Keeping alive traditional lettercutting skills at Moulton College.
As the new academic year approaches, Emma Dexter, who now lectures in stonemasonry at Moulton College, Northamptonshire, would like to point out that the college has secured £50,000 funding from Wellingborough Council's Heritage Lottery Fund allocation towards lettercutting and carving courses. The money includes funding of £100 towards tools for each of the students, £500-a-year to help mature students and up to £500-a-year for apprentices to go on specialist courses.
The economic downturn has seen the number of skilled workers fall across the UK and with large projects such as the refurbishment of the Houses of Parliament coming on stream, there is a danger there will not be the skills available to meet demand.
Emma said: “We hope these bursaries will encourage interest and open up opportunities for a diverse range of students.”
The funding is part of a wider project called the Wellingborough Townscape Initiative. John Udall, Project Manager, explains: “This project is designed to protect and promote the historic assets of Wellingborough town centre and is supported by £1.4million of Heritage Lottery Funding. In addition to the training grants we are looking at shop front improvements, building grants and heritage trail improvements.”
There are bursaries of up to £500 to help pay for full-time or part-time courses in stonemasonry and carpentry for those aged 19 years or over. Those wishing to find out more should visit www.moulton.ac.uk/craftsmanshipbursary.
The lettering and carving courses aim to give students an opportunity to widen their trade-related skillset and support their future employability. The courses teach traditional lettercutting methods, where students find out about:
- Sourcing inspiration-based research on alphabet and font variations
- Preparation of surfaces of stone with a clay mixture, enabling the practitioner to fill the letters in with paint once cut
- Philosophy of letter spacing
- Setting-out letters directly on to the stone
- Lettercutting methods
- Painting in the letters with metallic gold or black paint
- Washing off the clay mixture, revealing the completed painted letter-cut calligraphy in stone
The national focus and funding is currently aimed at stone restoration, requiring traditional skills to be applied to National Heritage architectural buildings throughout the country. It is essential to train people with authentic skillsets of the highest quality in order to preserve historical period features on landmark buildings, such as stone plaques, gargoyles and grotesques, stone sculptures and a vast array of ornamental masonry.
Moulton College is one of the few stonemasonry training colleges in England. Emma says the lettercutting and carving courses, funded by the Wellingborough Council Heritage Lottery Fund, are of such importance to its students’ practical development within the trade dynamic.