Thursday, 22 December 2016

St. Edmund's Church in Castleton

A grotesque on the tower of St. Edmund's church

Whilst exploring the mediaeval churches of Rotherham, although my principal aim has been to investigate their construction history and the types of stone that they are built of, I have also been considering their potential as tourist attractions – along with a variety of historic monuments and geological sites that I have visited in West Yorkshire and the Peak District National Park.

A geological map of the area around Castleton

After exploring All Saints church in Laughton-en-le-Morthen, I planned to to take another look at the geology around Cave Dale in Castleton with the Sheffield U3A Geology Group, a place that I had visited several months earlier along with Peveril Castle.

A general view
Without a lift being available on this occasion, I arranged to go on the No. 272 bus to Castleton and catch up with the group when I got there; however, when I finally arrived, the prospect of taking a rapid hike up very steep and uneven rock ground in an effort to catch them up didn't appeal to me and so I decided to spend the day by quickly looking at St. Edmund's church, before stopping off in Hathersage on the way back to Sheffield.

St. Edmund's church dates back to the 11th century and its history is closely linked with Peveril Castle, which rises high above it, but the only evidence of the early church is the chancel arch, which forms the most interesting stonework feature in the interior.

Looking at the 14th century tower, the stonework comprises blocks of well squared and coursed Millstone Grit and displays many elements of the Perpendicular Gothic style, with the battlements, pinnacles and gargoyles forming ornamental features, but with the window surrounds and tracery being kept very plain.

A general view of St. Edmund's church and Peveril Castle

A quick walk around the church shows that the remainder of the structure is built with roughly coursed Carboniferous Limestone walling, with Millstone Grit dressings; however, the lowest courses of both sides of the nave – which was rebuilt in 1831 after both of the pre-existing aisles were demolished - largely comprise Millstone Grit and is quite likely that these were reused from the pre-existing structure. The windows are all Victorian and in a neo-late-13th century style, according to Sir Nikolaus Pevsner.

A general view of St. Edmund's church

The chancel comprises mainly coursed rubble limestone, with a large proportion blocks of Millstone Grit randomly mixed with the limestone walling and for the quoins. The gritstone here has been heavily weathered and contrasts strongly with the Victorian masonry, which still retains sharp profiles.

A detail of the east wall of the nave

To the east side of the tower, an old roofline shows that the pitch of the roof has been lowered at some stage and, in the east wall of the nave, the rubble walling contains a highly weathered projecting course of gritstone, which has an unusual curved shape and may relate to the original position of the gable end.

The Norman chancel arch

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