Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The Wentworth Follies

A view of Hoober Stand

In addition to the fine examples of Georgian architecture seen at Wentworth Woodhouse, the Stable Block and various houses in the village of Wentworth, the Wentworth Estate is also well known for its follies and monuments, which are scattered around its parkland.

A detail of Hoober Stand
Of those that I have visited, it is the views from Hoober Stand - a pyramidal tower built in 1747-8 - that have impressed me most and, although I only took a very quick look at the exterior of the structure, the Carboniferous sandstone used here weathers to a very distinctive texture, with the cross-bedding structures being differentially eroded.

Weathering of Carboniferous sandstone at the base of Hoober Stand

It's location on the second highest point in the borough of Rotherham - although only 157 metres above sea level - has fully exposed it to the industrial pollutants from Sheffield and Rotherham and the gritty buff coloured Carboniferous sandstone, used to replace whole blocks, stands out from the blackened original masonry.

A general view of the Rockingham Mausoleum

I visited the Rockingham Mausoleum very briefly a few years ago, on a very gloomy day, and I didn't see it in its best light, but I was interested to see that the fine quality ashlar – which is a different sandstone to that used for Hoober Stand – was extremely black and that various samples of stone cleaning had been carried out and also that drill cores had been taken.

Cleaning samples and drill cores at the Rockingham Mausoleum

According to a conversation that I previously had with the Estate Manager, linseed oil had once been applied as a stone preservative and has proved extremely difficult to remove ever since, although I have not further investigated the cleaning techniques that were tried.

The Needle's Eye
The Needle's Eye has been cleaned since I visited it seven years ago and photos show that the stonework is now very bright, and I am assuming that the blackening of the stonework was not exacerbated by a similar application of linseed oil. At the time, I was more interested in the condition of the sandstone used to line the interior of the arch, which had been scoured away due to the tunnelling effect of wind passing through the arch over the years and which had selectively eroded the softer, fine grained beds to leave a texture similar to that seen at Hoober Stand.

Weathering of Carboniferous sandstone at the Needle's Eye

The Doric Lodge is one of the lodge houses that are scattered around the estate and, although I have driven past it many times and briefly noted its fine ashlar masonry and its pediment and fluted columns, I spent only a couple of minutes there to take a few record photos as, being occupied, I didn't want to invade the resident's privacy.

The Doric Lodge

Keppel's Column is the only one of the Wentworth Follies that is not owned by the Wentworth Estate and, at 35 metres high, is the tallest; however, although designed with an entasis, the column was not extended to its original height for reason of its cost; however, without the necessary weight of stone above to hold this part of the column in place – the outer skin of masonry has become detached and a stainless steel girdle has surrounded it for many years.

Keppel's Column

The Rotherham District Civic Society, among many others, have long since bemoaned the lack of interest that Rotherham MBC appear to have in this fantastic monument, where the views from its top must be incredible, and although there are structural problems and a project like this is not cheap, it is not beyond repair and there is a consensus of opinion that – in any other place – its tourist potential would have been recognised and it would have been restored years ago.

Architectural drawings of Keppel's Column

Monday, 30 January 2017

A Walk Around Wentworth Village

A view of Wentworth Woodhouse from Hoober Stand

Having spent the last year investigating the building stones and construction history of various mediaeval churches in and around South Yorkshire, many of these would be included in a shortlist of places for tourists who appreciate the stone built architectural heritage of England to see - in addition to Conisbrough Castle, Brodsworth Hall, Roche Abbey and the City of Lincoln.

A general view of the east front of Wentworth Woodhouse

Another place on this list would be Wentworth, a tied village that has grown up around Wenthouse Woodhouse, whose east front – at 608 feet – is the longest of any country house in England and hides an earlier Georgian building, built mainly of brick, which incorporates fragments of the original late 16th century house.

The Stable Block

The history of the various families connected to this house and the growth of the village is best described elsewhere, but this house, its stables and magnificent parkland – which are dotted with follies – all provide interest to the geologist and architectural historian. Although I haven't yet seen its interior, you get an appreciation of this very special place just by looking at the east front of Wenthouse Woodhouse in one direction and then turning around to take in the view across the park towards the Rockingham Mausoleum.

