Events & Seminars

The Donovan Purcell Lecture


The bi-annual Donovan Purcell lecture, organised by Stone Federation Great Britain, was originally started in 1974 to commemorate Donovan Purcell who was the founder Chairman of the Standing Joint Committee on Natural Stones.

The SJCNS, run by Stone Federation, was set up in 1969 to provide a forum to increase the awareness of natural stone at all levels and work for a wider knowledge of the use of stone. Its members range from the RIBA and ICE to SPAB and English Heritage but all have an interest in natural stone in one way or another.

The 35th annual Donovan Purcell Lecture was held at The Royal College of Surgeons of England in London on 9th December 2009. The lecture, called A Century of Stone, was celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the formation of the trade association for the natural stone industry, originally called the London Association of Master Stonemasons and now known as Stone Federation Great Britain.

Upon arrival delegates had the opportunity to enjoy a drink and mingle with fellow delegates. Alex Stables, Stone Federation President started the proceedings by welcoming everyone and introducing the speakers. John Bysouth, Stone Federation Technical Advisor spoke about how the Federation was formed in 1909 and set the scene for the following 100 years. John explained how London Master Builders Association was formed in 1872 as a result of troubles with the unionised workmen in London, one main group of players being stonemasons. This eventually led to the London Association of Master Stonemasons being founded on 14th December 1909. One of the original found members was, in fact, John's grandfather. He then continued through to the formation of Stone Federation Great Britain and how things are today. Dr Tim Yates from BRE Ltd was next, his talk was entitled 'The Past is a Foreign Country, they did things differently there - or did they?' Tim shared some thoughts on the selection and use of stone 100 years ago. He started by looking back to the 1860s and spoke about new materials that evolved which led to new ways of thinking about structures and buildings. Tim then spoke about science and the stone industry and how the buildings became taller and taller. He then looked at before and after the First World War and explained how the Building Research Station (now BRE Ltd) evolved in 1921 as a result. Tim then spoke about various technical publications produced over the last century and finished with technological changes and new potential uses for stone and new ways of thinking by designers.

Neven Sidor from Grimshaw Architects was the final speaker for the evening. Neven's talk was entitled 'Undiscovered Continents'. He outlined the work and processes they used on recent projects they have been involved with. He then spoke about the Paul O'Gorman Cancer Research Institute and 25 Gresham Street. Neven then finished his talk with details of the innovative Fundacion Galicia building they worked on in Spain.

Following the lecture, visitors enjoyed drinks and canapés and networked with the speakers and fellow delegates whilst viewing the many interesting exhibits contained within the Hunterian Museum, including the skeleton of Britain's tallest man.

A big thank you to all speakers and delegates for making the event a success.