Monday, 17 April 2017

Geology & Archaeology in Bradfield

A general view of High Bradfield

When I visited St. Mary's church in Ecclesfield in the middle of October, I had by now surveyed more than 30 mediaeval churches in South Yorkshire and the surrounding counties over a period of 9 months - as well as investigating the local geology and various historic buildings. Autumn was now starting to close in and I knew that there wouldn't be many more days out before the year ended; however, taking advantage of a sunny day on the following weekend, I set off on the bus again to explore Bradfield in the Peak District National Park.

A simplified map of the geology around Sheffield

High Bradfield and its sister village, Low Bradfield, are set on the Huddersfield White Rock (formerly named the Rivelin Grit or Chatsworth Grit in this region) 10 km north-west of Sheffield city centre, but they are separated by a steep slope that is formed by one of the well defined faults that run through the district. 

A detailed geological map of the area around Bradfield

The geology here is very similar to that seen at Carl Wark, Higger Tor and Burbage Rocks  - and it also forms the rugged topography that dominates the Rivelin valley. It comprises massive coarse grained sandstones with well developed large scale cross-bedding and frequent beds of small pebbles, which gives the sandstones within the Millstone Grit Group a very distinctive character.

A view from High Bradfield towards Low Bradfield

The Rivelin Grit has produced much building stone of a massive nature and can be frequently seen in bridges, embankments and other civil engineering works around Sheffield, as well as in a variety of historic buildings and for kerbs and setts. In places, it was also widely exploited for grindstones, many of which can still be seen lying about the old quarries where they were worked.

Rivelin Grit taken from a dry stone wall on Woodfall Lane

There is no mention of either village in the Domesday Book but, 500 metres to the south-east of High Bradfield, an outcrop of the younger Rough Rock rises above the village to form Castle Hill, where various archaeological remains have been interpreted as either a Saxon encampment or a Norman motte and bailey castle, but which has largely been quarried away.

Castle Hill

Another motte and bailey castle is found just a stone's throw away from the church of St. Nicholas to the north-west, at Bailey Hill, which has earthworks around parts of the bailey to the south and east and with an easily defended steep slope running down to the west.

Views of Bailey Hill

Low Bradfield, 1 km down Woodfall Lane from High Bradfield, lies in the upper part of the Loxley valley and it is strongly associated with the Great Sheffield Flood that swept two bridges and several buildings away, including the old manorial corn mill - which once made a significant contribution to the largely agricultural economy here.

A view down Woodfall Lane from High Bradfield


  1. A pity about the old mill: reading that at one time there were 30,000 mills in England.

  2. Amazing! I've visited these villages a number of times, but had no idea there had once been castles nearby! I'll be looking for those sites now - old Fort archaeology is fascinating, even if everything above ground has been removed