Tuesday, 17 July 2018

The Building Stones of Sheffield - Part 3

A bust of Queen Victoria inside Sheffield Town Hall

After a busy morning spent exploring some of Sheffield’s historic buildings and urban landscaping developments, including Sheffield Central Library and the Peace Gardens, the Sheffield U3A Geology Group continued their field trip to Sheffield city centre with a return visit to the library to briefly look at its interior. 

Travertine and Swedish Green marble in Sheffield Central Library

The reception area is notable for the use of beige coloured Italian travertine, a highly porous and open textured limestone that is formed in hot springs, for both the wall panels and the flooring, where it is used in conjunction with green and yellow varieties. 

A pilaster in Sheffield Central Library

In the entrance to the main library, the green variety of travertine forms capitals to pilasters formed of panels of Ashburton ‘marble’, a limestone from Devon that takes a polish and which was once highly favoured for decorating the interiors of grand buildings; however, despite its interior location, the surface has weathered over the years, with the loss of its high polish. 

A view of Sheffield Town Hall from the Peace Gardens

The next leg of the field trip continued with a walk along Surrey Street to Sheffield Town Hall – built in Stoke Hall gritstone from Grindleford - where we stopped briefly to look at the fa├žade above the main entrance, where the fine relief sculpture by Frederick W. Pomeroy depicts the industries of Sheffield. 

A detail of the frieze sculpture by Frederick W. Pomeroy

Inside the main entrance there are more frieze sculptures by Pomeroy and, although the low lighting in this busy thoroughfare makes it difficult to stop and examine the masonry closely, another stone – Ancaster limestone – can be seen here. 

Ancaster limestone in Sheffield Town Hall

Moving into the Main Hall, the group then spent 20 minutes admiring the magnificent decorative stones that have been lavishly used here, which include true marbles and polishable limestones from Connemara and Co. Cork in Ireland, along with others from Devon and Italy, as well as alabaster for the balustrades and Hopton Wood limestone for the wall panels. 

The Main Hall in Sheffield Town Hall

Quite strangely, the sandstone that has been used for elaborately carved stonework both below and above the ‘marble’ panelling was painted in preparation for the last visit of HM Queen Elizabeth II to Sheffield. Stone is a natural material that needs to ‘breathe’ and it is considered bad practice to paint stone in any building – on the outside or the inside - let alone a Grade I Listed building such as Sheffield Town Hall.

A detail of painted sandstone inside Sheffield Town Hall

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