John Lord is one of very few people in Britain who makes a full-time living out of only one stone, in addition to aiding universities and museums with lithic work.
There’s something very therapeutic about breaking up rocks,’ muses flint knapper John Lord, who was recently awarded the British Empire Medal for services to the flint industry. ‘They used to make prisoners do it, but I do it for fun and manage to make a living.’
Mr Lord began his studies into Stone Age technology at Grime’s Graves, a huge Neolithic flint mine in Thetford, Norfolk. ‘I was there for 13 years, so I got tool-making under my belt,’ he explains.
One of very few people in Britain who’s achieved a full-time living out of only one stone, in the form of flint, he left Grime’s Graves to produce architectural flints for the building industry. However, the craftsman has always combined flintknapping with lithic work, the analysis of stone tools and chipped stone artefacts for universities and museums.
‘Flint is a cosmetic cladding and an architectural feature of a large swathe of eastern England. Draw a diagonal line from Flamborough Head in East Yorkshire to Dorset and everything south-east of that is flint country,’ he elaborates.
‘I specialise in breaking them, so that the inside surface shows.’
Mr Lord has been involved in many prestigious projects over the years, such as Flint House, commissioned by Baron Rothschild for his Buckinghamshire estate, which won the RIBA House of the Year award in 2015, but there’s nothing sophisticated about his tools.
‘I use old hammers, like ones you would find in granddad’s shed,’ he admits. ‘They knew how to make hammers then and they have the right temper so that, when you hit things, nothing comes off. It takes years of practice to learn the skill, but, after that, it becomes quite easy.’
To find out more about flint knapping, visit www.flintknapping.co.uk. To find out more about the Heritage Crafts Association which safeguards crafts like flint knapping for the future, visit www.heritagecrafts.org.uk.
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