Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Heritage Open Days - A Review



An examination of 'honest repairs' to the 13th century chancel

When deciding to open up St. Helen’s church in Treeton for the Heritage Open Days this year, the Friends of St. Helen’s Church Trust made a conscious decision to choose the weekend that coincided with the Rotherham ShowAfter all, it had severely declined in recent years, in our opinion, and considering that Sunday has always been the most popular day, our marketing strategy was to try and encourage everyone to visit us on Saturday. 
 
The welcome to St. Helen's church on the Heritage Open Days

The Thursday opening was planned as an extension of the regular Coffee Morning and the posters and other publicity material – including posts on Social Media – was primarily intended to encourage more residents of Treeton to visit the church, although we were hoping that we would attract visitors from our listing on the HOD website

Setting up the bunting and balloons to the entrance steps

When setting up the banners, bunting and posters in the morning, having noticed the enthusiasm of the other volunteers who were helping out, I said that “even if we don’t attract a single new visitor, we should just be content to have another day of fun amongst ourselves”, which we did; however, our visitor counter reached 46 and, although we were a bit disorganised in this respect – and included volunteers - everyone agreed that it had been a very successful day. 

Help given to visitors by a member of Treeton Local History Group

In addition to the expected visitors from Treeton and nearby, we had several visitors from Sheffield and further afield and the display stand and the slide show of old photographs produced by the Treeton Local History Group was much appreciated. 

A visitor from Scunthorpe taking photos for her website

For the Saturday, one of my concerns had been that the Rotherham Advertiser and the Rotherham MBC communications team didn’t provide the help in publicising the event that we had asked for. I needn’t have been worried because, despite the weather that changed from very light drizzle at the time of opening to a downpour at the finish, a steady stream of people came through the doors all day. 

A general view of visitors in the nave

The Thursday had been a ‘trial run’ in many respects, catering mainly for the local community, but we all had to step up a gear on the Saturday. Speaking for myself, I didn’t stop for a moment all day – a reflection of the popularity of the many tours of the exterior of the church, when the very unusual ‘two tone’ tower and other architectural features, which prompted Sir Nikolaus Pevsner to describe it as “very confusing” were discussed. 

A display by Trevor Spencer from the Sheffield Indexers

Inside St. Helen’s church, the presence of the Sheffield Indexers was an added bonus and the homemade cakes and other refreshments proved to be very popular, with £106 received for the Friends of St. Helen’s Church Trust – as well as other donations being made towards the Treeton Local history Group and to the badly needed maintenance of this Grade I Listed church. The visitor count for the day was 52 but, with no one specifically delegated to this duty, and with the counter being passed around, this was considered to be an underestimate. 

Cakes and scones

All in all, it was considered to be by far the most successful Open Day that the Friends of St. Helen’s Church Trust had organised, and all those that took part said that they thoroughly enjoyed the day. If I had to express an element of disappointment, it would be that we had all hoped for a dry and sunny day, so that the village stocks could have been opened up to provide some great family entertainment and photo opportunities; however, the rain didn’t stop the sense of fun for a few people that left school very many years ago.

Having fun in the village stocks (Photos provided by Diane Kelsall)

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Heritage Open Days - St. Helen's Church


A view of St. Helen's church from Front Street

When I first turned up at St. Helen’s church in Treeton, back in February 2016 to photograph the inside of the church, I never thought that 30 months later I would be organising Heritage Open Days here on behalf of the Friends of St. Helen’s Church Trust. 

The south elevation of St. Helen's church

Having acquired a good understanding of its construction history, which sparked off an extensive investigation of mediaeval churches in and around South Yorkshire during the rest of that year, good friends here have since considered me to be a “natural” when throwing myself enthusiastically into this task. 

Dolomitic limestone headstops

I had taken many hundreds of photographs of the church during the past 2 years and, with text produced for a previous Open Day, the formal registration and listing on the Heritage Open Days website was easily done and the next step was to bring past efforts to raise the profile of this Grade I Listed church up to date. 

The Church Trail

The “Friends” also form the core of the Treeton Local History Group and, with various documents supplied by its archivist, it didn’t take long to refine these ideas and to produce a Church Trail using the digital technology available to me. 

Photomontage 1

Based on a plan that was drawn by R. C. Sabin back in 1991, 20 points of interest have been highlighted – with an accompanying photomontage - and a set of discreet labels are now placed in the church. 

Photomontage 2

With the Heritage Open Days at St. Helen’s church listed on the national website and the information for visitors completed, the next task was to publicise the events locally. In past years, events for Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley were mentioned in a leaflet produced by the Sheffield Civic Trust, but this didn’t happen this year and organisers of each venue were left to publicise their own events. 

