Tuesday, 10 July 2018

The Building Stones of Sheffield - Part 1

A general view of Sheaf Square

After a few months of relative inactivity since visiting Eyam in October 2017, the new year got off to a good start with a talk to Aston-cum-Aughton History Group followed by a walk in Sheffield city centre a couple of days later, to look at its building stones with the Sheffield U3A Geology Group

The Building Stones of Sheffield

The itinerary for the field trips in 2018 had been discussed at the indoor meeting at the Commercial Inn in January and when I mentioned that I had been consulted as a ‘building stone specialist’ for the production of the “Building Stones of Sheffield” leaflet - which was suggested as the basis for a possible field trip - I was immediately delegated to lead this. 

A report on Fargate for Natural Stone Specialist

Having developed stone identification and matching skills, when setting up Triton Building Restoration Ltd. in London back in 1989, and having written several articles for various stone trade magazines in the UK and Germany – which described developments on Fargate, the Peace Gardens, Tudor Square, The Moor and Sheaf Square – this suited me down to the ground. 

Allen the Peregrine outside Sheffield Midland railway station

On a damp February morning, we convened at the ‘Allen the Peregrine' sculpture in Sheaf Square, where we could appreciate the topography formed by the Silkstone Rock here, and looked at the sandstones used to build the Sheffield Midland railway station and the cascades and fountain. 

Chinese 'granite' paving in Sheaf Square

We then headed up into Sheffield following the 'Gold Route' from Sheaf Square to Tudor Square via Howard Street – where various dark ‘granite’ from China has been used for the paving – and on the way we paused to have a very good look at Sheffield Central LibraryOpened in 1934, this Portland limestone clad steel framed structure is my favourite historic building in Sheffield, with fine examples of sculpture by Alfred and William Tory.

A view of Sheffield Central Library from Arundel Gate

To the elevation facing Arundel Gate, various cracks can be seen in the white glazed bricks and walking around the publicly visible parts of the building, there is plenty of evidence of a rusting steel frame and, in places, the stonework needs to be cleaned.

The main entrance to Sheffield Central Library

The medallions carved around the main entrance represent Literature, Music, Drama, Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, Mathematics, Chemistry and Astronomy and, high up on the splay, an Egyptian style motif depicts Knowledge. 

A general view of Sheffield Central Library

Unlike the sandstones that have been used for most of the historic buildings in Sheffield, the Portland limestone here has been very susceptible to the industrial pollution, which was once a big environmental problem in Sheffield; however, although this has resulted in the loss of a few millimetres of the surface of the limestone, this reveals an abundance of fossil oyster shells.

 A detail at Sheffield Central Library

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