Sunday, 11 November 2018

St. Peter's Church in Edensor

A general view of the south elevation of St. Peter's church in Edensor

Edensor made a great impression upon me when I first saw it more than 30 years ago and, having had another good look around this wonderful village, I would certainly add it to a short list of places that I would show to friends who visit me in Treeton – who like architecture - which includes the City of Lincoln, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and  Wentworth

A general view of the north elevation of St. Peter's church in Edensor

Set on rising ground at the centre of the village, I have to agree with the comments by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner when he said that the spire of St. Peter’s church – rebuilt in an Early English Gothic style by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1867 - “spoils the scale of the village”. 

A view of St. Peter's church from Edensor Lane

Walking quickly around its exterior, I found it a bit bland like the new Holy Trinity church in Wentworth, which was built by another Gothic Revival architect – John Loughbrough Pearson – whose work on Westminster Abbey was highly criticised at the time. 

Architectural details at St. Peter's church in Edensor

The Ashover Grit masonry is very uniform throughout and, except for a few ornate dentils along the south elevation, the only examples of elaborate stone carving that I could see were the statues that – very strangely - are placed in canopied niches at the base of the steeple, where their details can’t be seen from ground level without the benefit of a zoom lens.

A former Saxon preaching cross

In the churchyard, there is a base of a Saxon preaching cross, upon which stands a sundial, but I was most interested to see the Cavendish burial ground, which contains the graves of various Dukes and other family members from the 19th century onwards. 

The Cavendish burial ground

These include Kathleen Cavendish, sister of the American president John F. Kennedy and Deborah Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire – one of the Mitford sisters – who was largely responsible for transforming Chatsworth House into the popular tourist attraction that it is today. 

Cavendish family headstones made from crinoidal limestone

Quite surprisingly, all of the graves here are marked by relatively simple headstones made out of local Carboniferous limestone, packed full of crinoid debris, which is most commonly seen as a polished decorative stone.

The tomb of Sir Joseph Paxton and his family

By far the largest memorial in the churchyard is that of Sir Joseph Paxton and his family – a chest tomb constructed from Carboniferous sandstone, with crinoidal limestone reserved for the panels on which the inscriptions have been cut. 

Architectural details in the porch

Entering the porch, which is considered to be of C15 date, the walls contain a re-set foliated cross grave cover, a carved shaft and a capital and there is a heavily restored C12 arch to the south door of the church, with chevron decoration and crude head stops.

The Norman arch to the south door

Thursday, 8 November 2018

A Trip to Edensor

Norman Villa in Edensor

After a flurry of activity that coincided with the Heritage Open Days event, which saw me visit Wath-upon-Dearne, Braithwell and Dore, I looked forward to the next outing of the Sheffield U3A Geology Group to Chrome Hill - a fault bound Carboniferous limestone reef knoll that, together with the neighbouring Parkhouse Hill, forms one of the most spectacular landforms in the Peak District National Park

The geology around Chrome Hill and Parkhouse Hill

Having last visited more than 20 years ago, whilst surveying the RIGS (Regionally Important Geological Sites) in the Peak District National Park to determine their tourism potential, I wanted to have a good look at the geology here; however, due to the arrival of Storm Ali, with predicted wind speeds of up to 125 kmph, the event was cancelled – much to my great disappointment. 

A view of Edensor on Google Earth

Waking up early in Treeton to a bright sunny day, with only moderate wind, I decided to catch the 218 bus from Sheffield and have a day out in the Peak District anyway – to take a good look at the village of Edensor and then walk around Chatsworth Park

A general view along Edensor Lane

The original village of Edensor, mentioned in the Domesday Book, was demolished by the 6th Duke of Devonshire in the 19th century because, having spent a considerable sum of money on Chatsworth House and its grounds, it spoiled his view of the estate. 

Various architectural styles in Edensor

Joseph Paxton, who remodelled and landscaped the gardens at Chatsworth, was responsible for overseeing the project and the new site was developed in 1838 – 1842, with John Robertson - a draughtsman employed by J.C. Loudon and responsible for several designs in Loudon’s Encyclopedia of Cottage, Farm and Villa Architecture - being employed in 1840 as his assistant. 

A pair of cottages on Edensor Lane

Legend has it that, when presented with a set of designs by Robertson, the Duke was too busy with other things to properly address the matter in hand and, not being able to make up his mind on his preferred design, he chose one of each. 

Houses on Edensor Lane

Although some of the original buildings were retained, the result was the building of 33 new houses, all of which are completely different in design and include Norman, Italianate, Swiss, Tudor and Jacobean architectural styles. 

