October 4 2017
People care increasingly about provenance… and ethically sourced stone has been hitting the headlines recently.
Earlier this month, Habitat and John Lewis withdrew granite worktops from their shop floors over concerns about child labour and slavery. It’s led to companies throughout the UK paying greater attention to their supply chains to ensure that they’re not buying from quarries where working conditions are unsafe and where children form part of the workforce.
We know that natural stone has always been a very popular building material – what’s changing is the widespread attitude towards where it’s sourced.
Most natural stone comes from India or China where prices are cheaper, but the cost of shipping stone halfway round the world, environmentally speaking, is significant.
India in particular is a key exporter of limestone, sandstone and granite but its reputation has suffered as a supplier – the stone industry there isn’t well regulated, can be prone to corruption and has a dubious track record for human rights and child labour.
According to a study published by Dutch non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in August this year, half the granite and 10% of all stone exports in the world come from India, where quarries still have child labour and bonded labour (modern slavery). It’s no secret that conditions in some Indian quarries are very poor.
With child labour very much on the nation’s radar, we wanted to understand the situation a little better so we did some digging. The Ethical Trading Initiative revealed that child labour contributes an estimated 20% of India’s gross national product. Despite the government banning child labour, India still has the largest number of child workers under the age of 14 anywhere in the world with the official estimate at 12.6 million.
So why are children still working in quarries?
This is a complex blend of issues, both sociological and cultural. Some children have to work because their parents’ income isn’t enough to support the family or because there’s a lack of childcare provision or local schools. Sometimes, their parents are bonded labourers, having accepted loans from employers to supplement their wages or to cover medical fees after an accident. Their children inherit the debt, and so the cycle continues.
What can you do?
When you’re buying stone, you have a choice. Some people choose to avoid stone sourced from India altogether, on environmental as well as ethical grounds. Sandstone imported from India is responsible for five times the carbon emissions of sandstone quarried in the UK.
Others prefer to buy natural stone sourced from responsible suppliers that adhere to ethical trading principles.
As we manufacture stone in the UK sourced from our own quarries, you can be absolutely certain of its provenance and quality.
While most of our limestone is sourced from our own quarries, we follow very strict guidelines on how the stone we do import is sourced and manufactured. We’ve just launched our own Stone Charter to underpin our commitment to ethical trading and to set out our company’s mission, vision and values as we celebrate 20 years as a specialist stone supplier.
We believe in giving our customers a choice. Ethically sourced natural stone that we import from carefully chosen partners across two continents or else stone that’s locally quarried so you can be absolutely certain of its provenance and quality.
For more information about how we run our quarries and source our stone, please get in touch on 01780 740970.
October 2 2017
Whenever we embark on a new contract with a client, we sometimes find that the brief throws up a challenge or two.
We recently returned to Cambridge after being asked by the University to provide our Clipsham limestone for the renovation of the famous gatehouse entrance to King’s College.
Our task was to turn a window into a doorway in the old porter’s lodge, which is now used as offices. To do this we created a replica of an existing ornately-moulded, Tudor-style doorway to the lodge, and installed it a few metres away from the original.
However, because the college is such a hub for tourism, and the gatehouse is used as the main entrance from King’s Parade, our fixers couldn’t install the doorway during the day because of the potential disruption it would cause.
Not one to back away from a challenge, our team of fixers from Muxlow & Son returned to the college at 2am under the cover of darkness, when all was closed, to complete the installation.
This involved fitting the extremely heavy stone frame into the wall, while supporting the gatehouse’s impressive vaulted ceiling.
It was hard work, but our star team rose to the challenge. We’re more than happy to go that extra mile, and it’s always worth it to see the finished result.
Click image to view next in slideshow.
September 28 2017
When a vision becomes reality: the stunning new Orangery at Rushton Hall
Surrounded by 25 acres of grounds with a lake, Rushton Hall is one of the finest hotels in Northamptonshire. Not only is it visually stunning, the Hall also boasts a rich and colourful history.
From Sir Thomas Tresham, who inherited the Hall when he was just 9 years old to his son Francis Tresham who was involved in the Gunpowder Plot, not forgetting Charles Dickens, who is said to have written Great Expectations there.
With buildings dating from the 16th century, the decision to extend the facilities at Rushton Hall with a beautiful Orangery wasn’t taken lightly. In fact, it took just over a decade to be approved after going through several planning processes – including getting the green light from Historic England.
