I am an award-winning, apprentice-trained bricklayer. I served that apprenticeship within the family business. They were general builders undertaking most of the tasks that any rural building firm would be expected to be competent in. After Grandfather died I worked on larger sites, which I also enjoyed, and it was during that period that I became interested in further education. Moving through the night school system, I eventually undertook a Combined Degree at Newcastle University, focussing on archaeology. Archaeology has taught me how and where to look for evidence of building materials and practice, and how to combine that information with creative hand skills. I followed my degree from Newcastle with a Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings Fellowship, a Masters Degree in Building Conservation at the Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies at York University, and hope to start a PhD in the very near future.
There can be many factors that contribute to a career highlight: the size of a project and its profile are always worth considering. Therefore my work at Stirling Castle, Kilcoe Castle and Lindisfarne Castle all have to be contenders. Completing the work on 27 Gordon’s Lane, Cromarty, where I repaired the existing cottage completely with lime and clay, and built the extension using only high calcium lime, is also something I remain proud of, particularly when at that time there was little interest in lime and clay. Perhaps my first post-and-beam timber building should be included in there: a real change of direction and one that I continue to celebrate and practice, creating practical but beautiful buildings. But the biggest recent change has been learning to letter cut in stone: cutting stones for my mother and my father-in-law (who both died in 2015) has been really satisfying and cathartic.
I place special emphasis on training in all aspects of my work. I take pride in the fact that many people at the cutting edge of building conservation today have been trained by me, and I take particular satisfaction in the teaching I have delivered at the Prince of Wales School of Architecture.
In essence, I am in the mould of the eighteenth century country builder who understands the building process from top to toe. I make lovely things from first principles, but am not afraid to look forward and build new to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. I care about texture, light management and scale; taking those elements of the past that are timeless and great, and intelligently shaping the work I undertake today.