David Evans is a pillar of society. His work can be seen at Sandringham, Blenheim Palace, the Natural History Museum – and from next month at one of the most prestigious specialist shows on the international circuit.
It wasn’t always so, as he’s the first to admit.
“I was a bit of a ruffian at school – left Montgomery High School, Bispham, at 15 with a GCSE grade B.” And that was in Pottery. He also reckons he earned an A Plus in Enjoying Myself.
He’s been between a rock and a hard place every since. Which is just where he wants to be. For life now rocks for the Blackpool-born stone merchant. David, 33, is carving out a monumental name for himself. It’s literally set in stone – rather than the sticky rock candy for which his home resort is renowned.
His Stone Workshop business outpaced its initial base – his uncle’s farm – and two sites in Bispham. Today it’s on a one-acre site at Green Lane West, Garstang, and booming in spite of the blight on construction.
The company quoted for £400k of work in January – all of it within 15 minutes drive of their one-acre base.
As well as locals requiring paving, fireplaces or other stone features, clients include St Michael’s on Wyre Church, the Cartford Inn at Little Eccleston and council buildings in Dalton Square, Lancaster, where the stone sourced is utterly in keeping with the character of the area.
Throw in the Order of St John Museum, in London; West Midland Safari Park and Cranleigh School, in Surrey, and this is a business cutting it with the best. David also exports quality quarried Lancashire stone, sawn and cut to order to clients in America, Canada, and Japan. He’s taken on extra staff, invested £30k in a new stone saw, and set up Garstang Reclamation on the same site, under the wing of Stone UK. You may have spotted some of the Garstang Reclamation vehicles on the demolition site of the old Fylde Farm.
One huge cutting machine with a 2.2m diameter blade can consume 15 tons of stone a day. Stone masons on site split the stone on the edge to reveal the riven face. Other machines can “distress” stone. Reclamation also sources stone worn through years of footfall along with ironwork, timber and architectural curiosities. It’s a fascinating yard to visit. And by summer David hopes to have added a saw mill to his arsenal of equipment.
His main business, Stone UK, supplies anything in warm sandstone and granite to customers ranging from householders and self-builders to museums, civic buildings, churches and nationally known buildings.
David has also bagged a stand at next month’s Natural Stone Show in London’s ExCel, an internationally recognised event drawing architects, interior designers and construction experts from as far away as China and Brazil. It’s supported by the biggest names in the business, the Royal Institute of British Architects, Society of British Interior Design, English Heritage and Stone Federation Great Britain – the definitive pillars of society.
“For a medium-sized company to exhibit among PLCs and international stone organisations from all round the world is virtually unheard of,” says managing director David.
“They’ll all be asking where we come from and we’ll be saying Garstang – and Blackpool!
“I’d love to go back to Montgomery and say to any boys and girls struggling – look if it happened for me it can happen for you.”
David would love to take on more work in his native Blackpool. “I look at projects and think why on earth did they use that? It’s cheaper but false economy long term and looks wrong.
“I’d love to offer something more sympathetic and in keeping with surrounds than concrete. Just look at Lancaster – a city which takes real pains to preserve its distinctive heritage. Stone underpins it.”
The move to Garstang gave David the impetus to carve out a niche. “It’s handy for the motorway and major roads. People no longer drive past. The word is out.
“People didn’t really know who we were or where we were before. Yet we tick the boxes: source local, shop local, recycle, re-use, employ local staff, reinvest in the community.”
His best seller is Lancashire Stone, a warm buff stone famed for robust versatility and boasting an almost Dolomite pink-like grain. It’s from privately run quarry Longridge Fell.
David also sources stone from Whitworth, Rochdale, and Bronte, Halifax – hewn from the same austere grey rockface as the Bronte’s Haworth home. “English Stone is the best in the business,” enthuses David. “It’s beautiful stuff to look at, work with. Why import when we have the best on our doorstep?
“When I saw my first quarry I was transfixed. I love the fact it’s not processed, it’s given to us by the good earth and stands the test of time. I love the tradition, the craftsmanship, the pride and passion. As for Pillars of the Earth? Some day I’ll get round to reading that book...”