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Why Norwich's historic stonemasons guild disappeared from St Clement's Church

Stonemasons at St Clement's Church in Colegate, Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams

Stonemasons at St Clement's Church in Colegate, Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams

Copyright Archant Norfolk 2015

Apprentice stonemasons from a historic Norwich guild were forced to leave their lodge following the collapse of its trading company.

Stonemasons at St Clement's Church in Colegate, Norwich. Photo: Steve AdamsStonemasons at St Clement's Church in Colegate, Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams

The Stonemasons' Guild of St Stephen and St George was based at St Clement's Church on Colegate, but had to leave in October 2018.

Now, many of the guild's apprentices are having to continue their training elsewhere in England.

It comes after the guild's trading arm, Gildencraft Stone Masonry CIC, which was set up to recruit and support young apprentices, suddenly closed last year.

Frances Elston, who has been an apprentice for three years, said: "It [leaving the lodge] was something we didn't have any awareness or knowledge of. It was a sudden thing and not part of the master plan, put it that way.

Dr Carole Hill and Colin Howey of the Stonemasons Guild which resurrected a 400 year-year-old tradition of performing mystery plays on streets of Norwich. 
PHOTO: SIMON FINLAYDr Carole Hill and Colin Howey of the Stonemasons Guild which resurrected a 400 year-year-old tradition of performing mystery plays on streets of Norwich. PHOTO: SIMON FINLAY

"But it has not affected the guild or the training of apprentices.

"It is unfortunate that it [Gildencraft] never achieved its vision."

Miss Elston stressed that while Gildencraft had closed, the guild itself is still running.

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According to Companies House, the company was officially dissolved on May 28 this year.

Gildencraft was founded in 2015 with the aim of recruiting 80 young people - including those from "hard to reach" backgrounds - over the next 10 years.

Miss Elston said one of the aims of Gildencraft was to also provide apprentices with commercial experience.

She said: "The apprentices don't pay for training, but they have to support themselves.

"Until they get commercial experience, they are not able to support themselves and so the idea was to have this connected business."

She said many of the apprentices are now working in Gloucestershire, but claimed it is common for stonemasons to travel for work.

The former directors of Gildencraft have been contacted for comment, but did not respond.

Neil Blunt, chairman of the Norwich Historic Churches Trust, said: "Sadly, on October 10, 2018, the trust received written notice that financial difficulties had caused Gildencraft Stone Masonry CIC to close and that they would be leaving their lodge and training centre at St Clement's Church. They vacated the church shortly afterwards.

"The trust has been pleased to provide a base for the stonemasons during their time in the city and were sorry that the opportunity to train young people in much needed traditional skills would no longer continue from there."

- Email luke.powell@archant.co.uk if you have more information.



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