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Skills span the generations

PEOPLE

WHEN stonemason Neil Handsaker picked up his chisel and began restoring the 15th century stone work at Charlecote Park in Warwick he was keeping up a long family tradition.

Neil is the third generation of skilled tradesmen to work on National Trust properties for Birmingham-based conservation specialists William Sapcote & Sons. He follows in the footsteps of his father, Peter, who is also a stonemason, and his father, Wally, who worked as a carpenter for Sapcote from the 1930s until 1984.

The father and son duo are currently working on a £270,000 project to restore the famous Victorian chimneys at Charlecote Park, a National Trust property that has been the home of the Lucy family for over 700 years.

Peter Handsaker, who is the site manager at Charlecote Park, said: 'My father worked for Sapcote & Sons from the age of 22 until he retired 43 years later. He loved his job and when I was growing up I decided I wanted to learn a trade like him. Whereas he was a joiner, I chose stone masonry and I was delighted when my own son chose to become a stone mason as well.

'There's something special about working on projects like Charlecote Park. You know you're playing a part in the history of a building that people will still be visiting in hundreds of year's time.' Richard Sapcote, managing director of William Sapcote, said: 'Wally was a great servant to the company so we were naturally delighted when Peter followed suit and joined the ranks. To then have Neil on board as well was like winning the bonus ball in the lottery.

'Having three skilled tradesmen like that is a rarity and their combined expertise has made a real difference to lots of conservation projects we've undertaken.'