We were first approached in 2015 by the client who had hired Pavilion Estates and Malcolm Strangeway Architects. They showed us concept sketches and we were engaged as technical experts, providing advice and project support… and quite a lot of stone!
Maintaining the style of existing buildings was especially important for this project – for such stunning architecture, it was vital to preserve the aesthetic appeal and so we offered a number of limestones to Historic England and the client who eventually decided on our beautiful Clipsham limestone.
As well as supplying the stone, we were able to help by providing detailed technical drawings and also put together a fixing team at the client’s request.
With five stages of construction, this was a complex yet rewarding project requiring a great deal of teamwork and collaboration – and perhaps a little patience! We worked closely with the team on site, making regular visits and co-ordinating the programme of works and deliveries using our own fleet of vehicles.
All bespoke stone work was quarried at our Clipsham quarry and manufactured at our stone processing centre at Helpston, crafted by a team of master stonemasons and facilitated by our state of the art 6 Axis Marchetti CNC machine. .. and our contribution didn’t stop there. We also went on to supply stone flooring, tiles and landscaping products from our ‘At Home’ collection which will shortly be unveiled.
Rushton Hall Hotel is already recognised for its impressive facilities. So when the new Orangery was finally completed and welcomed its first wedding in July 2017, there was a great deal of excitement.
Head of Sales & Marketing at Rushton Hall, Tom Gilbert was enthusiastic about the addition:
“We are already very proud of what Rushton Hall has to offer our guests but the purpose-built Orangery with its latest audio visual system and high speed WiFi means it is ideal for 21st century events. With the input from Historic England The Orangery will keep the feel and grandeur of the original 15th century hall.”
And so it does, as you can see from the photographs.
From start to finish, this exciting project took 18 months. You can see just how it progressed at the time lapse video here.
July 3 2017
We think there’s something special about bespoke natural stone flooring that, like the Egyptians, has its own history, each piece containing fossils that were formed millions of years ago. And it’s even nicer when it’s in the sale!
Between 1 July and 31 August 2017, you can enjoy 20% off when you order from our most popular range of flooring stones.
We’re including five of our favourites in the summer promotion so you’ll be able to choose from carefully selected world stones to our own locally quarried Lincolnshire limestone. There’s a stone for every home (or office/hotel/restaurant/shop!)
Did you know that natural stone is a great conductor of heat and will adjust to the temperature of your room? It’ll keep your home nice and cool this summer as well as working beautifully with underfloor heating in the winter for a cosy feel.
You’ll have no worries about installation, either – we’re experts at making sure your new floor lasts a lifetime with the right sealing and maintenance. If you’re looking for a traditional style to suit an older property, why not consider an aged finish? Stone feels right at home in traditional farmhouses, rustic properties and barn conversions.
Let’s take a quick look at all the stones included in our summer flooring sale:
Audbourn Distressed is a traditional favourite which harmonises beautifully with older settings: this stone blends warm hues with intermittent grey veining, making it the perfect choice for cottages and farmhouses.
The lightly tumbled edges and fusion of rich and soft creams make Lima Cream perfect for both walls and floors. Sourced in Tunisia, it will bring a touch of Mediterranean appeal to your home.
For a dramatic stone featuring a fascinating fusion of fossils and shells, choose Jurassic, hand finished with a tumbled edge giving it a naturally aged look in a blend of light and dark tones.
Again originating in Tunisia, Atom Grey combines soft shades of grey and light blue with gently tumbled edges for timeless appeal.
One of our most popular stones is Normandy Buff, which fits in beautifully with any environment and benefits from a very subtle aged finish – a perfect partner to its soft cream and buff tones.
So now all you have to do is choose your favourite! For full details of what’s included in our 20% off summer promotion, click here.
This offer will only run until the end of August (last order date is Thursday 31st) so don’t leave it too long!
June 12 2017
One of the challenges that we encounter on many of our construction projects here at Stamford Stone is finding a way to combine modern and traditional design.
A good example of this is our recently finished work at the University of Cambridge, which chose us to provide the stone for a major redevelopment of West Court at Jesus College.
The state-of-the-art building will include a multi-functional auditorium, offices, social spaces, and accommodation for students and visitors.
This is one of the first projects where we’ve been involved heavily in the design process, as well as providing the materials. We worked closely with contractors Cocksedge and Niall McCloughlin Architects throughout the six-month project.
Stone from our quarries at Clipsham Medwells and Greetham was used to freshen up the design of West Court, which was looking a bit outdated with its seventies-style architecture.