A view of the Rockingham Mausoleum

The house and most of the surrounding estate are set on rocks of the Pennine Middle Coal Measures Formation, with three sandstones – the Barnsley Rock, Kent's Rock and the Abdy Rock – forming escarpments, with the latter forming the second highest point in the borough of Rotherham and upon which Hoober Stand is set. None of these have developed any reputation as a source of good quality building stone but I know of two quarries within the immediate estate, with others marked on an old map and, to satisfy the demand for walling stone and the vernacular and agricultural buildings, these would have all been exploited.

A map of the geology around the Wentworth Estate in Rotherham

I've never got near enough to examine the stone used in Wentworth Woodhouse and the only connection to a possible source of its building stone I have made is when researching the old Hooton Roberts Quarry, when an uncited source referred to the supply of stone to build Wentworth House – a former name for Wentworth Woodhouse.

A terrace of cottages on Main Street

Whatever its source, as well as that used in the Stable Block, its fine ashlar provides such a contrast with the stone used in its various outbuildings and for the cottages that line either site of Main Street in the centre of the village, which has grown up to accommodate the housing needs of workers on the estate.

Cottages built out of local Carboniferous sandstone in Paradise Square

Built entirely in sandstone, with rusty orange markings adding brightness to its generally buff tones – and with the occasional fiery red variety as seen in one of the outbuildings of the Rockingham Arms and elsewhere on Main Street - the roofs are generally made of traditional flagstones in the older houses, with Welsh grey slate used for the later buildings.

A detail of an ironstone nodule at the Rockingham Arms

The whole estate is conserved to the highest standards and, if it were not for the steady stream of cars passing through the village, you wouldn't notice the extremely popular Wentworth Garden Centre that occupies the former kitchen gardens and at which a small fee can be paid to explore the Bear Pit and other parts of the historic estate here.

Dolomitic limestone used at the Bear Pit and for statues of Roman soldiers

Thursday, 26 January 2017

St. John & St. Mary Magdalene

A general view of the church of St. John & St. Mary Magdalene in Goldthorpe

When writing this Language of Stone Blog, every post has in some way described my various professional interests in stone, with my latest project being the investigation of the construction history and building stones of the mediaeval churches in and around South Yorkshire.

A general view of the west front

During my brief investigation of Thurnscoe and Goldthorpe, apart from St. Helen's church and a few late Victorian and Edwardian terraced houses that are built out of what I assume to be the underlying Ackworth Rock, these villages possess very few examples of buildings of architectural merit and I wouldn't advocate them as places for tourists to visit; however, I thought that the church of St. John and St. Mary Magdalene was quite extraordinary and, as a Grade II Listed 20th century church that is entirely built in reinforced concrete, it is worth a brief description.

A detail of the west front

Completed in 1916 to the design of the architect A. Y. Nutt, this very large church in a simplified Italianate style forms a very prominent local landmark and I have never seen a building like it before and, although I wasn't aware of it at the time of my visit, the church was comprehensively restored back in 2002. It therefore provides a very interesting case study of the structural problems that can occur in buildings that are constructed in reinforced concrete and the church website provides a thorough description of these.

An inscription in Carboniferous sandstone

Being mindful of catching my train back to Rotherham on the hourly rail service from Goldthorpe, I quickly walked around the publicly accessible parts of its exterior to take a few general photographs of the fabric – noting its exposed aggregate finish – and was interested to see that the adjoining rectory and other buildings are also built in this material.

A general view of the rectory and adjoining buildings

As I was about to leave, I came across the churchwarden who invited me to take a short tour with him around its interior – an opportunity that I couldn't miss – and so I decided  to defer my return to Treeton for another hour and take a few photographs.

A view along the nave to the east

Once inside, the Stations of the Cross, various monuments and the brightly painted statues to the arcades are an indication of its High Church status, as previously seen in the mediaeval church of St. Mary and All Saints in Chesterfield, and I was particularly interested to learn that all of these statues – together with their accompanying details and most of the principal internal furnishings - are also formed of finely finished concrete that has been cast in-situ.

