Organization of the Building Trades
During the 18th century the different building trades remained distinct, except for the traditional conjunction of plumbers and glaziers into a single trade, and slaters and plasterers into another. Frequently craftsmen
combined for the purpose of a single project, as in 1772 when William Clarke, mason, Robert Pilkington,
carpenter, and John Burton, slater, presented a joint estimate of £217 for repairs to the Bull Inn (Ex. MS,
90/55). Earlier in the century Portwood and Pilkington had worked together on the task of refronting and
modernizing the George Hotel (239) (Ex. MS, 51/21/23, 24).
The master craftsmen were able to call on what appears to have been a relatively fluid force of journeymen. Portwood employed ten men at the George Hotel in 1724–5, and 14 at the adjoining cockpit;
Pilkington employed only about half-a-dozen journeymen. Portwood's work-force included both apprentices and freemen, some of the latter being his former apprentices (Ex. MS, 15/21/24). As architect, Legg was
responsible for organizing direct labour on several of his projects, including Vale House (250) (Mercury,
25 Jan. 1788) and the Burghley Lodges (Mercury, 28 June 1799).
The practice of masons and carpenters combining for specific undertakings continued into the early
19th century. Charles Collins, carpenter, often worked with Robert Woolston, bricklayer, and Moses
Peal and Robert Tinkler had a similar relationship. General builders seem to have first emerged about the
beginning of the 19th century. By 1790 John Boyfield was doing painting and glazing work in addition to
joinery (Exeter Day Books, Jan. 1791); in 1832 James Richardson, formerly a carpenter, was able to undertake the complete rebuilding of Truesdale's Hospital (53). Most general builders, like the Gregory family,
appear to have begun as carpenters, an exception being the firm of Woolston, the founder being a bricklayer.
The master masons of the 18th century appear to have undertaken a wide range of work. Many, like
Portwood and Hames, quarried their own stone, and John Pearson organized the Earl of Exeter's quarrying
and lime-burning interests at Wothorpe in addition to his own building activities. George Portwood,
junior, advertised in 1737 that he could provide chimney-pieces and monuments in both freestone and
marble, as well as ordinary masonry work, yet in 1751 he built footings for the mundane Shambles in
High Street (Mercury, 24 Nov. 1747; Chamberlains' Accounts). William Clarke levelled Castle Dyke, but
he was also a competent builder and possibly a designer.
George Sparrow seems to have been the first specialized marble mason in Stamford although he was
also a house painter. In 1793 he provided monuments, chimney-pieces and 'vases' in marble and Swithland
slate (Mercury, 18 Apr.); by 1806 composition chimney-pieces were also available from him (Mercury,
17 Oct.). During the early 19th century marble masons became a separate group from general masons.
The Gilbert family were specialist carvers rather than builders; John in 1807 was a marble mason, stonecutter and house-painter, producing mainly monuments and chimney-pieces (Mercury, 9 Oct.), but by
1822 he had added mortars to his repertoire (Mercury, 16 Aug.).