Friends of Culzean

Supporting the National Trust for Scotland's Culzean Castle and Country Park

A Charitable Company Limited By Guarantee

Company No: 317093  Scottish Charity No: SC037983


The Stonemason at Culzean

Andrew Bradley invited me along to his workshop and yard behind Culzean's walled garden. As we talked, Andrew continued to work on a project he has undertaken for South Lanarkshire Council. He had just finished drawing out some lettering on a fine piece of stone and was just starting to chisel out the first letter.

Andrew has been working at Culzean since 1991 and is the only qualified stonemason on the site. He manages a training scheme for apprentice stonemasons. The apprenticeship takes four years to become qualified and includes attendance at college as well as extensive practical experience. The requirement of the apprenticeship is that as soon as they are qualified, they must leave the National Trust for Scotland and obtain employment elsewhere. The purpose is to conserve the skill of stonemasonry and not to increase the number of National Trust for Scotland employees. To date, six fully qualified stonemasons are at work thanks to his efforts. One of these masons is working in England and is currently in charge of restoration work being undertaken on the House of Westminster. Two others are working for Historic Scotland and the remaining three are privately employed.

A recent change has been made to the apprenticeship scheme. To help meet the modern conservation requirements for professionals with specialist knowledge combined with a feel and understanding of the work required, Culzean is now recruiting graduates onto the apprenticeship scheme. These graduate-qualified apprentices undertake the same basic training but with additional experience including placements with researchers and architects as well as craftsmen. At the end of their course, apprentices have an MSc in Architectural Conservation in addition to the trade qualification as a stonemason. Andrew was anxious to thank the 'John Mather Trust' for its very generous support of the scheme by funding the salaries of the apprentices. As one might expect, the costs incurred are quite significant and include travel expenses, college fees, tools and quality materials to work with. Help is always needed to meet these costs.

There are 230 working stonemasons in Scotland covering a wide range of experience and expertise. There are relatively few stonemasons who have the breadth of experience and very high standard of skills necessary for complex restoration work. Quite a few of these stonemasons are employed by Historic Scotland and undertake work only from them. The stonemasonry department at Culzean undertakes projects for any part of the National Trust for Scotland and any other organisation including private clients. All their projects are costed at commercial rates.

Andrew’s current project, for South Lanarkshire Council, is called “Cairns Planting” and is funded by Green Space. Sets of words, involving association, rhyme and visual impact, all linked to the outdoor environment, have been carefully selected by local primary school children. The words are carved by Andrew onto slabs of Caithness flagstone (a type of hard, dark sandstone) which will be laid along a country path in the South Lanarkshire region. By this stage in our conversation, a beautiful capital S was taking shape. Andrew told me that one of the finest examples of letter cutting in stone was an inscription on the Trojan column in Rome. The art of stone letter cutting can be a lifetime skill on its own. Calligraphy with a pen is a very different art from letter cutting with a chisel where the work is in three dimensions and the colour and texture and workability of the stone must all be taken into consideration.