On the exterior walls we supplied vertical ribs of stone with a natural, rock-like finish that gives a nice contrast to the building’s smooth ashlar brickwork. The internal staircase was clad with Greetham limestone treads and risers, also with rock-like edges.
More than 200 metres of once weathered copings were supplied throughout the main building and café terrace. We also installed facia panels over the West Court entrance featuring the Jesus College crest, hand carved by our masons.
Our stone has brightened up West Court, which now looks impressive and modern while still complementing the traditional surroundings. Using a combination of machine and hand carving techniques has given a classic finish in keeping with the world-famous university.
We’re no strangers to restoring prestigious buildings. The same stone used at Jesus College has been supplied all over the country at locations including Windsor Castle and York Minster. It has also been used extensively in Oxford and Cambridge.
It’s always satisfying to see a project through from start to finish and we’re delighted to see our stone used so effectively once again.
May 22 2017
Times are changing. Responsible housebuilders are now seeking to create sustainable developments in cost-effective and environmentally friendly ways, and are choosing natural stone as their preferred material. There’s a simple reason for this. Natural stone adds kerb appeal, saleability and a sense of permanence.
- Aesthetic appeal – the variations in colour and tone of natural limestone, as well as the expert manner in which it is sawn and cropped, creates a truly gorgeous appearance that is never brash or in opposition to existing landscape or properties.
- Harmony with the environment – thanks to its natural credentials, it is also very popular with planning authorities who prefer larger developments to complement rather than detract from the surrounding landscape.
- Practical benefits – natural stone is both durable and weather resistant, making it perfect for use in external walls, outdoor landscaping or anywhere that is exposed to the elements… and in these days of chemical hypersensitivity, it poses no threat to health, making it a favourite with families who seek a healthier atmosphere inside the home. (We also offer bespoke stone products, including fireplaces, cooker hoods, Belfast sinks and staircases to continue the theme internally as well as externally!)
Choose experts who own the quarries as well as supply the stone
While we’re renowned for our contribution to restorations and beautiful bespoke projects, we are also well placed to supply national housebuilders with gorgeous natural limestone for their exciting developments. We’ve worked closely with Taylor Wimpey, Linden Homes, Persimmon, McCarthy & Stone, Hereward Homes, Francis Jackson, Taylor Woodrow and Kier to bring the next generation of houses to people living all over the UK.
Owning the quarries as well as supplying the stone gives us flexibility and control that other companies may not be able to offer. Thanks to successful planning, our resources are guaranteed for the next 30+ years, allowing continuity of natural block stone supplies for new developments as well as the preservation of many of the nation’s most loved buildings which contain Clipsham limestone, such as the Houses of Parliament.
Our quarry at Swaddywells is perhaps better described as a stone engineering processing centre. Rather than just stone blocks, our advanced cutting equipment can now produce ashlar cladding pieces allowing natural limestone to be used as either a fully constructional element or a lightweight cladding material.
Our expert sawing and cropping techniques, which include sawing on bed in heights of 65, 90, 115 and 140mm, make the natural stone easier to lay and means that it can be used by normal bricklayers as well as specialist stonemasons.
As we’ve worked with the local authority to gain planning permission for our own quarry extension, we’re familiar with the demands made on housebuilders.
Taylor Wimpey chose us to supply three different materials for their developments at Dragonfly Meadows at Pineham, Radstone Fields in Brackley and Exeter Fields – for this last project, they specified 4086 sq m2 of our local Clipsham limestone for 400 new homes, enhancing their vision of a sustainable and attractive mixed-use development. We also supplied Linden Homes with Clipsham limestone which was used not only in block form to create the exteriors but also for paving and garden walls at the properties.
Nothing went to waste – offcuts were used to create dry stone walls within the development and to produce matching decorative stone in the gardens. A true example of seamless integration with the environment.
If you’re a housebuilder, self-builder, architect or specifier, call us on 01780 740970 to find out more about how we can make your projects more cost-effective. We’d be delighted to hear from you.
March 30 2017
April 2017 is a special date for us at Stamford Stone.
It marks two decades of quarrying and processing architectural limestone, building stone and other products from our base just outside Stamford in Lincolnshire. Laura Green, Director of Marketing and Planning, explains more about how we reached this landmark moment.
“As a family, we’re celebrating 20 years of ownership, and are proud to have grown the business progressively over two decades.
