A traditional dry stone wall built by Beverley born Australian citizen Emma Knowles has recently become a new feature on Westwood common. Emma is one of only five female Dry Stone Walling Association (DSWA) Advanced Dry Stone Wallers in the world, and the only advanced waller and instructor operating in the southern hemisphere.
Emma is currently in England fulfilling the requirements of a Fellowship awarded to her by the International Specialized Skills Institute, as well as managing her mother’s estate following the death of Pat Knowles late last year.
The Fellowship aims to develop Dry Stonework in Australia by establishing an internationally recognised accreditation system and further developing the diversity of the walling community, with a particular focus on the woman and people from Aboriginal backgrounds in rural areas. In pursuing the aims of the fellowship Emma remarked that she has greatly benefited from the generous advice and support of her colleagues in the DSWA and in particular, the Otley and Yorkshire Dales branch.
Over the years Pat and Emma spent a lot of time together on Westwood, and in more recent years Pat had regularly commented that the dry stone wall at Westwood Close could do with Emma’s attention. A chance discussion with owner Professor Barbara English, a well known and highly regarded historian, meant Pat’s suggestion has now become a reality.
Born only a snicket away around the same time the original wall was built, Emma said;
“As this chapter of my family’s history in the town draws to a close it’s an absolute privilege to be able to leave our mark in such a special place. It’s also an honour to build this new edition to the town’s landscape for Barbara, who is to our local history what David Attenborough is to the natural world.”
Normally a feature of the North and West Ridings, dry stone walling is an unusual sight in the East Riding of Yorkshire so this construction has attracted a lot of attention over the last few weeks, from both people and cows alike!
“Through the construction of this wall, I hope to have raised awareness and understanding of traditional dry stone techniques, as well as provoking thought around the capability of women in trades”.
Emma is Director of Stone of Arc an Australian based company focused on design, construction, restoration and training in dry stonework. Though primarily working on commissions in Australia, she has worked on several UK constructions, facilitated training workshops internationally, and been instrumental in foundation work to establish an international women’s walling network.
A number of information sessions have been held during the course of the construction at Westwood Close, and a marker stone has been laid within the wall baring the date of construction and the owner’s initials. A unique Stone of Arc masons mark has also been included, the Yorkshire rose incorporated in the design is usually placed upside down to signify the Yorkshire/Australia connection, but has been placed the right way up on this occasion.
Combine all this with a six-foot Akubra wearing Beverlonian Australian woman and you’ve created something that has fast become the talk of the town. If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to check it out next time you’re on Westwood, and for those who have watched the process unfurl over the last few weeks, a final information session and topping out ceremony will be taking place on Sunday the 22nd of September at 4pm.
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