Cover Image: The Stonemason

The Stonemason

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Member Reviews

I really loved reading this book. The author has a real wealth of experience and thoughts about the history of buildings which he observes in his craft as a stone mason. He considers how the buildings came to be, where the resources came from and offers insight into how buildings are repaired today,  if you’re restoring an old building, going to a builders merchant won’t cut it. 

This book is really enjoyable if you like reading about England and the countryside. He writes about paddling his boat up rivers and describes what he sees; an enjoyable experience for reading during lockdown whilst you can’t experience it yourself. The descriptions are really visceral for example “ hues of toffee and burnt toast”. It’s just beautiful language and I love hearing his passion for his craft. Highly recommended!
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A fascinating look at how Britain was built.Informative told in a narrative manner that really kept me involved.A book to enjoy and learn from history at its best. #netgalley#johnmurraypress
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This tale was told by a journeyman stonemason who had spent his life and career working around the ancient and more modern structure created by successive generations of stonemasons working around England and Wales. The story takes us from prehistoric long barrows through the periods of English history when significant structure such as the Avebury Standing Stones and Stonehenge were erected to the Christian era when churches and cathedrals were not just constructed in a convenient space, but there was careful thought applied as to their location and especially the orientation of the building.
It was his personal impressions that made all the difference for me as it took the reader to these locations and he was in a sense, a wonderful tour guide that incentivized the reader to visit these fascinating world of history. One piece of advice take a copy of the book with you as it contains so much diverse detail on each location that one cannot remember it all. If you want to embark on a tour to follow the book, go by bike and canoe (Canadian type) for a real adventure.
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This was a detailed, fascinating read - not the sort of book I'd usually pick up, but the historical aspect appealed to me and I wanted to try something a little different. This is a rich and enjoyable history of how Britain was built, in which the author's passion and research really shines through. I'd recommend this to anyone with an interest in built heritage.
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The concept behind this book really appealed to me.  The author is a skilled stonemason who restores old and ancient monuments and buildings.  In relating how he does this, he explores the broader history of the buildings, their settings, and those who built and used them.  So far, so good.  So why then, did it fail to hold my interest?  I really tried to finish reading it but gave up in the end because it became a chore rather than a pleasure.  It may have been the writing style or that much of the history was already well known to me.  It didn’t help that he referred to his dog, who accompanies him to work when possible, as ‘the whippet’.  I found that odd, if not an affectation.

I’m pleased I had the opportunity to read this and I appreciate that it is attracting very good reviews,  I can understand why that is.  It just wasn’t for me.
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I love history books and this one was no exception. Rich in detail, yet readable. Highly recommended.
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In The Stonemason: A History of Building Britain, Andrew Ziminski takes us on a history of building in Britain, beginning with our Neolithic ancestors through to our modern age.  A large feat considering the book is less than 300 pages, however, Ziminski does it with ease and enthusiasm which takes the reader on a journey across parts of the UK that reflects his 30-year career as a stonemason working on some of the country’s most iconic buildings.

One of the joys in reading such books is the passion and enthusiasm in which they are written, and The Stonemason is certainly no exception and I especially love any book that uses the word crenellations! With a career taking him across the world in some cases Ziminski’s narrative on the subject of how our little island has been influenced in architectural style to create some of the most well-known buildings in the world, from West Kennet Long Barrow, through to St Paul’s Cathedral to more modern structures such as Bath’s Royal Crescent, taking us along the waterways that carry much of the stone which would have used by masons throughout time.

Travelling to various jobs we join Ziminski as he travels to a variety of churches, castles and manor houses, not only admiring the buttresses and crenellations but explaining with almost childlike joy how his skills are used to repair the structure and preserve it for the generations to come to admire a skill that we’ve all but left behind. Ziminski takes us on a tour of building the landscape around us to the country we recognise today and bypass the art and craftsmanship which made this iconic landscape from the days of megalithic Sarsens to our modern use of concrete to create an “artificial stone”.

In The Stonemason: A History of Building Britain Andrew Ziminski entwines the landscape and architecture, the art and craft, the archaeology and history of the building of Britain into a singular thread that wraps the reader into the tranquility of the landscape of the very world we’ve created.

•  The Stonemason: A History of Building Britain by Andrew Ziminski is published by John Murray Press (£20.00). To order a copy go to
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It was a fascinating read, well researched and informative.
The author tells the story of buildings in Britain as it were a novel and you cannot put it down.
It was an amazing read that made me discover a lot of elements and historical facts.
A great read, highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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What a thoroughly engaging book. The passion for our built heritage comes out from the pages of this book. The skill of the mason has persisted throughout our history and this book takes the reader through different periods, it shows some of the building types of each and gives an example of the conservation work carried out by Ziminski.  We travel with Andrew around his varying jobs, he tells of his travels and also of the landscapes he passes through and how this has an influence on the buildings. The author enthuses you with his interest in his work and whilst looking at many historic techniques an insight is gained into the science which now goes to underpin good practice. Alongside the buildings the author weaves a story of the country through time into this.
So, who would enjoy reading this book? Firstly anyone who appreciates a tale well told, second anyone who loves Britain and its buildings, thirdly people with an interest in the history of our country, and finally, those with an interest in conservation.
This is one of the easiest 5 star books to review as it was such a pleasure.

#TheStonemason #NetGalley
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