This hand carved limestone fire surround had it’s design taken from one found in a 18th century house in London WC2
Hand carved Bath stone Woburn fire surround
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The fire surround shown has been made from Bath stone but can be made from any suitable marble, limestone, sandstone or slate.
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Using traditional skills and tool Stephen Critchley and his team hand carved works of art from solid stone and marble.
Entering his workshop you feel transported from the 21st century back to a time when master masons were looked up to in society. On shelves around the benches lay mallets made from various woods and metals and chisels of many shapes and sizes with ancient names such as quirk, drove and pitcher. The bench used is called a banker derived from “banc” an archaic Anglo Norman word meaning bench, at the back of the workshop blocks of limestone and sandstone from across Britain and Europe stand with slabs of Italian, French and Greek marble. “ We use the best materials from across the world, the same marble MichelAngelo worked in, the same stone Henry Moore used, just the best available.”
Along with his team, all of which he has personally trained, he produces fire surrounds, garden ornaments and architectural pieces. Creating carved work for more than 30 years, Stephen has produced pieces for Woburn Abbey and the Sultan of Brunei’s house in Knightsbridge as well as for leading designers and members of the public across the world. “British craftsmanship is admired all across the world apart from actually in Britain.”
Today he reveals, the final pieces of a Portland stone fountain and a Regency style statuary Carrara marble chimney piece are being finished.
The signature style of his work is the attention taken to the proportion of the piece “Correct proportions are more important now as we are generally living in smaller rooms, when designing a fire surround for instance it is important to know which side the light falls from and from what direction is it mainly seen. We use ocular rectification and other visual techniques as used since the time of the ancient Greeks”
“I’ve always worked with stone and marble” explains Stephen “ I was very lucky to start when full length apprenticeships were still available and there were still many companies with expertise about to learn from. The company I served my apprenticeship with could trace their origins backs to 1690’s Aldgate in London.
“We carry on the tradition of the great London companies of craftsmen such as F. G. Anstey, John Daymond, Gilbert Searle, William Aumonier and Falmer & Brindley.” explains Stephen.
He is passionate about his craft and it’s infectious. Today I have had an insight into his world and glimpsed the pride he and his team have in their work.