engrained voices

I am currently working towards a show in Salthouse church this summer. I am making a series of pieces that relate to the theme of Norfolk Folktales. I am working with Hugh Lupton, storyteller, and he is helping by compiling a series of texts for me to carve in slate and limestone. The works are at different stages, some designed some carved already, some still being written.


I have set up a website to promote this show and to record the process. Click here to visit the engrained voices website

St Michael and All Angels carvings

I finally finished carving these three panels today, and will be installing them in January. I have designed a wall which will be built within the grounds of Dalton Churchyard, near Skelmersdale, near Liverpool. These panels measure 1350mm x 800mm x 100mm thick. It has been a long process designing and carving these but immensely enjoyable.


Relief carving

I am currently busy working on three carved panels for St Michael and All Angels churchyard in Dalton, Skelmersdale. I have designed a wall and these panels will be built into it. The central panel is St Michael struggling with a dragon and it will be flanked by two angel panels. These pictures show work in progress.ImageImageImage

French limestone obelisk inscription

I have been working on an exciting project this month. I have been commissioned to carve four inscriptions on an obelisk near Bicester. The obelisk measures a huge 25 metres from plinth to apex. It is made from Massangis French limestone. The inscriptions are on all four sides of the base, two in Arabic and the other two being their English translations. One of the Arabic sides is calligraphy produced by Saadi Al Timimi, and the other Arabic inscription is a typeface. The Roman lettering is based on the Roman Trajan inscription, but tweeked here and there, especially regarding the weight of the serifs. I have been helped by Gary Breeze, Stuart Buckle and Martin Cook. I’m back on site this week to give the lettering a final going over and to think about mixing colours for painting the text. Although the inscriptions are deeply carved, they will need colouring to be legible from a distance of 30metres, which is where they will generally be seen from.

I’ll show more pictures once the work is finished. The four pictures below show sections of the lettering on all four sides of the base, prior to the inscriptions being painted.

Limestone versus slate in Lincolnshire

I recently travelled through Lincolnshire on my way home, and photographed these memorials, two in Local Lincolnshire limestone and the third in slate probably from Leicestershire. They are all from the mid-late 18th Century and they show how well the slate weathers. The lettering on the limestone has almost disappeared and is barely legible whereas the slate is like new. Lincolnshire limestone is soft and needs to be carved deeply to last. I suspect the lettering was never very deep as the detailing on the cherubic angels is still quite visible. Other limestones such as Hornton limestone or Portland limestone that have always been used a lot for carving and memorial work seem to weather a bit better on the whole and sandstone such as York stone will last much longer as it contains a lot of silica. There’s a lot of variation around the country though in terms of how things last, for example Kilkenny limestone from Ireland is very hard and is much more durable.

a beautiful couple

I noticed these a while back and finally got a good photo of the pair in Skeyton churchyard, just down the road from my workshop.

What I like most about them is their size and subtlety, and their quiet subdued beauty. They are only about 12-18″ tall and yet for me stand out as being the most powerful memorials in this churchyard.

Coltishall memorials

One of my current obsessions is looking at 17th and 18th Century memorials, and Norfolk has a fine selection of these. Here are a few I photographed recently in Coltishall.

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I install my own memorial work all over Britain, and am always looking out for good examples of 17-18th century carving. Some stones from this period are very finely executed by master carvers that also studied typefaces, whereas other more “naive” examples were carved by jobbing masons, these are often more powerful in their impact, and the designs are often less carefully concieved. Often the carver will start the lettering top left and just see what happens in terms of how the words fit the stone. Some of the examples above are beautiful and obviously very carefully set out and carved, whereas others are less refined, the imagery is more direct and less “pretty”. If this is something you’re interested in I have many more photographs like these on my flickr pages. This is an ongoing project, and I am adding to these continually.

While I was in Coltishall I saw the above plaque outside on the church wall. This is an impressive piece of work with a lot of letter-cutting, (but it was rather difficult to photograph in the flat light). The wording is what made me want to post this image though, and it reads thus:

Sacred to the Memory of SIDAY HAWES and ELIZABETH his wife.
SIDAY HAWES was born at BURY in Suffolk, 8th October 1748
and died at 6th October 1827, in the 79th Year of his Age.
He was a Man of excellent understanding and great moral worth,
pious, just, and conscientious.
ELIZABETH, his wife, was the only daughter of HUGGINS PORSON,
parish clerk of EAST RUSTON and was Sister of RICHARD PORSON, late Greek
Professor in the University of CAMBRIDGE.
She was born 27th April, 1756, married 27th November 1786, and
died 7th March, 1842 in the 86th Year of Her Age.
She had by nature a strong and capacious mind, which she
found time to cultivate amidst the hardships of her early
life, and the various employments of her later Years:
whilst her piety and benevolence made her take delight in relieving
the sufferings of the poor, for she had both seen and felt what
those sufferings were. And thus, to the day of her Death,
she shared her own prosperity with the
class from which she sprang.
Happy herself she tried to make those around her happy, and with
firm and cheerful trust in the promises of our blessed Saviour,
she looked forward to Death, not as an evil but as a
glorious change of existence.
They had Seven children, two of them died young, and were buried
in this Church at the East end of the South Aisle.

memorial carvings from Heath and Reach cemetery

I recently installed two memorials in Heath and Reach cemetery near Leighton Buzzard. They were both really great pieces to work on, both stones were commissioned by the same client, one for his wife and one for his brother. This client was very interested in ancient carvings and artefacts, a subject I’m very interested in too. This is reflected in my two designs, shown below.

While I was there I had a look around (as usual) and I found several interesting stones from the 1850’s-1890’s. This is not always a good period for memorial design and carving but the workshop that made these obviously enjoyed shaping stone and making really nice carvings.