – fitting my training for WorldSkills around work and family responsibilities – but it has been totally worth it. I want to show the UK how apprenticeships and vocational training can enable young people to gain a real qualification and a real future.”