Honister Slate Mine continues the World Heritage story in the Lake District with craft skills

Earlier this year twelve new slate plaques were installed at Crow Park in the Lake District National Park, the official site which marks the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation.

These 12 new plaques tell the story of what makes the National Trust’s Crow Park and the Lake District such a special place. Hewn from Fleetwith Pike here at Honister Slate Mine the plaques represent the meeting point between heritage craft, industry and conservation. Measuring a combined length of around 12 metres they are placed to form a gentle curve either side of the original plaque, which was unveiled on the 26 March 2018 by his Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales

The inscriptions on the first set of six panels, set to the left-hand side of the original plaque, start with a welcome to the thirteen valleys of the English Lake District and a quote from William Wordsworth’s ‘Guide Through the District of the Lakes’ from 1810, followed by the names of the valleys and a map. The first of the final six slate panels describes the history of Crow Park, of how in 1748 a plantation of tall oak trees was cut down and visitors from Keswick were able to see a vast new panorama of mountains and lake framed by woodland and fields. This new vista attracted tourists, artists and writers including poet Thomas Gray who recorded his visit to Crow Park in 1769 in his travel journal. Extracts from this journal are carved onto the following five plaques.

Our team of highly skilled stonemasons at Honister Slate Mine worked closely with stone lettercarver Pip Hall to translate her designs onto the slate. Commissioned by the Lake District National Park Partnership, Hall created the design and font for the inscriptions, choosing a fluid, flowing italic style to contrast with UNESCO’s sans serif Helvetica and to express a sense of celebration of the heritage status.

The designs were then sent to our workshop wherer master craftsman Graham Robson and local Keswick trainee Ricki Pattinson to be sandblasted onto the polished slate panels. With over 20 years’ experience working with slate, Robson helps the trainees learn the mix of traditional skills and modern techniques employed in the workshop to make a wide range of architectural slate products, headstones, signs and kitchen worktops. Honister pride themselves on utilising every last bit of stone that is extracted, nothing goes to waste.

Graham Robson Stone Mason Honister Slate Mine says, “I’ve been at Honister Slate mine since the early days. The industry has changed a lot, there are very few of us highly experienced craftsman around compared with a generation ago. I’m proud to be working with Rikki on the World Heritage Site plaques and helping to keep these heritage skills alive. It’s important to pass on this knowledge to the next generation. It’s not the kind of job anyone can do, you have to be a bit of a special breed to work with stone all day!”.  

Alex McCoskrie, World Heritage Engagement Officer, Lake District National Park Partnership says, “The design, building and craftsmanship of this wall topped with local slate, celebrates the Lake District’s World Heritage Site status and is a reflection of the stories behind the accolade. Centuries of skills and using the mineral wealths of the Lakes are on show and will stand testament to our cultural landscape for years to come”.