A statue on the north arcade

Like most other parish churches, it is only usually open for formal services and I was fortunate to unexpectedly gain access to this very interesting building and, although I didn't add to my knowledge of mediaeval churches in the region, I think that it was well worth making the effort to go and see it - for its rarity value.

A stained glass window commemorating the local coal mining industry

Thurnscoe & Goldthorpe

The Carboniferous and Permian geology around Thurnscoe & Goldthorpe

Following my trip to Chesterfield to see the church of St. Mary and All Saints, in the first week of June, I hadn't made the most of a period of warm and sunny weather and I therefore decided to look into the possibility of visiting some more churches of Anglo-Saxon origin in South Yorkshire.

A map showing the distribution of Anglo-Saxon churches in South Yorkshire

To date, travelling entirely by public transport, although I had so far managed to get to remote villages like Thorne and Laughton-en-le-Morthen – the latter requiring six separate bus journeys in total – the waiting times between the bus/train connections had enabled me to get to my destination in less than an hour and a half; however, to get to either Hooton PagnellBughwallis or Brodsworth, this would take me more than 2 hours, provided that the rural buses that serve these remote places turn up on time.

A general view of Goldthorpe railway station

Knowing that gaining access to the interior of some churches was not always easy, as I discovered on the day that I visited Worksop, when carrying a full set of photographic equipment, and that I would have to do some careful planning, I decided to undertake a preliminary investigation of the area around Goldthorpe, from which the bus to Hooton Pagnell leaves.

An exposure of Carboniferous sandstone at Goldthorpe railway station

Goldthorpe, like its neighbour Thurnscoe, was mentioned in Domesday Book as a small agricultural village but it was engulfed by the extensive coal mining industry and associated housing – as also seen at Bolton upon Dearne – but since the closure of the mines in the 1980's it has become an economic black spot, relying heavily on the new station that was subsequently built on the Sheffield to Leeds railway line.

A general view of St. Helen's church in Thurnscoe

Making the most of a sunny afternoon, I firstly decided to visit St. Helen's church in Thurnscoe, where Anglo-Saxon burials have been found and a Norman church of 1087 was recorded but there is nothing left remaining of the mediaeval church. Staying for only 20 minutes here, I just made a few quick observations of the Carboniferous sandstone, which the architect used in the rebuilding of the church in 1888, and the earlier dolomitic limestone tower dated to 1729.

A general view of the tower of St. Helen's church

Although from an architectural point of view, there was very little to catch my eye, when undertaking research prior to my visit, I discovered that at the time of the building of the Norman church, the Lord of the Manor was Roger de Busli – whose land also included Laughton-en-le-Morthen - and that a part of Thurnscoe, owned by Roche Abbey, included limestone quarries that exported significant amounts of stone during the mediaeval period, providing further evidence of the extent of the supply network that existed at this time.

A detail of the tower at St. Helen's church

Noting only a few examples of the sandstone used in Victorian terraced houses, I then caught a bus to Goldthorpe where I was surprised to find that sandstone is also not widely used as a building material here and that its only listed building is the church of St. John and St. Mary Magdalene – an early example of a church built entirely in ferroconcrete.

The old cinema in Goldthorpe

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

St. Mary & All Saints - The Interior

A general view to the east along the nave

Entering the porch of the church of St. Mary and All Saints in Chesterfield, the 14th century south door is seen to be suffering from the effects of rising damp, with the efflorescence both discolouring and degrading the yellow/brown sandstone from which it is built.

Efflorescence to the south door

Moving into the church itself, the area beneath the gallery – added by Sir George Gilbert Scott – is now a shop and the nave, dated by Pevsner to 1350-75 is entered from here. As seen in the north arcade of Wakefield Cathedral, the columns and capitals of the arcades are quatrefoil in section and uniform in style along its length.

Massive columns to the tower with multiple shafts

The oldest part of the structure is the east end, and the four massive Early English Gothic style columns supporting the tower, with multiple shafts, were dedicated in 1234 and the chancel arch – with the rood-beam crucifix of 1915 – dominate the east end. Subsequent building of the tower and the south transept continued into the 14th century and by 1360 the main part of the church was essentially complete.