Our three sites include the 20 acre Clipsham Medwells Quarry which is over a century old, and our 30 acre Greetham site, which we took over in 2014. Our production site and recently refurbished showroom, which the general public is very welcome to visit, are based in Helpston near Stamford.
In an area famous for its food and drink, limestone is our bread and butter – we’ve been lucky enough to contribute to some very prestigious projects over the last few years, including buildings like Peterborough Cathedral, new property developments in Stamford, a new orangery at Grade I listed Rushton Hall in Northamptonshire and exciting refurbishment and restoration projects in historic Oxford and Cambridge.
Natural stone continues to be a wonderful building material for both new properties and aesthetic restorations of historic buildings. Although our main business is architectural masonry and house building, our stone is equally desirable for use inside the home, too, as bespoke stone staircases, flooring for reception halls, boot rooms, orangeries and fireplaces and in the garden for patios, paving and ornamental features.
After 20 successful years in the business, we’re not planning on going anywhere. Our Clipsham Medwells quarry has reserves guaranteed for the next 25 years, securing our company’s future and preserving continuity and consistency for all our customers.
We’re planning a special Quarry Visit in June where we’ll be carving our very own plaque to celebrate making buildings more beautiful inside and out since 1997.”
What do we attribute our success to?
Changes in technology
From mechanisation in the industry which began in the 1950s to the state of the art CNC saws we use today, guaranteeing accuracy and consistency like never before, we’ve witnessed huge changes that have improved our processes – although the careful finishing by hand of our skilled stonemasons will never be replaced.
We’ve established strong relationships with architects, specifiers, housebuilders and renovators across the building, construction and retail sectors and are very grateful for their continued support and loyalty.
We’re very aware of preserving the landscape around our quarries and have a renewal plan in place which is regularly reviewed so that we can assure green spaces in the future. With sustainability such a key word in architecture and construction, we are committed to doing everything we can to protect our environment and our resources.
Finally, we love what we do
Working with a beautiful natural product that enhances buildings never loses its appeal – it’s incredibly satisfying to be using the past to invest in the future.
According to research by Stone Specialist, natural stone remains a material of choice for commercial properties, home decoration and high end housebuilding, conservation work and memorials, boosted by major projects coming on stream in London and other key cities.
Hard landscaping has also turned to stone in a major way, both for public and private projects. In 1980 stone paving and walling was a rarity. Now it is only a question of which stone to use. Once again, the very symbol of permanence and longevity is being chosen to mark out significant buildings and shape landscapes. We’ll drink a toast to that!
March 9 2017
Today’s unveiling of a new war memorial by the Queen is a moment of national significance – and of great pride for us here at Stamford Stone.
We were commissioned to shape the great blocks which make up the London memorial, because Stamford Stone has one of few computerised stone-cutting machines in the country big enough for the task.
Designed by sculptor Paul Day, the London monument honours military personnel and civilians who served in the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan, and those who supported them back home.
Each of the ten stone blocks in it weighs several tons. When pieced together, they form two huge wings several metres high – one representing Iraq and the other Afghanistan – to frame a giant bronze medallion.
The highly specialised job involved pre-programming our CNC (computer numerical control) cutting machine to produce the different shapes from raw chunks of Portland stone brought to Lincolnshire from Dorset.
Amazingly, this one-off commission came to us by chance. We were hosting a meeting with stoneCIRCLE, with whom we’re working to refurbish St John’s College, Oxford. As we showed them round, they saw our stone-cutting machine. They were already involved in producing the memorial but their own machine wasn’t big enough, so they asked us to get involved.
The task took a month to complete and was carried out in complete secrecy. The blocks were then transported from us to stoneCIRCLE in Hampshire, to be completed by hand before assembly at the memorial’s site in Victoria Embankment Gardens at Westminster.
The results were revealed by the Queen at a special ceremony, in front of other members of the Royal Family, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon and other VIPs.
At Stamford Stone, we’re proud of our royal connections. We’ve supplied stone for Windsor Castle and are heavily involved in the current restoration of the Houses of Parliament.
However this job was undoubtedly a bit special. We’re already planning a trip to London so that we can see the finished memorial close up.
We’re also hoping to invest in a second stone-cutting robot later this year, and are keen to get the chance to work on similar projects in future.
January 18 2017
If there is one important thing in any construction project, it is the need for perfect planning. Whether it is ensuring that you stick to budget, that you get the project finished within timelines – or even that you get the project finished at all, the key to it all is thorough research and planning.
Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre
The Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre at Oxford University`s Worcester College is a great example of how the right planning managed to keep the whole project on course. With a number of challenges thrown at them, constructors Beard, and architects, Niall McLaughlin Architects are managing to overcome the obstacles to see their project, through to success.
The auditorium and conference centre is located amongst Grade I listed buildings in the grounds of Worcester College, and the intent was to create a building which both fits in with its traditional surroundings, yet stands out as an impressive building. The way that the architects have achieved this is through a clever mix of modern and tradition materials and design ideas.
The architects took ideas from another project of theirs – the Stirling Prize-nominated Bishop Edward King Chapel at Ripon Theological College – with its limestone facades, timber roof and ceiling structures and tapered stone mullions. Teaming these with modern materials such as glass and reinforced gypsum, the architects are managing to creating a truly unique building that sits perfectly in its surroundings.
There are few construction projects which don`t present one problem or another, and this one is no different. There are always going to be issues when working with a number of different materials and getting them to integrate seamlessly. And the potential for problems are only increased when you are working with a mixture of old and new materials.
However, by proper research and understanding of the materials, which is then translated into the planning of the project you can begin to resolve problems and reduce the risk of other issues.
There are, of course, some issues that are unforeseen – for example, in this project, the glazing installer went into liquidation. Thanks to an intricate planning process of several months, and good knowledge of the design and materials, they managed to install the stonework out of sequence.
The limestone which was chosen for this project was Clipsham limestone – from the Stamford Stone quarries north of Peterborough. It is known for being used at Windsor Castle and York Minster, as well as many buildings in the Oxford area. The architects decided on the use of Clipsham Limestone due to its visual appearance, local use and suitability for the project.
Modern techniques were used to plan every single block which was cut to precision and laid by hand to ensure that the traditional limestone fitted perfectly to give the exact look that was desired.
With any construction project, there are going to be issues which cannot be avoided. But the key to a successful project is the way that you deal with these issues – and this comes in at the stage of planning the whole construction. As shown in the Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre project, by properly researching and planning your design and materials, you can ensure that problems are reduced and resolved quickly and with as little impact as possible.
December 19 2016
When you are tasked with designing a new building amongst a cluster of listed buildings it can be difficult to know where to start. You don`t want your building to look exactly the same as the listed buildings but likewise, you don`t want it to look completely out of place. So how can you achieve that magical blend of traditional yet modern?
Architects, Niall McLaughlin Architects have one answer, as shown in their recent development – the Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre – nestled amongst Grade I listed buildings for Oxford University`s Worcester College. They have used traditional materials, which have been used in the area for years, teamed with modern techniques and design ideas to create a truly innovative auditorium and conference centre whilst blending it in perfectly to its surroundings.
Mix of Traditional and Modern
The use of Clipsham Limestone with oak timber make up the traditional materials and glass and reinforced gypsum giving it the more modern look. But the interesting mix of modern and traditional doesn`t stop there. The techniques used to extract and shape the Clipsham Limestone are state of the art, and, surprisingly, the builders used traditional man-power to lay the stone blocks.
Clipsham Limestone is used in the facades of the building and over 500 tonnes of it is needed. It comes from the quarries north of Peterborough, run by Stamford Stone, and has a uniquely wide tonal variation from blues to pinks. The famous limestone is well known for having been used in famous, and distinct buildings such as Windsor Castle, York Minster, Kings College Chapel in Cambridge – and many buildings in the Oxford area.
Clipsham Limestone is a traditional looking limestone which gives a traditional, local, yet grand look to a building – perfect for the Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre project.
The stone was excavated and cut using modern CNC cutting techniques, to give the exact shape and dimensions that were required. The blocks were then transported to the site and laid by pure – traditional – man power – three men lifting and placing each one. As effortless as it may seem there are a lot of hidden techniques behind the laying of the limestone to give the exact look that the architects desired.
The Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre teamed the traditional Clipsham Limestone with oak timber to maintain the old, traditional look, and then used newer materials such as glass to give it a modern touch.
There is a certain degree of difficulty in blending old and new, whether it is techniques or materials, and this project didn`t go without problems which had to be overcome. However, with good planning, most issues can be overcome, as proved by the success of this project.
We don`t always want new buildings to look space-age, especially when we are taking location into account. By using a mixture of traditional materials such as limestone and oak, with new ones, and modern techniques, architects can create the perfect blend of new and old, to construct a building to please everyone.