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Edinburgh World Heritage/Events/Learning about stone: A solid addition to our CPD sessions

Learning about stone: A solid addition to our CPD sessions

Gaby Laing

2nd July 2018

Gaby Laing

Hello! My name is Gaby and I joined Edinburgh World Heritage in mid-April, working in the International Programme team to help deliver the ATLAS project, and more generally organising training events and activities. I previously worked in Glasgow, first at the University of Glasgow Archives and then at the Scottish Civic Trust. Whilst I miss the Dear Green Place, I am loving getting to know Edinburgh through new eyes: living somewhere is entirely different to visiting it. When I’m not at work I like to go to the cinema (I am particularly interested in cinema heritage and Edinburgh has some gems!), cook with friends, and spot a train or two at Waverley.

So, onto those training events. I have just completed organising my first event for Edinburgh World Heritage (EWH) – ‘From quarry to quoin: a conservation guide to stonework.’ On the morning of Tuesday 19 June, we were delighted to bring together conservation professionals passionate about stone, to explore its journey from the quarry to the completed project on site.

Christa Gerdwilker

We had a truly international line-up of speakers, including the inimitable Luis Albornoz-Parra of the British Geological Survey tackling stone matching, and the highly knowledgeable Christa Gerdwilker from Historic Environment Scotland discussing stone conservation approaches. Attendees also heard about quarries from Marcus Paine of Hutton Stone, and the geology of Edinburgh from Scottish Lime Centre’s Katie Strang. This provided valuable context for successful stone conservation.

Luis Albornoz-Parra

A particular highlight of the event was having the opportunity for a practical demonstration at the neighbouring St Mary’s Cathedral School Workshop. Maggie Tennant introduced the fundamentals of health and safety when working with stone, highlighting the very real issue of silicosis whilst demonstrating personal protective equipment which ranged from simple face masks to something which would not have looked out of place on the set of Star Wars. Maggie was ably assisted by the apprentice stonemasons, who answered questions from the floor.

Jordan Kirk, stonemason and training supervisor at the workshop, then demonstrated some key masonry skills before inviting attendees to try their hand with a chisel and mallet. It was great to see attendees getting stuck in; one or two had a real flair for the task at hand! Huge thanks to Jordan, Maggie and the apprentices for this valuable opportunity.

After the dust had settled, EWH’s own Fiona MacDonald summarised the day by putting stone conservation into practice, highlighting some of the 1 500 projects (undertaken since 1970) that EWH has grant-aided that successfully demonstrate stone conservation best practice.

Jordan Kirk

Feedback from the event was overwhelmingly positive, with all respondents stating the event met or exceeded their main learning development goals. 94% of respondents found the event good value for money, and 100% expressed interest in attending our next sessions. Euan Whitmore of Assist Design commented, “It was a great opportunity to gain advice, knowledge and experience the passion for the continual conservation and preservation of our Edinburgh World Heritage Site. The event offered a comprehensive and complete presentation of all aspects of stone conservation and it was great to see the young trainees of St Mary’s Cathedral Workshop still producing high quality stone repairs and masonry.”

Some excellent links have been created as a result of the event. Bob Heath’s impressive stone collection, which was mentioned in Fiona MacDonald’s talk, has found a home at St Mary’s, where it will continue to inform and inspire the next generation of stone masons.

RIAS was so impressed by the programme that they have approached Maggie Tennant to contribute to their Practice Information regarding stone health and safety.

The apprentices who took part in the event have been invited to visit one of Hutton Stone’s quarries by Marcus Paine in order to continue their on-site learning. Marcus said, “I was very happy to be involved in this event, which seemed to have gathered a very positive-minded group of people. I will be delighted to welcome the apprentices from St Mary’s when they come to visit Hutton Stone.”

Marcus Paine

Conservation architect Fiona MacDonald said: “This stonework CPD built on the innovative work first carried out in 2003, when we hosted a seminar on stone selection, based on the research conducted by EWH and the British Geological Survey. This research was published by Historic Scotland and reinforced the fact that it is essential to carry out stone analyses and selection before starting any building repair project, to ensure the best stone match possible. Today’s event highlighted the fact that 15 years later, we now have a greater understanding of this complex subject and can make better decisions about the most appropriate stones for building repair.”

EWH’s training events happen thanks to the international programme, with funding from the Pilgrim Trust to ensure their delivery. The international programme about bringing knowledge, resources and good practices to Edinburgh while sharing our own experience with international partners. Future CPD events in the pipeline include a (sadly, now very timely) look at fire management in heritage buildings, and maintenance and upkeep of heritage assets. Watch this space for updates on these events.

Want to continue learning about stone? For further reading, we have a few copies of ‘Building Stones of Edinburgh’ (McMillan, Gillanders and Fairhurst, 1999) available free of charge to anyone interested. Drop me an email to arrange collection.