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

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