In The Stonemason: A History of Building Britain, Andrew Ziminski takes us on a history of building in Britain, beginning with our Neolithic ancestors through to our modern age. A large feat considering the book is less than 300 pages, however, Ziminski does it with ease and enthusiasm which takes the reader on a journey across parts of the UK that reflects his 30-year career as a stonemason working on some of the country’s most iconic buildings.
One of the joys in reading such books is the passion and enthusiasm in which they are written, and The Stonemason is certainly no exception and I especially love any book that uses the word crenellations! With a career taking him across the world in some cases Ziminski’s narrative on the subject of how our little island has been influenced in architectural style to create some of the most well-known buildings in the world, from West Kennet Long Barrow, through to St Paul’s Cathedral to more modern structures such as Bath’s Royal Crescent, taking us along the waterways that carry much of the stone which would have used by masons throughout time.
Travelling to various jobs we join Ziminski as he travels to a variety of churches, castles and manor houses, not only admiring the buttresses and crenellations but explaining with almost childlike joy how his skills are used to repair the structure and preserve it for the generations to come to admire a skill that we’ve all but left behind. Ziminski takes us on a tour of building the landscape around us to the country we recognise today and bypass the art and craftsmanship which made this iconic landscape from the days of megalithic Sarsens to our modern use of concrete to create an “artificial stone”.
In The Stonemason: A History of Building Britain Andrew Ziminski entwines the landscape and architecture, the art and craft, the archaeology and history of the building of Britain into a singular thread that wraps the reader into the tranquillity of the landscape of the very world we’ve created.
• The Stonemason: A History of Building Britain by Andrew Ziminski is published by John Murray Press (£20.00). To order a copy go to www.johnmurraypress.co.uk