Various points of interest in St. Helen's church

With this in mind, I sent various ‘press releases’ to the Rivers Team church and Treeton Parish newsletters – as well as to the Rotherham Advertiser/Rotherham Record, the Sheffield Star and to the Yorkshire Evening Post. 

The Treeton Parish Newsletter

I have also e-mailed posters to Rotherham Visitor Centre, Rotherham Gismo, Rotherham Central Library and community libraries throughout the borough and I have hand delivered these to the Community Centre, the Reading Rooms, Treeton Cricket Club, Treeton Miners Welfare and to various shops in the village. 

A poster for local distribution

Also, this event has been widely publicised on LinkedIn, Twitter and on Facebook too. Whether or not all of the above will reap rewards, with new visitors coming to the church, who can tell; however, I’ll sleep well tonight, knowing that I have done my very best and that on the 6th and 8th September, we will give you the warmest of welcomes before showing you around.

The St. Helen's church Visitors' Guide

Salts Mill


A view across the Saltaire allotments to the south elevation of Salts Mill

Although Salts Mill has flourishes of the Italianate style that the architects Lockwood and Mawson used in all of the buildings to various degrees in Saltaire, it is the scale of the structure that most impressed me – as well as the fact the suppliers of the stone, and the workers, must have been very glad to have been kept busy for a very long time. 

A view along the south elevation

The offices fronting Victoria Road, with their boldly projecting quoins, string courses and rusticated round arched windows give the strong impression of solidity and the mill itself, and its associated buildings, have a similar appearance. 

The chimney

Having already spent two and a half hours walking around the village and Roberts Park, and with the various galleries and shops inside still to see, I hardly spent any time looking at its external fabric and only took a few snaps to provide me with a basic record of the structure. 

The interior of the mill complex

Along the south elevation of West and East Mills, the central towers in the centre of the façade provide an architectural flourish that wouldn’t really be expected in such a functional building - as do the gritstone window surrounds, plinths and other dressings, which can also be seen on the elevations that are not on open view. 

A view of the 1853 Gallery

Once inside Salts Mill, the bare stone walls are still exposed, as are the shallow vaulted brick ceilings set on cast iron columns, but these are barely noticeable against the abundance of artwork and high quality products for sale that fill the space. 

A view across the roof of the combing shed

From high level, you get good views of the combing shed and warehouse at the centre of the mill complex and, when walking up and down the various galleries etc. on three of the four floors, you really appreciate the size of the place – after a total of 4 hours nonstop walking around I was glad to finally sit down on the train home!

Saltaire railway station

Roberts Park in Saltaire


A view of the River Aire from Roberts Park

During my exploration of Saltaire village, I encountered numerous examples of finely carved stone that was quarried from the geological formation known as the Rough Rock, which forms the high ground that flanks the River Aire in this part of West Yorkshire. 

A view of the New Mill in Saltaire from Roberts Park

Having seen enough historic architecture at this very impressive World Heritage Site to enable me to get a good idea of the physical characteristics of this durable sandstone, I then set off across the river to look at Roberts Park, which is underlain by younger siltstones and mudstones of the Millstone Grit Group

The cricket pitch occupies the floodplain of the River Aire

Looking at the British Geological Survey Map Viewer; however, the whole area is seen to be covered by Quaternary deposits described as either till or diamicton, which are both loosely consolidated glacial deposits, with more recent alluvium forming the floodplain upon which the cricket field has been laid out. 

A view across the cricket field to the Half Moon Café

The upper landscaped part of the park lies on the glacial deposits that have not been eroded away by the River Aire, and the Half Moon Café marks the approximate position of an ancient river bank, with the land rising to the north of this point. 

A shelter in Roberts Park

Quickly walking around the park, the information centre and various shelters make use of the local sandstone, which can also be seen in various planters and plinths – including that of the statue of Sir Titus Salt by Francis Derwent Wood, which is placed outside the bandstand.

The statue of Sir Titus Salt in Roberts Park

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

The Congregational Church in Saltaire


A general view of the Congregational Church

Built between 1856-59 in an Italianate style with Rough Rock sandstone ashlar and a Welsh slate roof, in keeping with the rest of Lockwood and Mawson’s designs for the village, the Congregational Church is the only Grade I Listed building in Saltaire

The portico

On the exterior, the east end forms a large semi-circular portico, with giant Corinthian columns, above which rises the tower, with a further eight smaller columns that support the dome. It has an aisleless nave and to the north and south elevations, the relatively plain classical façade is decorated with pilasters topped by large half Corinthian capitals. 

