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Guardian article (PDF Document)

Medieval Masons' Marks 

Santiago de Compostela

URSS Project 2011 - The construction of the Cistercian Church at Pontigny, c. 1130-1150

URSS Project 2012 - Kirby Hall, the construction of an Elizabethan Great House

URSS Project 2013 - The Corpus of Romanesque Sculpture in Britain and Ireland, Leicestershire

URSS Project 2014 - The Corpus of Romanesque Sculpture in Britain and Ireland, Derbyshire

URSS Project 2016i - The Lichfield Cathedral Stone Collection Catalogue Revision

URSS Project 2016ii - 17th- and 18th-century Stonemasons' Wills in The National Archive

URSS Project 2016iii - A Stonemasons' Firm in mid-Wales in the 19th and 20th centuries: the evidence from the firm's workbooks

URSS Project 2018i - Sculptors of the High Seas: carvers in wood working for the Admiralty in the 18th century

URSS Project 2018ii - The Lichfield Cathedral Stone Collection Catalogue Revision part 2

URSS Project 2019 - The Stained Glass of Rugby School Chapel

Research Interests

My research is concerned with the architectural history of the great churches and cathedrals of the medieval period, and with the ways in which those buildings were constructed and used. I am interested in how the medieval, and early-modern construction industry was organised, how masons were trained, how buildings were designed and how the materials used were chosen, supplied, and worked. I have published a number of studies of individual buildings, as well as papers on building materials, and on aspects of medieval design and construction including masons' marks. Part of my work at present is on the changes that occurred in site organisation during the emergence of the architect, as opposed to the master-mason, in the early-modern period. I am also interested in the way in which the intended use of a building, whether as a centre for pilgrimage, the setting for a shrine, or as a statement of power, influences both its design and layout.

Most of my work has been based on a detailed study of the fabric of medieval and early-modern buildings, a form of buildings archaeology, to determine the ways in which those buildings have been constructed. I have been working on buildings from the 13th century in this country, particularly those of the East Midlands, and more recently have been looking at 11th and 12th-century major churches in France and Spain. I have also extended this study to the early-modern period and have been working with English Heritage on Apethorpe Hall and Kirby Hall in Northamptonshire, for which I adapted and further developed the recording methodologies that I had previously used on medieval buildings. I am now extending this type of study to other country houses in the Midlands.

I am working on a book, Stonemasons' Marks on Buildings in Britain which examines the use of ciphers placed on the individual stone blocks as a means of communication within the building industry over time, deriving the information from a detailed study of buildings in which these marks can be found. It offers an analysis of the different mechanisms in use and their variation according to the purpose intended, and it seeks to move the debate away from a search for meaning within these marks to an appraisal of their role, acting outside literacy, as a means of communication within a limited group.

Recent Invited Lectures

November 2021 Lord Burghley's 500th Anniversary Lecture Series, 'Symbols, Secrets and Stonemasonry: New Insights on the Roman Stair at Burghley'.

September 2021 Conference, Southwell Minster, 'Constructing Southwell Minster's Chapter House: The Evidence of the Masons' Marks.

January 2020 Conference, Vernacular Architecture Group, 'Stonemasons' Marks and their Role in Building Construction'.

October 2019 Symposium, Eleanor of Castile and the Northampton Cross, 'Building the Eleanor Crosses'.

July 2019 Leeds IMC, 'Stonemasons' Marks'.

July 2019 Colloquium, All Things Stone, 'Melbourne Church, Derbyshire'.

December 2018 Southwell Community Archaeology Group, 'Masons' Marks and Graffiti'.

October 2018 CBA Regional Group Meeting, 'St Guthlac and Crowland Abbey'.

November 2017 Cambridge Medieval Art Seminar Series, 'Ciphers on Walls, are these Apotropaic?'

January 2017 Derbyshire Archaeological Society Memorial Lecture,'From Cathedrals to Country Houses. How Did Stonemasons Cope in the Early-Modern Period?'



Kirby Hall