Few crafts have shaped human history quite like stone carving; from the Palaeolithic creation of tools to the petroglyphs that form some of our earliest art.
Located at the base of the chimney stack in Shaw Lodge Mills – once used to manufacture moquette cloth for the hard-wearing seat covers on public transport – the West Riding Stonecarving Association is dedicated to keeping the art of hand-carving stone alive and bringing it to the general public. Anyone can try a free introduction, which includes a tour and practical session, while those looking to take their knowledge further can book onto an eight-week introductory course including basic relief carving techniques and safe workshop use, with subjects spanning Yorkshire roses to the legendary Green Man. The Association also hosts events throughout the year, from soap-carving with children to regional exhibitions, and is involved with worldwide events like European Stone Carving Festival; held at Halifax’s Piece Hall in 2022.
The organisation was launched by builder John Swift, who said building in the area ‘necessitates being a mason’ and was inspired to sign up for a City & Guilds stone carving course at Calderdale College along with co-founder Andrew Bramley. It celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2020 and is also something of a family affair, with John’s sister Helen (also club secretary) amongst the tutors. Members, meanwhile, span novices to master masons.
The focus on hand-carving makes dust and noise minimal when compared with using machinery, and many students have commented on the de-stressing nature of courses here. What’s more, you’re likely to use Tadcaster magnesium limestone, a stone often used for the maintenance of York Minster. Often wondered how the detail on this Gothic masterpiece was created? Now you can discover for yourself.