A general view of the south elevation

As previously seen in the Institute and the Factory School, the stone here is also extremely uniform in colour and texture, without any iron banding, and in this respect reminds me of the Crosland Hill sandstone from Huddersfield, which is so extensively used in Sheffield

The Salt family mausoleum

To the west end of the south elevation, the highly decorated lead roofed Salt family mausoleum provides yet another fine example of elaborate stone carving, which together with a large urn contrasts strongly with the classical façades. 

A detail of an Ashburton marble table top

The spectacular interior is totally devoid of any stonework, except for a polished Ashburton marble table top that caught my eye, but it provides an excellent example of the use of scagliola in the Corinthian pilasters and the frieze above it. 

The bust of Sir Titus Salt by Thomas Milnes

In the entrance there is a fine white marble bust of Sir Titus Salt, carved by Thomas Milnes, with a grey vein marble base carved with the Salt crest and magnificent sculptures of an alpaca and an angora goat, beneath which there is an Ashburton marble plinth.

A detail of an alpaca and angora goat carved in marble

Victoria Road in Saltaire


Alpacas on the pediment of the Factory School

Walking down Victoria Road towards the centre of Saltaire, the almshouses on both sides of the street possess similar architectural details as seen at 51 Shipley Road but here the houses are both single and two storied. 

Almshouses on Alexandra Square

This architectural style of housing continues down to the Saltaire Road before it reverts to terraced housing - previously seen in the main part of the estate – which is then succeeded by a large open space, where well-tended lawns front the old Factory School and the Institute

A view of the Factory School from the Institute

The same pattern of Italianate style architecture, with rock faced walling and better quality stone for the dressings, is still employed in the school; however the frieze sculptures by Thomas Milnes, which depict the alpacas that were so crucial to the success of Titus Salt’s business, demonstrate the quality of the Rough Rock as a freestone

Lions by Thomas Milnes - Determination, Vigilance, War and Peace

Thomas Milnes had developed a reputation for his animal carvings and the stone lions, which depict Determination, Vigilance, War and Peace, were originally designed for Trafalgar Square, but the contract was subsequently awarded to Sir Edward Landseer instead. Weighing over 3 tons each, they are carved not from the local Rough Rock but from Pateley Bridge stone, quarried 25 km away in North Yorkshire. 

A general view of the Institute

The figurative sculpture to the tympanum of the Institute opposite provides another fine example of his work and, at roof level, the finely carved details further illustrate the suitability of the Rough Rock for the highest quality masonry. 

The New Schools of Arts and Science

Taking a diversion down Mawson Street to briefly visit the New Schools of Arts and Science, there is an opportunity to take a close look at the differential use of laminated fine grained Rough Rock for the ashlar walling and a coarse, gritty variety for the rusticated ground floor and the dressings on the rear of the Institute. 

The rear elevation of the Institute

Walking back up to Victoria Road and then continuing down the hill past the railway station, the pediment to the Dining Room provides yet another example of stone carving - this time the festooned Salt coat of arms, which appears in several other places around Saltaire.

A detail of the pediment to the Dining Room

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Housing in Saltaire


A view up William Henry Street from Albert Terrace

I took a few hundred photographs in the 4 hours that I spent exploring Saltaire but this doesn’t do justice to the work of the architects, Lockwood and Mawson, who paid great attention to the detailing of the housing that can be seen here. 

The back lane between William Henry Street and George Street

Leaving Saltaire railway station on its south side, I headed west along Albert Terrace and, stopping at the bottom of William Henry Street, I soon became aware of the variety in the housing that distinguish it from the slum housing that was typically thrown up in the northern industrial towns at the same time. 

A view along Salt Street

Throughout Saltaire, an Italianate style of architecture is used and all the properties are of hammer-dressed sandstone from quarries in the Rough Rock with Welsh slate roofs, with houses varying from two-up two-down terraces in the centre of the development – which face directly on to the street – to terraces with gardens, with three storey houses breaking the visual monotony. Larger houses are placed on the ends of the street and on the periphery of the estate, with larger gardens, and these were reserved for the managers. 

A house on the corner of Albert Road and Shirley Street

Although I only had time to quickly walk around the housing estate, the refined and expensive detailing – round arched ground floor windows, stringcourses and dentilled cornices for example – was apparent on all grades of housing. 

The old Saltaire tram shed on Bingley Road

Continuing on to the top of Albert Street, where I saw the old Saltaire tram shed, I then walked down the A650 Bingley Road – briefly stopping to look at the purpose built shops that had similar details to those seen in the houses.

The shopping parade on Bingley Road

Before I wandered back down to the centre of Saltaire via Victoria Road, I had a quick look at the house on the corner with Bingley Road, where the rock faced masonry contrasted with the squared stonework that I had seen elsewhere and there were some finely carved floral details and Corinthian capitals.

Architectural details at 51 Bingley Road