At the 2023 Sussex Heritage Trust awards held at Lancing College Chapel, saw numerous Heritage sites across the UK recognised and commended for their work. One of the winners at the awards was Park Cottage in Chichester, a renovation of two Georgian cottages which are thought to be dated as far back as 1795. We spoke to Duncan Berry from Berry Stoneworks about the award-winning renovation.

When asked about the implications behind working on a historically listed building, Duncan stressed the care that has to be taken in preparation for work to begin: “The property was once part of the Goodwood Estate which has some of the finest flint work in the country. The majority of which has a galleted finish, with small slivers of flint inserted into the joints. This has to be matched in its style along with the flint quoins (corners). These have to be knapped (shaped) by hand from quarried flint, the gallets are also produced by hand so it is very labour intensive before the work has even begun to be built.”

Duncan also spoke about the exclusivity of these types of jobs, and the implications of Berry Stoneworks being one of the few contractors able to handle jobs working on such precious material: “There are just a few companies who could carry this out in the area and because of that, we are all generally swamped.  So I guess it comes down to quality, availability, price and conveying your passion for the work to the client.”

The specifics behind the materials used in jobs of this quality are paramount, and Berry Stoneworks sources all of its flint and other materials with the utmost attention to detail. “We always source all of our materials to ensure quality. The right flint in the right setting makes a huge difference as it can vary in c

olour and composition. This is all laid in a lime mortar which is also essential for the fabric of the existing building. At this point, we realised there was a new business potential and we have since set up Kingley Vale Lime and Flint which supplies such material for these types of projects.”
“Finding tradesmen who want to take on such tasks is pretty rare among regular builders. Over the years we have found it better to train our own lads right from the start of their careers. Opportunities to carry out exciting projects like these are the best place for the lads to hone their skills and we have a great bunch of young men with huge talent for this type of work.” When asked about the importance of insourcing his own high-quality labourers, Duncan said. “My ethos is to pass on as much knowledge and give as much opportunity to anyone who comes to work for us.”

High levels of skill
Work such as this, which requires high levels of skill and attention, as well as knowledge concerning the background and specifics of the work involved is a prime chance for Duncan to give his younger workers to not only gaining the opportunity of experience but also to be recognised and rewarded for their work: “This type of work is such a pleasure to carry out, especially on the high-end flint work we have locally at the Goodwood Estate and the West Dean Estate. It gives our younger members of staff an opportunity to work at the highest level, Callum who was at the end of his apprenticeship won a Sussex Heritage Craft Award for the work he carried out.”

“As for being honoured with awards, I feel it is more important for these young craftsmen to be recognised rather than myself which is why I nominated Callum Jackson for this award and I couldn’t be more proud of all of them when they achieve these standards.”