Carvings for the Queen
Stonemason Daniel Meek has come far since achieving his qualification - and is now cutting a plaque for the Queen's Summer House
11 December 2013
At 16, Daniel Meek had been restoring an old farmhouse in West Cork, Ireland, with his uncle for a year when he decided to embark on a career in the craft of stonemasonry. ‘I was totally hooked. I’d developed a passion for stonemasonry, so I came straight back to England and found a City & Guilds stonemasonry course.’
After completing his City & Guilds qualification in Practical Stonemasonry at Bath Technical College in 1992, Daniel quickly became a member of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s stonemasonry team, restoring First and Second World War monuments across the UK. He also worked for a stonemasonry firm in Norwich on architectural restoration projects, including those at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, Norwich Cathedral and many of the Cambridge colleges.
This year Daniel was awarded the prestigious task of cutting the plaque at the Queen’s Summer House to commemorate the Coronation Festival thanks to his work with the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST). He became a QEST scholar in 2009 after approaching the body for funding to do a letter-cutting course. The scholarship meant Daniel received one-to-one tuition in relief carving, letter cutting and design from Teucer Wilson, one of Britain’s most distinguished designers and letter carvers.
‘Daniel was passionate about stone but was equally determined that he could improve his letter carving and wanted to learn alongside a master,’ says Nick Farrow, Chairman of QEST.
‘He came to us with a body of outstanding work and his determination shone through at his interview. The trustees could see that investing in Daniel would benefit the craft industry.’
Daniel used plugs and feathers – the traditional method of splitting stone – to remove the smaller piece from a three-tonne Woodkirk York stone boulder that eventually became the permanent marker of July’s celebrations at the Summer House. Over a few days he then shaped the stone and set out his design, which incorporates a unique flourished copperplate style of lettering, before cutting the letters by hand.
Although he’s a master craftsman now, he says it wouldn’t have been possible without understanding the basics.
‘Looking back, doing the City & Guilds qualification was brilliant,’ Daniel says. ‘It was a really good taster of the industry. The course armed me with the skills I needed to go on and learn and develop more on the job.’