A detail of Norman Villa

All of the houses, like Chatsworth House itself, are built using coarse grained sandstone from the Ashover Grit, supplied from quarries within the estate. Although the precise source of the stone is not known to me, this geological formation has been widely exploited in the area for high quality building stone and at the back of one of the houses in EdensorRock Villa – an exposure of rock that is presumed to be an old quarry face can still be seen. 

Rock Villa

The new village was completed in 1842 with the building of Castle Lodge and, about 30 years later, the mediaeval church at the centre of the village – which was retained by John Robertson - was replaced by a much larger one built by Sir George Gilbert Scott and whose spire was considered by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner to "spoil the scale of the village".

Castle Lodge

Monday, 5 November 2018

The Dore Heritage Trail

The interior of Christ Church in Dore

As an agricultural settlement, Dore originally constituted scattered buildings linked by tracks and originally with a network of greens, which were common land, but this pattern was dramatically altered by the Dore Enclosure Act in 1822, which was instigated by the Duke of Devonshire and various other landowners. 

A Google Earth view of Dore

Like many villages around Sheffield, apart from having a predominantly agricultural character, Dore thrived during the Industrial Revolution and industries around here included the making of scythes, saws and files, coal and ganister mining, lead smelting, production of copperas and white coal and the nearby Limb Brook and River Sheaf powered various mills. 

Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet

As also seen in Grenoside, Dore contains numerous listed buildings within the Conservation Area but they are predominantly simple vernacular and agricultural structures, without ornamentation, and it is the locally quarried stone for walling and roofing that gives the old village its character.

The Dore Heritage Trail

Except for a few buildings that I stopped to photograph, before I had collected my copy from the Dore Village Society Rooms, I followed the Dore Heritage Trail route from start to finish – a distance of 2 km; however, although I photographed all of the places on the trail, not all of them are noteworthy from the point of view of a geologist, with particular interests in historic architecture and  building stone

Various examples of vernacular architecture in Dore

Many of the buildings on the trail have significance for their connections with local families and industries but even those that date back to the C17 are generally very plain in nature, and I think that they are mainly of interest to an historian. 

The Dore Stone

The Dore Stone, made of a slab of sandstone with an inscribed black Scottish granite shield, is an unusual memorial and this first caught my eye very many years ago when driving through the village. Although the materials used are very common, I particularly like the wyvern design. 

Dore War Memorial

Across the road, there is a very fine war memorial, carved from grey granite - from Devon or Cornwall - and set on a sandstone plinth, which is very uniform in colour and looks like it has been recently cleaned. 

A view of Gilleyfield Farmhouse

Next to the war memorial is Gilleyfield Farmhouse, which has a fine example of a stone flagstone roof. Dated at 1739, this is actually the last site on the trail and has some other interesting features, as I discovered later, but surprisingly it is not a listed building

The Crimea Memorial Stone

Stopping quickly at the village well to look at the much worn Crimea Memorial Stone, notable for the ripple marks in the large slab of sandstone as well as its historic value, I quickly walked along Vicarage Lane, where I was interested to see a series of old grindstones laid out on the verge. 

Old grindstones on Vicarage Lane

Woodbine Cottages at the end of Vicarage Lane provide another good example of stone tile roofing and, although its C20 additions detract from its character, the simple mullioned windows are a reflection of its C17 origins. 

Woodbine Cottages

Moving along to Watering Trough Green, I then cut down Devonshire Terrace Road and carried on up to Townhead Road, where I briefly looked at the various cottages listed on the trail – with Cromwell Cottage, dated 1686, being of most interest to me. 

Cromwell Cottage

Returning back to the village via Drury Lane, a pair of 1930’s detached houses on Church Lane particularly interested me – even though they are not built out of stone. Over the years, I have seen very many houses from this period, with the vast majority being standardised in their design; however, with their front doors set on the corner and other individual features, I thought that they were quite unusual. 

Detached 1930's houses on Church Lane

The Dore Heritage Trail finishes on Vicarage Lane, which contains Dore’s oldest building – Church Lane Farm. Dating back to the mid C17, this Grade II Listed building provides a further example of the use of stone tiles on a steeply pitching roof, with slightly projecting dormer windows to the main part of the house. 

Church Lane Farmhouse

Passing the late Georgian Christ Church, which I had visited earlier in the day, I stopped briefly to photograph the walling next to its lych gate. Passers by would probably never take any notice of this but the irregularly coursed thinly bedded stone, with its strong iron colouration, provides a geologist with a good indication of the physical characteristics of the underlying bedrock.

