Learning Bricklaying from a Master Craftsman – a European tradition like no other trade

European Gentleman B&W V2

Down through the ages, the passing on of trade skills in bricklaying has relied heavily on close-at-hand coaching from a master craftsman. No other trade has such a strong dependency on the relationship between trainer and apprentice, if a true craftsman is to be developed.

European history over hundreds of years reveals that little has changed in terms of the close relationship needed to nurture and develop a bricklaying craftsman.

For hundreds of years the bricklaying apprentice has had to show that he was able to construct masonry, know how to protect a house from humidity or water ingress, know about thermal insulation, and know about the science of construction material and even about occupational health and safety.


In the past, if the apprentice was successful, he was “released from his master’s service” and awarded the Journeyman’s certificate after which he was allowed to call himself a journeyman.

Europen Bricklayers Group Photo B&WAfter graduation, the journeyman could then choose, or not, to go on a three years and one day journey known as the “journey years”. For this purpose he could join an Association for Journeymen.

After a journeyman has proven himself to the Bricklayer’s Guild by successfully completing an exam held by the Guild, he would settle down as a master craftsman and work for himself, eventually taking on his own apprentices and the coaching cycle would start all over again.

The history points also to the extra study commitment of the qualified Journeyman before he could become a member of the Association of Journeymen – no longer part of the training process though other trade and business training has been added to the mix.

There are many bricklayer craftsmen today who have completed their full apprenticeship, gained a qualification and are continuing to hone their skills to produce excellent quality work to be proud of. Today’s bricklayers are also smart operators running successful businesses, capitalising on their craftsmen skills.


Tony Bishop
ABBTF Queensland Manager

One Response to “Learning Bricklaying from a Master Craftsman – a European tradition like no other trade”

  1. Jane

    This story is a testament to the skilled work we see on historical buildings Jane


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