A.W Todd: The Apprentice

Humble beginnings now for Todd. Whilst some of the previous blogs have looked at stops along the way in Todd’s memoir, it is now time to look back to where it all began. The beginning of his journey and his first apprenticeship.

Despite the obvious passion for masonry, this wasn’t Todd’s first choice for employment. He actually attempted to get an apprenticeship as a carpenter first, but because of a high premium and poor wages for the first few years he decided to get into masonry like his Dad. However, he would have to move to find work. He tells us he “journeyed up to London” to find a yard in which he could become an apprentice . Whether, at the time, this was the case for most people, or just those involved in yard based working class jobs, I am unsure. What it does tell us though, is that he lived somewhere below London and in a memoir that leaves a lot to the imagination regarding the history of the author, small pieces of information like this can go a long way to identifying the man more. However, searches on ancestry sites proved less than fruitful and Masonry Enigma of the South remains enigmatic.

Like you would expect, there would be something of an adjustment period involved for a person who has moved away from his family and home in order to start a job that was as entirely new to him as the new place he had moved to was. He tells us “As a country lad starting out to earn my living, this was all a strange world to me.” However, his new surroundings were made somewhat more bearable by the older, seasoned masons whom he describes as “good hearted” and keen to help the young apprentice, even offered to have him assigned to them.

Much of the discussion of Todd’s early days as an apprentice, however, concern the actual processes of masonry and whilst this means there is less to be known about the author, it does provide a very detailed and useful account of the processes of stone masonry. Very useful and interesting to anyone who has always wondered just how some of the magnificent examples of architecture spanning the British Isles were constructed!

The part of the yard that Todd was assigned to earlier on dealt only with the small and simpler bits of work but nonetheless he appears keen and interested in his work. As he does throughout most of his memoir he recalls details of two men who worked in the same part of the yard. I’ve found that Todd does this throughout his memoir. People he worked with almost become characters in his memoir and give it a bit of a literary edge. The way he does this actually reminds me of Charles Dickens, actually, who was quite famous I believe for writing real people into his books.


‘A.W. Todd’ in John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall (eds) The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography 1790-1945, 3 vols. (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1987, 1989): 2:1030

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.