Thinly bedded sandstone to the churchyard wall on Church Lane

At the end of a good walk, with half an hour to spare before my bus back to Sheffield arrived, I couldn't think of a better way to finish the Dore Hertage Trail than at the Devonshire Arms.

The Devonshire Arms

Friday, 2 November 2018

A Trip to Dore

Arriving at High Street in Dore

During the 2018 Heritage Open Days, in addition to organising events at St. Helen’s church in Treeton – I made the most of this initiative for my own pleasure and I managed to visit Kenwood House, All Saints church in Wath-upon-Dearne and St. James’ church in Braithwell. 

Dore & Totley Railway Station

On the last Sunday, the weather turned out fine again and I took a bus to Dore and Totley railway station, from which I walked up Dore Road to the centre of the village of Dore – famous for being at the border of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria and where King Ecgbert received the submission of King Eanred, to become the first king of all England. 

The geology of south-west Sheffield

From the valley bottom that is now occupied by the River Sheaf, Dore Road - built by the Duke of Devonshire to connect his village to the station - follows an outcrop of sandstone from the Pennine Lower Coal Measures Formation and, looking at the large late Victorian and Edwardian detached houses that line both sides of the road, it is easy to see why Dore has a long established reputation of being Sheffield’s wealthiest suburb. 

Victorian and Edwardian houses on Dore Road

The houses nearest to the railway station, around which the buildings form an area of special architectural interest, display a wide range of individual designs in a range of architectural styles and, although I know nothing about the precise source of the building materials, they are all built from Coal Measures sandstone, with Millstone Grit used for the dressings. 

An entrance to Dore Manor

Continuing further up the hill towards Dore village, modern houses are generally built out of materials other than stone, although the brand new Dore Manor continues the stone built tradition, with the gateposts providing a good example of a very coarse gritstone, which contrasts with the finer grained Carboniferous sandstone used in the general walling. 

Coarse Millstone Grit used for a gatepost at Door Manor

On the outskirts of the village, work to the front garden area to one of the modern houses provided a temporary exposure of the Pennine Lower Coal Measures Formation sandstone, which here is very flaggy in nature.

An exposure of the Pennine Lower Coal Measures Formation

At the top of the hill, High Street marks the beginning of the Conservation Area and, finding the Dore Village Society in Dore Old School, I picked up a Dore Heritage Trail leaflet and set off to explore the old village.

The Dore Heritage Trail

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

St. James' Braithwell - The Interior

A view of the interior of St. James' church in Braithwell

Entering St. James’ church in Braithwell, the first thing that I noticed was that the pattern of masonry in the external wall of the south aisle – coursed rubble stone with various colours – is also seen below the level of the windows in the eastern section of the north wall of the nave. 

 A view of the north wall of the nave

This is presumably the remaining part of the original Norman church and the masonry above and to the west of it, which is all squared and coursed dolomitic limestone, is obviously younger. 

A view of the south aisle

Looking at the arcade to the C14 south aisle – very unusual without a corresponding north aisle - there is again a distinct change in the style of masonry above the arches and, although this church doesn’t have a clerestory, this provides further evidence that the nave has been raised. 

A view of the arcade and aisle

With the church being occupied by many members of the Braithwell and Micklebring Memories Group and their various displays and, spending much of my time talking to them, I wasn’t able to study the various stones in any detail. 

A view to the west from the chancel
Based on the layout of four large arches in the middle of the church, Pevsner and various other authorities on church architecture have suggested that a central tower, with transepts, might have been proposed by the master mason who originally designed this church 

A piscina

Being mindful that I was reliant on the rural bus service that operates in Braithwell, my further exploration of St. James’ church was somewhat curtailed and I wasn’t able to look closely at the mouldings of the various arches and other details, which architectural historians and archaeologists rely upon to place a date. 

The chancel arch

The chancel arch, which is slightly pointed and transitional from the Norman to the Early English Gothic style, is the oldest of the four arches that occupy the centre of the church and in the chancel itself, there is a highly decorated Easter Sepulchre of unknown age. 

The Easter Sepulchre

As a geologist, my principal interest in visiting mediaeval churches is to see which building stones have been used and how the various phases of construction use different styles of masonry and I particularly like to see how decorative stones have been used in memorials and other features; however, on this occasion, I was pleasantly surprised to see a large fossil scallop shell lying on a window sill, whose presence nobody was able to explain. 

A fossil scallop shell