An ogee arched recess with an effigy of a priest

As seen on the exterior, except for an ogee arched recess containing a mediaeval effigy of a priest, the masonry is quite austere and there are very few memorials where fine examples of decorative stone can be seen. Reflecting its High Church status, the Stations of the Cross and highly decorated and gilt altars and furnishings are strongly emphasised, especially in the various chapels that have been placed in the east end, near to the high altar.

 Th 9th Station of the Cross

The Lady Chapel, however, contains a magnificent collection of tombs of the Foljambe family and others, which are predominantly from the 16th century and carved in alabaster. Although a close inspection of these was not possible, their extremely dark brown colour suggests that they have been severely blackened by smoke over the years and have not been cleaned.

Alabaster monuments in the Lady Chapel

Apart from these very large monuments, the only decorative stone of note is the polished Carboniferous limestone that has been used for the Norman font, which contains large solitary rugose corals like those that I had previously seen on the rocky shoreline of Mullaghmore, during my first week at work with the Geological Survey of Ireland.

Solitary rugose corals in The Norman font

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

St. Mary & All Saints - The Exterior

The church of St. Mary & All Saints in Chesterfield

The church of St. Mary and All Saints in Chesterfield is sited on high ground formed by the Deep Hard Rock, which overlooks the River Rother and upon which the Roman fort was originally built, and although the Lincoln Cartulary of 1093-4 refers to a church from the time of Edward the Confessor here, the building of the present church started in the 13th century – following the Charter granted to the town by King John in 1204.

A general view of the west end

Except for the clerestory of c.1500, the rebuilt north transept of 1769 and later additions to the north-east part of the church, most of the external visible fabric is in the Decorated Gothic style, although many of the windows have been restored by Victorian architects, in addition to early restoration work by Sir George Gilbert Scott.

A general view of the east end

The fabric comprises cleaned greyish, medium grained sandstone ashlar, with yellow/brown variations which appear to be more prevalent in parts of the exterior, especially the tower, and has proved to be reasonable durable. In places, cross-bedding can be clearly seen but its most characteristic physical features are the frequent slump structures, which I had not observed when investigating other churches built out of Pennine Lower Coal Measures Formation sandstone.

Slump structures in the Deep Hard Rock

Compared to many other mediaeval churches that I had previously visited, the ornamentation is very plain, with battlements and crocketed pinnacles being absent – even though the clerestory was raised at a time when the Perpendicular Gothic style was at the height of its development – and only the niche above the porch exhibits intricate stone carving.

A detail of the niche to the porch

Monday, 23 January 2017

In Chesterfield

The old market square in Chesterfield

Following on from my brief investigation of Wakefield Cathedral, having still been unable to gain access to the mediaeval churches in Aston and Whiston, both of which are built out of Rotherham Red sandstone, I took another trip to Derbyshire – this time on the X17 bus from Sheffield to Chesterfield, which is set on Deep Hard Rock of the Lower Pennine Coal Measures Formation.

A geological map of the area around Chesterfield

Although Chesterfield has its origins in the Roman fort that was built here in 70 AD and a market has been established since 1165, apart from the ancient street names and a mediaeval street plan, the town only developed after the building of the Chesterfield Canal in 1777 and the vast majority of its historic buildings date from this time onward; however, given that the town is surrounded by outcrops of Carboniferous sandstone, very few of these are built in stone, except for the mediaeval church, and the oldest building in the town centre – the Royal Oak public house – is timber framed and its external fabric dates from the 16th century.

The Royal Oak public house has 12th century origins

The principal reason for my visit was therefore to have a good look at the church of St. Mary and All Saints, which I had passed very many times before when working as a surveyor in the town centre, and is best known for its crooked spire, which forms a very distinctive landmark rising above the town and is known nationally.

The "crooked spire"

Before exploring the exterior and interior of the church, I had a quick look at the nearby museum where, much to my interest, I discovered a mediaeval builders' windlass – one of only a handful remaining in England and which was formerly located in the church tower.

The builders' windlass in Chesterfield Museum & Art Gallery