Stonemasonry College Apprentice Wins Masonry Skills Competition

Posted by: Stone Federation Great Britain

Thomas Whitehead is proving to be unbeatable when it comes to masonry skills competitions.

Last year, just one month after starting an apprenticeship with Albion Stone Plc at Portland, Thomas won the UK Masonry Skills Challenge organised by Stone Federation Great Britain.

Now he has followed that success with victory in the 2011 competition, after first topping the English heats in May.

Bristol-born Thomas Whitehead (20) studied for an arts foundation diploma at Filton College and it was there that a lecturer noted his skill in carving and suggested stonemasonry as a career. He admitted “I can execute against a plan, but can’t come up with the ideas so working to a drawing – which is what we do in the competition – is perfect for me.”

The competition is open to teams of three apprentices from UK stonemasonry colleges and apprentices from nine colleges in England, Scotland and Wales took part in this year’s competition.

Competitors had to complete a specific project in an agreed time. They were given a drawing, a piece of Portland Stone and the materials necessary for making moulds and templates. The stone then had to be worked with a traditional mallet and chisel and no mechanical tools were allowed.

This year the event was in two heats with the English heat being held at the City of Bath College on May 18. The Scottish/Irish/Welsh heat was held at Edinburgh and Telford College on June 7.

Thomas represented Albion Stone Plc and Weymouth College and in the final beat Rupert Davies of the Building Crafts College into second place. Third place was shared between Edward Shaw of Cathedral Works Organisation and Weymouth College and David Bean, of Farleigh Masonry Limited and the City of Bath College.

The success of Whitehead and Shaw, supported by team mate Ian Chalmers, helped Weymouth College win the overall team award and they will be presented with the Peter Ellis.

Moulton College, winner of last year’s team award, were runners up with their team of Levi Bavester, Jonny Rayfield and Mark Manby. Elgin Stonemasonry Unit were third overall with a team of Michael McCaffrey, Colin Taylor and John Reid.

The combined Scottish, Irish and Welsh heat was won by Michael McCaffrey from Historic Scotland and Elgin Training Unit with Colin Taylor finishing runner up. Colin was also representing Historic Scotland and Elgin Training unit. Peter Anderson from Urquhart Stonemasonry and Edinburgh’s Telford College was third.

Stone Federation Chief Executive Jane Buxey commented: “Once again our apprentices have demonstrated a talent and level of expertise that bodes well for the future of the industry.

“This reflects well on the companies that employ them and the excellence of the teaching standards in UK colleges.”

The competition sponsors were Recclesia Ltd, PAYE Stonework and Restoration Ltd, Vaudin Stonemasons Ltd, Burlington Slate, Stonewest Ltd, Halfen Ltd, Stone Restoration Services Ltd, Laing Stonecraft and Priestman and Associates Consultancy.

The top individual competitors qualified to enter Britain’s biggest skills competition, Skillbuild, which takes place at the Leeds College of Building on 14-16 September 2011.

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Information Updated on: 15 June 2011