THE SOURCE OF THE STONE
Children around pinfold cone

DAVID CRAIG


Much of the stone used to rebuild folds and create new sculptures for the Sheepfolds project is donated by local quarries – generosity which has enabled the project to be so ambitious in scope. When completed, Sheepfolds will be the biggest public art work by Andy Goldsworthy anywhere in the world. David Craig went to visit one of the quarrymen, and find out more about where the stone comes from.

The pale-gold sandstone for Andy Goldsworthy's cone at Church Brough was extracted by Keith Brogden from the quarry which he works single-handed at Ravenseat, in the upper reaches of Swaledale. His grandson is at Church Brough School and Keith donated the stone. He wrenches it out of the rock-face in broad chunks and thick slabs with the teeth of his digger. Then he rives it with hammer and cold chisels, driving the metal wedges into the black hairlines of natural cracks. He carts it home on a double-wheeled trailer behind his Toyota Landcruiser and guillotines it into smaller pieces, usually for slates or flags, in the old cattle-court on his farm in Borrens, near South Stainmore. His most recent job was the slates for a new church roof at Lythe, north of Whitby. The stacked slates took up fifteen stalls in the byre and Keith says he was 'glad to get it done with'.

The source of the stone is 1500 feet above sea-level. It has been worked on and off for between two and three hundred years. The weathered grey rock-face is never more than thirty feet high. A rowan roots on the very lip of the drop, and grouse perch in it in August and September to eat the berries. When Keith took on the quarry from his father-in-law, after an earlier career as a waller, he got the stone out by clearing heaps of spoil from the floor and pulling out quarried slabs that had been left there. Now he is quarrying the face itself. Recently he started at a vertical fault and worked westwards for thirty yards. The masses of broken stone lie heaped, displaying their true colours and beautiful surfaces. Keith runs the palm of his hand along the sheer plane of a slab, relishing its fine grain and the subtlety of the colours. Bands of brighter gold, and yellow ochre and khaki and salmon, and bruise-blue and palest pink and off-white. Bands that are like rainbows, or loop through 180, or ripple like the dunes which this rock may have been, long, long before it was buried and crushed and heated and buckled, transforming it into these strata beneath the bents and heather of the fellside.

Keith takes me down past Kirkby Stephen to show me some house walls built with his stone, complete with window sills and heads which he sawed and guillotined, then dressed by hand. He is a complete craftsman, taking his work all the way from source to finish. It's good to hear him acknowledge Andy Goldsworthy's different craft – different and akin. When I show Keith photos of the Church Brough cone from the first course to the completed thing, he says 'Yes, he knows what he's doing. There he is, crossing his joints. It stands well, does that.'


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