Sunday, 13 December 2015

Conisbrough Castle

A general view of Conisbrough Castle

When writing Building in Stone – Information for Teachers, my inspiration was taken from visits to numerous English Heritage properties throughout England and from the efforts of the South Yorkshire RIGS Group to promote the best sites for their education value - my idea was to highlight the relationships between stone built ancient monuments and the local geology.

A memorial in Conisbrough
At Brodsworth Hall and Roche Abbey, there are good opportunities to study quarried and natural exposures of the Magnesian Limestone respectively - as well as the building stones used in the monuments themselves.

Conisbrough Castle, like Pontefract Castle, takes advantage of an elevated fault bound outlier of Magnesian limestone – with commanding views of the Don Gorge and the limestone escarpment, both to the north and the south.

Arriving in Conisbrough on the X78 bus from Rotherham, a bronze sculpture commemorates the coal mining disaster at Cadeby Main Colliery and, walking down and around the high street, there are many old buildings and a well to see.

The old town well

On every approach to Conisbrough Castle, the magnificent keep dominates the skyline and its circular design, with great buttresses, is unique in England. At some time before 1538, a very large section of the curtain wall and the gatehouse collapsed into the moat and left the castle indefensible - it therefore took no part in the English Civil War, when very many castles were completely demolished.

A section of the collapsed curtain wall

Although there are only the foundations of the inner buildings left, the remaining walls provide some good examples of mediaeval stonemasonry and the fine ashlar to the keep is exceptional. The castle itself is set on a very small outcrop of limestone, which is detached from the outlier on which Conisbrough is sited and, at the edge of the moat, a spring continually flows.

A view of the inner ward from the keep

The Yellow Sands Formation often appears immediately beneath the Magnesian Limestone and is an important aquifer for many of the old settlements along the escarpment. Although not marked on the geological map, the spring and the wells in the old town and the castle keep may also tap these porous rocks.

A permanent spring at the edge of the moat

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