Salvagers: World From Rough Stones

by Laura Storey


Alan McEwen built his home – World from Rough Stones House – nestled among the encircling Pennines, from salvaged York stone, Welsh slate and flagstones sourced from a Blackburn cotton mill.

For years, he had been hauling heaps of random stone, flags and timber from demolition sites ranging from all over Yorkshire and Lancashire. The construction of the Cowling home took six years, as he painstakingly incorporated details to make the house feel historic and exude character.

World from Rough Stones House

Alan never cared much for the modern world and, not content with just a house built from scavenged goods, he decided to set up a salvage company to find and sell unique treasures from demolition sites across the UK. Together with his late wife Christine, he founded the salvaging company Dandelion in early 2008. Dandelion sells Alan’s collection of stone troughs and antique stone curiosities.

Alan with his book The Dandelion Salvager

It was through hunting down these old curiosities that Alan came across the scavengers of the north, from the master salvager of Kittlingbourne Brow to master stone carver of the Dales. Northern Life follows Alan as he sets out to explore the salvagers that make their homes, lives and hobbies from the things many of us may chuck away.

Northern Salvagers

Eddie Whiteside

Eddie outside his house

First, we meet with Lancashire’s master salvager, Eddie Whiteside. Like Alan, Eddie has built his own house from the things he has salvaged, from Welsh slate to a wrought iron fence. Alan has known Eddie for over 30 years and describes him as having “three large golden earrings dangling from an extended earlobe, with a purple-hued greying beard bobbing up and down.”

A journey up to Kittlingbourne Brow, you can’t help but be amazed by the spectacle of the recycled church steeple rising up from the house’s roof.

Eddie’s unique house

Eddie’s unique collection doesn’t just end at his house, spanning his two-acre site, his eclectic mix of other people’s junk is crammed into sheds, old lorries and caravans.

“Eddie is extremely passionate in regard to saving and renovating all sorts of artefacts once manufactured by British craftsmen in a bygone world,” Alan writes.

Eddie’s collection

For central heating, Eddie has a six-foot tall cylindrical air-compressor receiver of ancient origin, mounted on an iron box with acts as an ash-pit. Presumably he’s attempting to reduce his gas bill!

It’s not just salvaged items that Eddie boasts, also on his land is a large fishpond that he hand dug out of heavy clays.

Eddie has made a career out of engineering from working as part of the maintenance team for Blackpool Tower, he soon got used to climbing the 518 feet, Victorian-built tower which does explain the 40 feet tower on his own roof.

Steve ‘Stego’ Parker

Stego Parker

Next up is Steve ‘Stego’ Parker known for his creative metal salvage. His workshop is tucked away in the hamlet of Mickley, around fives miles from Ripon.

Steve emerged from studying design at York and Newcastle Colleges eager to creating awe-inspiring structures but unfortunately didn’t have a workshop or tools.

It was a dose of good fortune when Stego met local farmer Graham Clarke who was amassing a huge collection of old plough components which he had hopes of turning into a large mythical flying creature, (probably with the hope of scaring off any wandering Lancastrians from his Yorkshire farm!)

Stego and The Beast of the North

Stego was commissioned to create the unique scarecrow, subsequently called ‘The Beast of the North.’

People flocked to see the unique creation and soon Stego was commissioned to create another, a two-metre-long bottlenose dolphin. From these commissions, he went on to create dozens of other creatures, using scraps from agricultural yards.

“I enjoy salvaging materials with a previous life – I love the idea of building something so that people can recognise component parts. It is great when I see admirers of my scrap metal creations, upon studying the work, suddenly grin as the penny drops, upon recognising the bits and pieces such as a bit off a plough or a combine,” Stego tells Alan.

Chris Swales

Chris working on the traditional designed millstone

Next, we’re off up to the Dales to find out more about Chris Swales of Swales in the Dales. If you’re an avid reader of Northern Life, you may already be familiar with Chris as the stonemason who engraved the Captain Tom memorial in Keighley. Captain Tom’s famous saying – ‘tomorrow will be a good day’ was memorialised by Chris in the engraving that now sits in the Captain Tom Memorial Woodland.

A highly acclaimed stone mason and carver, Chris is also tremendously interested in salvaging antique stone.

Alan and Chris with the finished millstone

“Ever since being a young boy, I had enjoyed walking around Skipton and viewing the wonderful stone buildings. This is where my passion for Yorkshire stone came from,” Chris explains.

Alan worked with Chris on a project for a traditional designed millstone. This is now on display at an ancient windmill for the public to admire.

Will Mowbray

Finally, we’re off down to Shaw, in Oldham. Will Mowbray may not fit the traditional image of a scavenger, clean cut and business-like, Will was the kid at school with his parka filled with sweets, coke cans and anything else that would sell to his friends, from Pokémon cards to BB guns.

Throughout his teenage years, Will spent lots of time with his father, David, who was a stonemason, leading to an interest in the cotton mills dotted across Shaw.

A pair of circa mid-1850s York stone griffin finials, which Will salvaged from the Moorlands estate

Ever the businessman, he started attending farm auctions and selling his finds; reclaimed stone and other architectural salvage on eBay and Facebook market place whilst still assisting his dad with stonemasonry. In his early twenties Will founded his company WillMow Reclamation & Salvage Ltd in 2017 and it has quickly become one of the leading salvage companies in the North West. Not bad for a lad still in his twenties!

Read more stories of salvaging and salvagers in Alan McEwen’s The Dandelion Salvager published by Sledgehammer Engineering Press Ltd. Available via Sledgehammer Engineering Press for £37.

Craven&ValleyLife Mar/Apr 23