K & S Memorials and the men behind the Oast House Crescent Rockery St. John the Evangelist mini memorial stone.
K&S Memorials (www.kandsmemorials.co.uk) was set up by Mr R.W.A Thorne of Kemp & Stevens Funeral Directors, Alton, in the 1980s. However, Kemp and Stevens had produced memorials before that time going back to the founding of the business over 100 years ago.
Kemp and Stevens are one of very few funeral directors that have their own in-house memorial masons. Michael Thorne heads up the memorial division of Kemp & Stevens which still trades as K&S Memorials. Sam Taylor works alongside Michael creating the memorials.
A memorial simply is a marker to show where someone is buried but a memorial is not simple. It is a personal statement, a place for reflection and something that will remain long after the family themselves have passed away. It is a lasting tribute to the deceased.
It is the last thing anyone will do for the person who has died. Some people are not ready for a memorial and they have said this because once the memorial is placed on the grave it all becomes final.
A memorial is not just a static stone; it has meaning, and whether the memorial is four feet tall or one foot tall, the stone has the same meaning for the family.
There are many factors in selecting the right memorial and it is all based on individual taste. Michael Thorne will offer advice and wants the client to have the memorial they want and, in some cases, need.
The initial design phase is the first and most important step. Michael endeavours to show clients exactly what the memorial will look like by the way of CAD (Computer Aided Design) layouts.
Once the layouts are approved then work can begin.
Michael Thorne designed, and Sam Taylor is the memorial stonemason who created, the St. John the Evangelist mini memorial stone in Wendy Edwards’s Oast House Crescent Rockery entry for the 2020 online Flower Festival.
Sam is clearly getting less destructive and more creative as he ages! He started out in the demolition business then moved into landscape gardening. In both earlier jobs, he worked with different types of stone, as well as other materials. His experience in kerb shaping has helped him accurately shape larger areas of memorial stones, for example fancier edgings on the stone.
He realises how important his work is to bereaved people and does his level best to do a good job of work and to please the customer, as does Michael Thorne, his boss, who takes instructions for the memorial stone.
Sam left several masonry tools with Wendy to help her and her husband, Steve, start to understand his work. Computers are used in the design part of a gravestone inscription but still most of the work is done by labour-intensive physical chiselling.
The tools are: –
- A dummy hammer – these can be different weights- for hitting the chisels with.
- A claw chisel – for ‘roughing out’ a design on a stone.
- An Italian chisel – slimmer than many chisels, for finer work.
- Wider chisels.
- A compass- not the North/ South directions sort you take when you go out walking but a metal instrument, sometimes called dividers, with two sharp pointed ends with which you can score a circle or curved shapes on a stone.
- A beautiful, adjustable wood and brass marking gauge with tiny inset brass pins for scoring lines on stone.
Most stone now comes from India and can take 16 weeks to arrive by sea but some stone does still come from England e.g. Portland Stone. Stones vary in softness and hardness so different tools and different techniques are used.
Wendy learned a new word from Sam. The word was kerning. That is the distance between two letters on an inscription and it is critical to how a memorial stone inscription will look. A kerning measurement which is too big (letters too widely spaced) will not create a visually pleasing result. Steve used to be a draughtsman and had heard of this term, kerning, but it was new to Wendy.
There are many types of font which a memorial stonemason must be able to create and there can be challenges in identifying an inscription font chiselled onto a memorial stone by a different stonemason at an earlier date, in order to match that up with a later inscription.
Mistakes in the words of an inscription on a stone are obviously not that easy to correct but Sam does have ways and means to sort things out. Not that Sam makes many mistakes at all but occasionally the customer approves a design which they later realise contained a mistake.
Sam is usually a patient man but can get a little agitated when he is delicately placing gold leaf in the lettering on a memorial stone and someone opens the workshop door and lets the breeze in!
Many thanks to Sam and Michael and K & S Memorials for the St. John the Evangelist mini memorial stone.
Their help fulfilled Wendy’s plan for her entry for the Parish of Badshot Lea and Hale’s online Flower Festival in 2020 to celebrate the essential contribution of memorial stonemasons to the easing of the heavy load of grief, following a loved one’s death.
The inscription on a memorial stone is often the last written communication between us and our loved one. A big responsibility for Sam Taylor of K & S Memorials but one he always discharges with great attention to detail and professionalism. Thank you, Sam, for all your expert chiselling.
Wendy Edwards, Licensed Lay Minister.