Tag Archives: apprentice


4 Jan

IMG_6709.JPGDavid Stuart Littlewood, 21.03.1930 – 25.12.2017 surrounded by his apprentices.

From the left, yours truly, Dad, Nathan, Simon and Tim. Abi, our sister, sadly passed away in 2008 so the picture above is incomplete.

A couple of weeks before Dad’s passing we were all able to get together in Devon to celebrate each other’s connection through David Stuart Littlewood. He made a big effort, coming down from his bed to sit amongst the grandchildren and share our good humour, providing the strong glue that binds us. He was a bit somber at the start.

The remarkable turnaround in my Dad’s mood was largely down to our youngest brother’s insatiable appetite for life. His enthusiasm for pickles, meat pies, a full English Breakfast, long striding walks over the Devon Moors and an encyclopaedic knowledge of beer, old architecture and woodwork was just the ticket. Simon always brings his ‘A’ game to a family gathering.

As you know I believe in Alchemy.

A week before Christmas I was feeling low, and, yet out of the Blue, a young artist/maker contacted me for help. She wrote a mature and erudite email introducing herself and expressing a need to develope her woodwork hand skills. We agreed to meet in my studio in Sheffield.

After some initial hedging around by me, I agreed to let her spend a little time in my workshop, so that I could gauge her quality.

I found the timing of her arrival both fortuitous and perplexing, so I asked my father (as I always do) for advice.

I quietly approached him and asked him if he needed ‘owt.

“Aye, lad, cup of tea”

I brought him a cup of tea – strong one sugar, and as he was sipping it I said:

“Dad, I’m thinking of taking someone on, do you have any advice?”

“Is it a lad?”

“No, its a lass”

“Oh, well, get her to make something and if she’s shite, bin her off”

These were the last words he spoke to me before he died.

I was his first apprentice. He never binned me off. Ever.

There is now a young carpenter honing her craft in my studio, bringing her art and skill to enhance our ‘A’ Game.


The fish carving was the first piece of ‘wood art’ I made for my gaffer, Mr Poulson, at 11 years of age.

‘A’ is for Alchemy.

Paulo Coelho The Alchemist.


13 May


David Stuart Littlewood was born in Huddersfield on March 21st 1930. He went to the Technical college at 14 to learn joinery, brick laying and draughtsmanship. His dad Arthur Littlewood enquired at the Co-op if they needed apprentices, they did and set David on at the age of 16. His mum Annie Littlewood nee Wild (from Waterford, Ireland) said “You be a carpenter lad, if it’s good enough for the Son of God, it’s good enough for you”.

Dad learned how to make everything from a coffin to a sash window, serving his apprenticeship for 5 years, then becoming a journeyman at 21. At the age of 26 Dad saw an advertisement placed by ‘Crown Agents’ in the local newspaper for tradesmen needed to teach building skills to local people in Nigeria for the British Government. John Longley, his best mate, encouraged him to apply.

When Dad eventually arrived in Lagos, Nigeria via steamer from Liverpool, thence train overland thousands of miles north to Kano on his 26th birthday in 1956 he discovered a dirty patch of earth. Enquiring of the local Chief as to where he was going to teach he was told “Right here, you build the college here”. So he did. He also met a very bonny Adrianna van de Poll, a Dutch air hostess with KLM. It turned out they both liked to rip it up on the dance floor. And that is how I came to be born in Kano in 1958.

There is an old French Carpenter’s saying that time is never wasted sharpening chisels. Here he is today at 84 in my workshop grinding his old chisels back and re-sharpening them on my old oilstone. “Excellent oilstone this son! You keep it really flat and true!” I hadn’t the heart to tell him that he had given it to me over 30 years ago along with many of his own tools when I was learning. I am a chip off the old block, having followed in his footsteps and the movements of his hands on the same oilstone.

Here is another chip off the same block, my brother Simon in San Francisco, pictured with his lovely daughter Percie. Simon is a carpenter too. 20140513-172059.jpg

We named our Tea Shop after our niece

Shop photo

…but we don’t serve chips here, only fine leaf tea in proper china pots on hand made tables, come and join us if you are passing 557 Abbeydale Road, Sheffield S1 7TA, England.