Friday, 26 August 2016

All Hallows Church Revisited

A detail of a column plinth at All Hallows church

Continuing with my investigation of the interior of All Hallows church, the design of the arcades follows a similar pattern to St. Helen's church in Treeton, with round Norman arches to the north arcade and pointed 13th century arches to the south arcade.

The south and north arcade

Stone identification in low interior light is often made very difficult by the remnants of the ancient lime wash that have not been removed during the restoration by the Victorians; furthermore, various pigments such as ochre, umber and sienna - used for elaborate decoration - have left stains on this substrate and in places gives it a distinctly red coloration.

Hydrated iron oxides used as pigments

Once adjusted to the low levels of light, a close look at the north arcade shows that the columns have been built in Rotherham Red sandstone, with Permian dolomitic limestone only used for the capitals and arches; however, the south arcade is built entirely in Rotherham Red sandstone.

A view of the south arcade and clerestory

Looking at the fabric, Rotherham Red sandstone has essentially been used for coursed rubble walling, with dolomitic limestone reserved for window dressings, door surrounds, a piscina and as large squared blocks for the clerestory.

An investigation of the window reveals

Friday, 19 August 2016

Haddon Hall - Building Stones

A view of the south front of Haddon Hall

Anyone who has spent time exploring the Peak District of England will be aware of the contrast between the landscapes of the White Peak and the Dark Peak, which reflect the underlying hard rock geology of the Carboniferous Limestone and the Millstone Grit respectively.

The Lower Courtyard

Throughout the region, this contrast is also apparent in its historic architecture – with the hard but brittle Carboniferous Limestone essentially being used for roughly coursed and squared walling and the more easily worked Millstone Grit reserved for the dressings.

Carboniferous Limestone and Millstone Grit

At Haddon Hall, originally built in the 11th century by William Peverel – the illegitimate son of William the Conqueror – the same pattern of construction using these stones can be seen in the various phases of building, from the 12th to the early 17th century.


The walls of the house and outer defences – with very substantial buttresses – are built in limestone, but Millstone Grit has been preferred for the structural elements, with plain late Elizabethan and Jacobean windows giving the south front much of its architectural character.

A squinch

Although the style of the masonry is essentially functional, a very unusual internal squint corner to the lower courtyard and a wide variety of gargoyles and grotesques shows that for one of the most powerful families in the country, money was no object.

Rainwater goods

Walking around the interior, it is the spectacularly carved woodwork that really catches the eye but – looking closely at the various doors, windows, thresholds, steps and paving stones – it becomes very clear that many of these are in desperate need of some sensitive restoration...

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Haddon Hall - Geology

A general view of Haddon Hall

Having spent 6 months visiting various mediaeval churches and other ecclesiastical buildings in and around South Yorkshire - by bus - to investigate their construction history and to assess their potential for Geotourism, I took advantage of a hot, sunny day to visit Haddon Hall; however, even though this was meant to be a day off from work, the route from Sheffield to Haddon Hall passes through some spectacular landforms and it turned out to be a busman's holiday.

A geological map of the area around Haddon Hall

The bedrock geology of the area around Haddon Hall comprises the Lower Carboniferous Eyam Limestone Formation and the Longstone Mudstone, which are unconformably overlain by the Bowland Formation – mudstone, siltstone and sandstone of Upper Carboniferous age.

A view of the River Wye from Haddon Hall 

Here, the River Wye has exploited the relative physical weakness of the Bowland Formation and meanders around one of the knoll reefs that protrudes above the surrounding softer rocks - and upon which Haddon Hall is built. The British Geological Survey, in their memoir for the region, highlights a typical section that shows 1.9 metres of crinoidal limestone with a little chert.

An exposure of a knoll reef in the Eyam Limestone

This part of Derbyshire is also partly covered in Quaternary age till, which I once had the opportunity to observe in a thick section at the nearby Alport Quarry, whilst undertaking a survey of the RIGS in the Peak District National Park - to assess their conservation, aesthetic and educational value.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

All Hallows Church - The Interior

Various polished stones

Having rejuvenated my professional interests in standing buildings archaeology, by thoroughly investigating St. Helen's church in Treeton, I have since visited more than 25 mediaeval churches in the last 6 months.

A fine monument
Knowing that very many of them are now generally locked, on several occasions these visits have had to be by prior appointment - but I have also been surprised to visit a church speculatively and find that it was open when I expected it to be closed, and vice-versa.

Despite my attempts to gain access to the interior of all the churches in Rotherham that I set out to visit this summer, there have been problems in contacting key holders and some of them are still yet to be explored; however, this intensive period of investigation of the geology, landscapes and historic buildings of this region has given me more than enough information – and photographs - to keep me busy for very many months.

Although the interior of All Hallows church in Harthill, with its splendid Italian marbles, still needs to be thoroughly investigated, I decided that it was time to have a break from old churches - for the time being - and made plans to visit Haddon Hall instead.

A view of limestone and sandstone in the Nave and Chancel Arch