Re-carving our Earliest Works of Art–‘as new’!

David Lindsay and Richad Groom of Stoneworks were commissioned by the Kirkmichael Trust, with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, to examine two worn and broken medieval stones in Cullicudden and re-create them – as they were when new more than 600 years ago! Over the next few weeks, on this page, they will describe in their own words this challenging but exciting process, from their first arrival in Cullicudden to record the original stones to the mounting of the newly-carved stones in the refurbished nave at Kirkmichael.


The stone-carvers describe their commission

The carving of reproductions of two medieval stones ‘as-new’, what a great opportunity! So how to go about it?

The first step was to take as much information as we could from the existing stones. Although they are worn and have been reused, there is still a lot of information. Photographs, measurements and taking profiles is where we began. Our information, together with existing data previously gathered by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), now part of Historic Environment Scotland, was used. Despite the fact that there is a reasonable amount of data, there is still some speculation as to what both stones looked like when they were originally cut.

David Lindsay and Richard Groom keeping warm on a bitter day at Cullicudden, with the hills of Easter Ross behind

Richard and David study Cullicudden H

Profiling the pattern; the stones did not need to be excavated as they had been recently exposed for a photographic survey by Historic Environment Scotland

The next step was to produce a few drawings providing a variety of options. The identification system originally used for these stones by RCAHMS back in the 1980s simply identifies these two wonderful stones as “Cullicudden F” and “Cullicudden H”.

For Cullicudden F there is enough information for a two dimensional plan. The overall dimensions are fairly clear within a few millimetres and alterations made when the stone was reused could readily be ignored. Therefore variations between differing options were not great and mostly confined to detail.

As Cullicudden H is broken at the base there was a greater amount of speculation. A stepped calvary base was agreed on to have parity with Cullicudden F. These are the two agreed final drawings. Details are simplified, greater definition will materialise during the carving process.

Cullicudden F on the left; Cullicudden H on the right

The next step was to decide on a stone type. Originally stone was quarried locally and until around 100 years ago there were hundreds of small local quarries throughout the country, natural stone being transported the short distances to site by horse and cart – a model for sustainable building today? The stone originally used for Cullicudden F and H is a red, fine sandstone. In the parish of Resolis, between Castle Craig and Alness Ferry, the spoil heaps of no less than five sandstone quarries can be found beside the Cromarty Firth. Now, however, there are only a handful of quarries for dimensional stone across the whole country. After comparison of samples with the original, Saint Bees, a red sandstone with a fine grain quarried in Cumbria, was chosen as the best available match. The stone was provided by Tradstocks Natural Stone Suppliers.

A large quarried block known as a random is slabbed to the required thickness on a diamond tipped steel saw, and then the slabs are secondarily sawn to the required dimensions.

Next step is where it starts to get really exciting – we begin the carving process by hand. Watch this space for regular progress updates!

If you have any questions for David or Richard, contact us by emailing or through Facebook at www.facebook/kirkmichael or simply click our direct email here.

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