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Thread: Can you trace a stone mason?

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    Can you trace a stone mason?

    I know there have been stone masons in my family (Herefordshire/Wales) for at least a few generations certainly back to the 1850's (William Howells Herefordshire, great uncle) possibly a lot earlier. My grandfather Heywood Howells and his brother worked on the restoration of Patricio Church, Near Abergavenny in the early 1900's. My great grandfather is buried there beneath the Yew tree in front of the entrance.
    I would have thought there would be guild or apprenticeship records of some sort but I haven't found anything on line. Any ideas or suggestions please?


    Patricio.jpg
    Last edited by JohnHowellsTyrfro; 12-06-2017 at 05:47 PM. Reason: afterthought

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    I haven't found any source of apprenticeship records for my Welsh stone mason ancestors or any similar craftsmen. My best results have been from wills (searching for "mason" has turned up some family wills back to 1800). Trade directories and local newspapers have been most useful in the 19th century. My stone masons were innkeepers too and they could be traced in the local land records.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Phoebe Watts View Post
    I haven't found any source of apprenticeship records for my Welsh stone mason ancestors or any similar craftsmen. My best results have been from wills (searching for "mason" has turned up some family wills back to 1800). Trade directories and local newspapers have been most useful in the 19th century. My stone masons were innkeepers too and they could be traced in the local land records.
    Yes I found William Howells in a Herefordshire Trade Directory for the 1800's, no Wills I don't think.
    I think my lot were farmers also, William's father was a farmer. I'm told at that time "mason" could mean anything from a general builder to a skilled stone carver. My grandfather was a monumental mason.
    Last edited by JohnHowellsTyrfro; 12-06-2017 at 05:54 PM.

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    Yes, a handful of ancestors on both sides of the family. I believe some of them were also Freemasons.
    YDNA: R1b-Z220 (A7066+) (1800's Stepney, London(Bethnal Green), UK George Wood b. 1782
    maternal-grandfather YDNA: ? Gurr, George 1843, Feversham, Kent, England.
    maternal-grandmother YDNA: ? Beech, John Richard b. 1780, Lewes, England
    maternal-ggrandfather YDNA R1b-U106 Thomas, Edward b 1854, Sittingbourne, Kent
    paternal-ggf YDNA: R1b-L48. Gould, John Somerset England 1800s.
    paternal-ggf YDNA: R1b-L48. Scott, William Hamilton mdka Ireland(?) < 1800s

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    Quote Originally Posted by ADW_1981 View Post
    Yes, a handful of ancestors on both sides of the family. I believe some of them were also Freemasons.
    I understand from an American branch of the family (also a stone mason originally) that they were connected to the Freemasons. I don't know if that is true of my UK ancestors.

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    As well as wills and directories, I have found mention of stone masons (and some carpenters) in strange places.
    Obituaries in local newspapers can often be useful.
    Local newspapers sometimes mentioned public and commercial buildings (including pubs) and the major tradesmen who worked on them - at the time they were being built and completed.
    Some later had architectural reviews of buildings (and this was in C19) or the works of major tradesmen.
    Council and public buildings involve contracts. There is often mention in newspapers (or the Gazette for Australian states) of who was awarded the contract, or it can appear in Parliamentary Papers and Reports.
    Council histories (sometimes mirrored in local newspapers for centenaries and the like), often record architects, builders or stone masons.
    Many churches were built or re-furbished in C19 in England.
    In Australia also, where church histories often provide more detail about major craftsmen.

    If you can get to inspect their work in detail you may be able to find their mason's mark on at least one stone on each job.
    But they are not always there, and can be in chimney works or tucked away in places not easy to see once the building is completed.
    Check local historians for the local custom on this. If may save a lot of inspection time.

    The other thing I found is that some stone masons in Australia doubled as monumentary stone masons: they cut or inscribed gravestones. That usually stopped around the late 1800s when this became a specialised task.

    Overall, the only systematic appearances are directories. And censuses.
    Everything else is chancy and sometimes fragmentary.
    But I have been lucky in finding scraps in many places.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Saetro View Post
    As well as wills and directories, I have found mention of stone masons (and some carpenters) in strange places.
    Obituaries in local newspapers can often be useful.
    Local newspapers sometimes mentioned public and commercial buildings (including pubs) and the major tradesmen who worked on them - at the time they were being built and completed.
    Some later had architectural reviews of buildings (and this was in C19) or the works of major tradesmen.
    Council and public buildings involve contracts. There is often mention in newspapers (or the Gazette for Australian states) of who was awarded the contract, or it can appear in Parliamentary Papers and Reports.
    Council histories (sometimes mirrored in local newspapers for centenaries and the like), often record architects, builders or stone masons.
    Many churches were built or re-furbished in C19 in England.
    In Australia also, where church histories often provide more detail about major craftsmen.

