Mr B's review
A working man’s personal history of an ancient craft from a stonemason whose career highlights reel includes repairing Thomas Gainsborough’s tomb and the Roman Baths. A celebration of Jurassic coast stone, working with your hands, mastering a skill and Britain’s historic built landscape.
A stonemason’s story of the building of Britain: part archaeological history, part deeply personal insight into an ancient craft.
In his thirty-year career, stonemason Andrew Ziminski has worked on many of our greatest monuments. From Neolithic monoliths to Roman baths and temples, from the tower of Salisbury Cathedral to the engine houses, mills and aqueducts of the Industrial Revolution and beyond, The Stonemason is his very personal history of how Britain was built – from the inside out. Stone by different stone, culture by different culture, Andrew Ziminski (with his faithful whippet in tow) takes us on an unforgettable journey by river, road and sea through our countryside showing how the making of Britain’s buildings offers an unexpected and new version of our island story.
‘My school history lessons were focused around flat pages of facts, events and royal personalities, but for me it was the material aspects of the past, the tangible remnants left behind that were thrilling, and that it was these buildings and places, and learning how they worked, that really brought the past alive.’
Enthralling . . . Along with riveting personal insights into this ancient craft, he immerses us in the past lives of the long-forgotten everyday craftspeople whose legacy is the buildings we so treasure today * Bookseller * Lyrical as much as it is factual and quickly grips the reader * The Langport Leveller * In this delightful book about the places he’s worked (from Wells Cathedral to Bath’s Roman ruins) [Ziminski] reconnects us to our past * Daily Telegraph * [A] surrogate travel book, part memoir, part history, in which Andrew Ziminski describes his career as an itinerant craftsman. Refreshingly, he too recognizes how Eastern skills and styles arrived in Europe * Times Literary Supplement * This is a compelling book: part travel journal – paddling along misty streams in the South-West by canoe – part builder’s manual – you learn about formwork and lateral thrust – and part hymn to the art of sustaining stone structures over centuries . . . it is rooted in the making of England and is a magical read * Evening Standard * Most of us won’t be jetting off to foreign adventures in the next few weeks, so there has probably never been a better time to discover or rediscover this magical land * The Times * There are few reading pleasures that compare with a passionate expert describing their work, and Ziminski stands proudly in this field . . . Remarkable . . . Ziminski weaves together architecture, craft, landscape, archaeology and natural history, all the time keeping a sharp eye on modern everyday life around him * Literary Review * A wonderful behind-the-scenes history, where time works on a different scale and stone is a living, breathing entity . . . by a master craftsman whose expertise connects him to the generations that came before him * BBC Countryfile Magazine * Thoughtful, observant and well-informed, as much at ease with words and emotions as with the stone he works with * History Today * Like nurses, masons must know in detail about the lives of the buildings they care for. This intimate knowledge has given Andrew Ziminski unique insights into some of England’s oldest and most beautiful structures. But this book is as much about people as mortar and stone. It’s a conversation with the past, from which I learnt so much. My book of the year! * Francis Pryor, Time Team archaeologist and author of THE MAKING OF THE BRITISH LANDSCAPE * The author’s eagerness to experience the past physically sets him apart from drier academic historians . . . Ziminski’s writing is vividly evocative and craftsmanlike . . . it’s a fascinating book and a wise one * Daily Mail * Andrew Ziminski is the man who rebuilt the West Country. For 30 years, this skilled stonemason has renovated some of Britain’s greatest buildings . . . The author skilfully explains the history of these stones and – this is what makes his book so entertaining – relates them to jobs he has done . . . Ziminski is one of those lucky souls with rural X-ray spectacles. He looks at the countryside and sees a series of historical slides going back over several millennia . . . Ziminski has a wonderful way of describing the look and feel of stone . . . What a magician! * The Spectator * In attempting to reconnect us to this continuous narrative of English history and architecture, Ziminski is undertaking something more profound than the charm of this delightful book first suggests. Delicate as the threads that tie us to the past can seem, thanks to work like Ziminski’s, both as mason and as author, we can hope they will remain unbroken * Daily Telegraph * The author is a beguiling companion to the very bones of the Wessex landscape . . . I hope he has plenty left from his notebooks for another volume * Sunday Telegraph *
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