Taking place across three days in September 2021 the first programme of Water and Stone events set out to examine the geological sources of Helston’s exceptionally fine granite buildings and pavements and the relationship between geology and industry that is evident in the town’s network of kennels and opes – all features that contribute to its unique sense of place. The programme was organised by CAST in association with Helston Makes It! The talks in the programme were documented by filmmaker Ollie Smith and are now available to view here and on our YouTube channel.

The programme began on Friday 24 September with workshops for students from Helston Community College led by stonemason Jamie Pharoah who works at Trenoweth Dimensional Granite Quarry near Falmouth. Throughout the following day Jamie gave public demonstrations of granite dressing in the Helston Town Band building on Church Street.

On Friday evening urban geologist Dr Ruth Siddall of University College London gave a keynote lecture providing an overview of Cornish granite, where it’s gone in the world and what it has been used for.

On Saturday morning Dr Ruth Siddall, geologist Dr Beth Simons, and sculptor and granite enthusiast Dr David Paton led a guided walk exploring Helston’s heritage of fine stone buildings and pavements. The afternoon programme of illustrated talks in CAST’s black box screening space was introduced by Dr David Paton and included:

Bashing Granite, David Paton discussed aspects of Cornwall’s granite quarrying practices, highlighting where the processes of extraction and masonry can be read in the tooling marks and forms that are distributed throughout the landscape and built environment.

Dynamic Planet, Dynamic Granite, Dr Beth Simons discussed the ways in which granite forms and characterised the variations found in Cornwall.

Helston’s Conservation Area: Characterising a historic townNick Collins explored how and why an understanding of the past can help to influence the future, looking at the work undertaken to comprehensively characterise the town’s conservation area in its 2010 Conservation Area Appraisal – and why it is just as relevant today.

See how you go, Richard Wentworth gave a richly illustrated talk, drawing on his constant fascination with the specificities of the urban landscape, the pleasures of looking and detection involved in understanding the materials and processes involved in the making of a built environment.

On Sunday 26 September there was a walk from Helston up the Cober valley to Trannack Quarries, with David Paton and local historian Peter Benbow. Meanwhile, at CAST, Dr Ruth Siddall led a workshop on geological pigments.

Jude Carroll of Helston Makes It! prepared a town trail quiz looking at some of Helston’s best stone buildings. Download a copy here.

Water and Stone was supported by FEAST, Helston Town Council, Cornwall Heritage Trust and The Curry Fund.

The project was also supported by Cornwall Council’s Community Chest small grants scheme, with individual grants from Councillors Guy Foreman (Helston South & Meneage) and Mike Thomas (Helston North).


Dr Ruth Siddall is a geologist specialising in the study of minerals and rocks used in cultural heritage. She has worked extensively on the characterisation and analysis of artists’ pigments, ceramics and building materials, including mortars, bricks and stone. She is a co-author of The Pigment Compendium and is actively engaged in earth science-related outreach. She is currently collaborating in research studying materiality with colleagues at UCL Slade School of Fine Art. She regularly leads guided walks unveiling the geological sources of London’s built heritage. www.ucl.ac.uk

Dr David Paton is Lecturer for BA Drawing and BA Fine Art at Falmouth University, an artist-researcher and a craftsperson specialising in Cornish granite. He has been a practising artist and stone sculptor since 1997, and for many years worked extensively on public art projects.

Soon after moving to Cornwall in 2005 David started working with Trenoweth Dimensional Granite Quarry near Falmouth, where his deep affinity for the material and people led him to start a PhD titled The Quarry as Sculpture: The Place of Making (2015). His doctoral project was the first practice-based PhD in the UK in Cultural Geography. Since 2016 David has been involved with the National Trust, where he has worked on AHRC-funded research on communicating conservation practices. In 2017 David participated in the Valley of the Saints project based in Brittany, and in May 2018 sailed his five-tonne granite carving of St Piran from Falmouth to Paimpol, after which it was installed as the 100th saint on the parkland site. At the same time, he was developing his research and explorations of granite through a project called Tracing Granite commissioned by CAST for Groundwork (2016-18). This resulted in an extensive field-trip project, original documentary film and new writing: groundwork.art/tracing-granite

David has his own workspace at Trenoweth Quarry, from where he regularly runs student, graduate and public engagement programmes.

Dr Beth Simons is a Cornish geologist with a PhD and a number of publications on the mineralogical and geochemical variation of granites in southwest England, including the relevance for extraction of critical metals for the low carbon economy, such as lithium. Since 2017 she has worked for INGOs and a UN agency in humanitarian shelter response to disasters and conflict, with a recent focus on supporting local building cultures. She collaborated with David Paton on the Tracing Granite project commissioned for the Groundwork programme (2016-18) and compiled the Geological Glossary published on the Groundwork website: groundwork.art/tracing-granite

In her spare time, she runs a South West England geology website: variscancoast.co.uk

Nick Collins BSc (Hons) MSc MRICS IHBC has twenty years experience in the property sector, including as a Director of the Conservation Team at integrated design consultants, Alan Baxter & Associates. Nick spent nine years at English Heritage as Principal Inspector of Historic Buildings and Areas where he led a team of historic building inspectors, architects and archaeologists on a wide range of heritage projects in East and South London. This experience has given Nick an in-depth understanding of the property industry, listed building and planning process, heritage policy and guidance and funding bodies.

Nick contributed to the Conservation Area Appraisal of Helston completed by Alan Baxter & Associates in 2010: map.cornwall.gov.uk/reports_conservation_areas/Helston

Richard Wentworth has played a leading role in British sculpture since the end of the 1970s. His work, encircling the notion of objects and their use as part of our day-to-day experiences, has altered the traditional definition of sculpture as well as photography. By transforming and manipulating industrial and/or found objects into works of art, Wentworth subverts their original function and extends our understanding of them by breaking the conventional system of classification. His sculptural arrangments play with the notion of ready made and the juxtaposition of objects that bear no relation to each other, whereas in photography, as in the ongoing series Making Do and Getting By, Wentworth documents the everyday, paying attention to objects, occasional and involuntary geometries as well as uncanny situations that often go unnoticed.

Water and Stone 2021