    If you can get to inspect their work in detail you may be able to find their mason's mark on at least one stone on each job.
    But they are not always there, and can be in chimney works or tucked away in places not easy to see once the building is completed.
    Check local historians for the local custom on this. If may save a lot of inspection time.

    The other thing I found is that some stone masons in Australia doubled as monumentary stone masons: they cut or inscribed gravestones. That usually stopped around the late 1800s when this became a specialised task.

    Overall, the only systematic appearances are directories. And censuses.
    Everything else is chancy and sometimes fragmentary.
    But I have been lucky in finding scraps in many places.
    Thanks for the tips. As I mentioned my grandfather and his brother were involved in a medieval church restoration and I wonder whether they were involved in other such projects. They lived quite close to Dore Abbey Herefordshire which supposedly was supported by the Cecil Family with whom I share an early Y DNA connection (around 1300).
    I've visited the farm where they lived and a number of "practice" pieces were found near the farm house and were built into it during a recent restoration. This is my great grandfather's headstone, carved I believe by one or both of his sons. Where did they learn their craft I wonder?

    patricio 2.jpg

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    [QUOTE=JohnHowellsTyrfro;321604]Thanks for the tips. As I mentioned my grandfather and his brother were involved in a medieval church restoration and I wonder whether they were involved in other such projects. They lived quite close to Dore Abbey Herefordshire which supposedly was supported by the Cecil Family with whom I share an early Y DNA connection (around 1300).
    I've visited the farm where they lived and a number of "practice" pieces were found near the farm house and were built into it during a recent restoration. This is my great grandfather's headstone, carved I believe by one or both of his sons. Where did they learn their craft I wonder?
    QUOTE]

    Wow! Not the rural craftsmen that I had imagined. You are fortunate that your grandfather has an unusual forename. If he is the only one of that name then there is a trail in Welsh newspapers that show he was a monumental mason and sculptor rather than a traditional stone mason. I think I would use the census and newspapers to try to find monumental masons in the area where he lived in the relevant period between about 14 and early 20s. That might well help to trace further back too.

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    [QUOTE=Phoebe Watts;321825]
    Quote Originally Posted by JohnHowellsTyrfro View Post
    Thanks for the tips. As I mentioned my grandfather and his brother were involved in a medieval church restoration and I wonder whether they were involved in other such projects. They lived quite close to Dore Abbey Herefordshire which supposedly was supported by the Cecil Family with whom I share an early Y DNA connection (around 1300).
    I've visited the farm where they lived and a number of "practice" pieces were found near the farm house and were built into it during a recent restoration. This is my great grandfather's headstone, carved I believe by one or both of his sons. Where did they learn their craft I wonder?
    QUOTE]

    Wow! Not the rural craftsmen that I had imagined. You are fortunate that your grandfather has an unusual forename. If he is the only one of that name then there is a trail in Welsh newspapers that show he was a monumental mason and sculptor rather than a traditional stone mason. I think I would use the census and newspapers to try to find monumental masons in the area where he lived in the relevant period between about 14 and early 20s. That might well help to trace further back too.
    Thank you. It is impressive if I say so myself - something you would carve for your own father. I'm guessing it would require a fairly high degree of training?
    I believe my grandfather Heywood worked with or for Robert Price which is now a big Builders' Merchants in the region. They started out in Abergavenny near where my grandfather and his brother lived. They also sold headstones (I've seen an early newspaper advert). They set up a branch in Ebbw Vale sometime in the early 1900's and I think that accounts for my grandfather's move to this area.

    Really if I can I would like to find out something of the craft amongst my earlier ancestors but it seems that won't be easy.

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    /[QUOTE=JohnHowellsTyrfro;321828]
    Quote Originally Posted by Phoebe Watts View Post

    Thank you. It is impressive if I say so myself - something you would carve for your own father. I'm guessing it would require a fairly high degree of training?
    I believe my grandfather Heywood worked with or for Robert Price which is now a big Builders' Merchants in the region. They started out in Abergavenny near where my grandfather and his brother lived. They also sold headstones (I've seen an early newspaper advert). They set up a branch in Ebbw Vale sometime in the early 1900's and I think that accounts for my grandfather's move to this area.

    Really if I can I would like to find out something of the craft amongst my earlier ancestors but it seems that won't be easy.
    That looks well worth looking into. Have you found the references to Heywood Howells of Post Office-row, Newtown, and Bethearear-terrace, both Ebbw Vale, sculptor (in 1895)?

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