Who did the carvings?

Many slates incorporate the names of both husband and wife, often ‘Marry’ for ‘Mary’, sometimes their initials, and sometimes the address.

Only two slates discovered so far record who carved them.  All the others are anonymous; it is likely, however, that the husband’s name, where given, is also the carver’s name.

Slate carving was not an art of the leisurely.  These men worked hard in dangerous conditions for 12 hours a day, walked two or three miles to work and back, tended their small-holdings and animals and carved items to adorn their homes.

There are records of schools set up by quarrymen to learn music and staff notation but there are no records of a school to teach the rudiments of art, that is layout and the use of space.  The men who carved these slates invented their own tools and developed their own styles and produced works of originality in a new medium.  Had they been poets their names would have been remembered, but these men were forgotten for 170 years.

7 multi-toothed bits for drawing concentric circles, 3 ordinary buts, 4 small chisels and a wooden and an iron brace. It is said that umbrella spokes were also use as chisels.

The variety of style, design and accomplishment which has become obvious from the study of over 400 examples, shows that slate carving was a widespread activity practised by a large number of men, each according to his own ability.  Stylistic evidence and the use of identical tools suggest that four men carved a number of slates with each carver using similar motifs, especially edging patterns.  It appears likely that one man would carve items for several members of his family, or more than one fireplace in his house; the carving does not appear to have been undertaken on a commercial basis.

When were they made?
Carved Slates Home Page