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The history and preservation of stone carving

Former Building Craft student and now tutor Christian Accolla shares the heritage of stone carving and its modern-day uses

Where did you study?

I was fortunate, as part of my stonemason's course at Bath College to do a 10-week placement at Woodchester Mansion, Gloucester.

Our tutor, Jonny Anderson, was a hugely inspirational person. His knowledge and enthusiasm opened my eyes to the world of Stone Masonry. He is also a tutor and assessor for The Prince's Foundation, and he told me all about The Building Craft Apprenticeship. He sparked my interest, and after some investigation, I decided to apply.

I only had a couple of weeks to get my portfolio and application together. I worked like a man possessed to get things done in time. It paid off and I was accepted onto the programme in 2016.

It was the beginning of what has been a fantastic journey, I have learned so much; a truly life-changing experience! On completion of the Building Craft Apprenticeship, I knew I wanted to have an ongoing relationship with The Prince's Foundation.

Man stone carving

How is stone carving used in the modern world?

Stone carving has many avenues in the modern world. In the industry, it is used in the repair, conservation and replacement of embellishments of our heritage buildings.

The same skills and practices used today are the same as they were when they were first created. That fact alone always amazes and inspires me. How many other modern trades still use skills and tools in the same way for 1000's of years?

But there is also an avenue for art, sculpture and as a form of meditative healing. In a world where everything seems to be so busy, it's a brilliant way to unwind and de-stress.

Woman stone carving

What has been your most challenging project?

I have been fortunate enough to be involved in some amazing projects, not least The Goose Hoose or Live Build on the Dumfries House Estate. But since completing the Building Craft Apprenticeship, two projects stick in my mind: the reinstatement of The Temple of Bacchus on The Painshill Estate and the Lady's Well project on The Dumfries House Estate.

The reinstatement of The Temple of Bacchus on The Painshill Estate wasn't traditional stonework. But being involved throughout the build and to finally see it in all its glory was a massive achievement. It's something I wouldn't have imagined on my first day at college and would not have been possible without the help of The Prince's Foundation.

The other project that sticks in my mind, for so many reasons, is The Lady's Well project on The Dumfries House Estate. I first learnt about it while I was doing my Building Craft Apprenticeship and was adamant I would be part of it.

Working on the Estate is an amazing experience; the knowledge and skills of the locals on the Estate is second to none. I learnt so much in such a short space of time. All the people that work at Dumfries House are amazing.

I love its place in the world and always enjoy being there. But to stand back and see a part of your legacy is truly incredible. The Lady's Well will still be there when I'm gone, that's part of what I love about working with stone; it's permanence.

Person stone carving

What's especially exciting about working with The Prince's Foundation?

The people, without a doubt. From my first contact with The Prince's Foundation, ongoing to date, the people have always made it what it is. The Prince's Foundation can attract some truly passionate, enthusiastic and highly skilled individuals. Their passion for all heritage crafts, the arts, the environment, and so much more drags you in and empowers you to achieve more than you ever thought possible. I have received nothing but encouragement on every step of my journey to date. I have met, had a chance to work alongside, learned from and eventually have had the honour of calling some of them close friends. It has been life-changing.

The Prince's Foundation also represents so much of what I believe in. Its approach to preserving and promoting traditional skills, heritage buildings and encouraging the next generation is exceptional. There is also a deeper, more spiritual, concept that is being achieved for the greater good. For us humans and the planet as a whole. It's good for us, good for the planet and good for your soul!

I'm still on my journey, and I'm still as excited now, as I was when I first got accepted on to the Building Craft Apprenticeship. I can't see a future that doesn't involve the Prince's Foundation. I hope that I can continue to grow and help the Prince's Foundation achieve its vision for the future.

Man stone carving

Words: Corinna Cunningham

Images: Rebecca Parker