Wednesday, 31 October 2018

St. James' Braithwell - The Interior

A view of the interior of St. James' church in Braithwell

Entering St. James’ church in Braithwell, the first thing that I noticed was that the pattern of masonry in the external wall of the south aisle – coursed rubble stone with various colours – is also seen below the level of the windows in the eastern section of the north wall of the nave. 

 A view of the north wall of the nave

This is presumably the remaining part of the original Norman church and the masonry above and to the west of it, which is all squared and coursed dolomitic limestone, is obviously younger. 

A view of the south aisle

Looking at the arcade to the C14 south aisle – very unusual without a corresponding north aisle - there is again a distinct change in the style of masonry above the arches and, although this church doesn’t have a clerestory, this provides further evidence that the nave has been raised. 

A view of the arcade and aisle

With the church being occupied by many members of the Braithwell and Micklebring Memories Group and their various displays and, spending much of my time talking to them, I wasn’t able to study the various stones in any detail. 

A view to the west from the chancel
Based on the layout of four large arches in the middle of the church, Pevsner and various other authorities on church architecture have suggested that a central tower, with transepts, might have been proposed by the master mason who originally designed this church 

A piscina

Being mindful that I was reliant on the rural bus service that operates in Braithwell, my further exploration of St. James’ church was somewhat curtailed and I wasn’t able to look closely at the mouldings of the various arches and other details, which architectural historians and archaeologists rely upon to place a date. 

The chancel arch

The chancel arch, which is slightly pointed and transitional from the Norman to the Early English Gothic style, is the oldest of the four arches that occupy the centre of the church and in the chancel itself, there is a highly decorated Easter Sepulchre of unknown age. 

The Easter Sepulchre

As a geologist, my principal interest in visiting mediaeval churches is to see which building stones have been used and how the various phases of construction use different styles of masonry and I particularly like to see how decorative stones have been used in memorials and other features; however, on this occasion, I was pleasantly surprised to see a large fossil scallop shell lying on a window sill, whose presence nobody was able to explain. 

A fossil scallop shell

Monday, 29 October 2018

St. James' Braithwell - The Exterior

A general view of St. James' church from the east

As I discovered at those dedicated to All Saints at Wath-upon-Dearne and Aston in Rotherham, it is not always easy to gain access to the interior of churches and, taking full advantage of the second weekend of the Heritage Open Days event, I decided to take the bus to go and look at St. James' church in Braithwell – a small village just inside the Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster, which I had never visited before. 

A general view of St. James' church from the south-west

Set on the Magnesian Limestone between Maltby and Conisbrough, I was interested in visiting another mediaeval church that I presumed would be built entirely of this stone.

The Braithwell Cross

Arriving in the village from Maltby, I could see from the top deck of the bus that the C12/13 Braithwell Cross is made from limestone and, passing along High Street, nearly all of the vernacular and agricultural buildings that I saw were built of similar limestone, with red pantile roofs – a distinctive characteristic of the architecture in this region. 

Braithwell war memorial

Getting off the bus, I had a quick look at the simple war memorial before quickly walking around the exterior of St. James’ church, which at first glance appears to be quite a simple C15 Perpendicular Gothic style, with dolomitic limestone ashlar masonry. The south aisle is built of rubble walling that, according to the church guide, is of late C14 age and built of both limestone and sandstone - including much stone that was recycled from the earlier Norman structure.

A view of the masonry on the south elavtion of St. James' church

I noticed variations in the colour that were obviously different to the later ashlar masonry but, given the known colour variation in the limestone from the Cadeby Formation and its close proximity to some very large quarries and a former centre of the production of ruddle, a red ochre, I didn't even think of looking closely at the various stones with my hand lens. 

A view of St. James' church from the south-east

The chancel, originally built in Tudor times, was rebuilt in 1845 and has a blocked priest’s door and, to the north elevation, there is a late Victorian vestry and a small modern extension – none of which have any details of much interest. 

The tympanum to the south door

Entering the porch, the sandstone sundial is dated 1828 and, above the doorway to the church, the tympanum - c. 1120-1130 – is described in my version of Pevsner as a “haphazard assembly of rosettes and chip carved motifs", although the guide to the church provides another more detailed description by Rita Wood, a specialist in Romanesque sculpture.

An extract from the official guide to St. James' church

Friday, 26 October 2018

All Saints Wath - The Interior

A view east along the nave

In an attempt to gain access to All Saints church in Wath-upon-Dearne, so that I could photograph its interior using a tripod – as I had done at Laughton-en-le-Morthen, South Anston and Wales in Rotherham – I made many attempts to make contact with key holders by telephone and e-mail without success. 

Heavy transverse ribs to the porch

As I have since discovered, the church had been without an incumbent for a long period of time, and after a wait of two and a half years, I finally managed to get inside on one of the Heritage Open Days event that had been organised this year. 

A view west from the chancel to the nave

Having successfully organised a similar event at St. Helen’s church in Treeton, the week before, I was looking forward to meeting like minded people and - although I had brought my photographic equipment with me - the nave and the aisles had been reorganised for their Art in the Aisles exhibition, and I realised that I would have to save my detailed investigation of the interior for another time – as I had to do with All Saints church in Aston, when they held their extremely popular Heritage Open Days event. 

The north arcade

On entering the church, the round arched north arcade catches your eye, with its robust circular columns and relatively simple capitals – as well as the coursed rubble walling above it - and this Norman style of architecture continues into the chancel. 

The south arcade

Looking at the south arcade, the octagonal columns and the wide pointed arches obviously show that this to be a later date - early C14 Decorated Gothic - and the stone used here and continuing up into the clerestory is much more yellow in colour than that used for the Norman arcade. 

A fragment of possible Saxon masonry

According to the South Yorkshire County Council County Archaeology Monograph No 2, All Saints church still has various fragments of an earlier Saxon stone built church incorporated into its present fabric; however, although I was shown a fragment of carved stone that is just left on a window sill - believed to be of Saxon origin – I wasn’t able to take a good look at the stonework on this occasion. 

The chancel

Although I didn’t examine the stonework in any detail, all of the plaster was removed from the walls during the restoration of 1868-69 and this makes it possible to see the various differences in the masonry that exist in the various phases of building. 

A detail of the reredos

In addition to the local Carboniferous sandstone, Permian dolomitic limestone is used for the reredos in the chancel, which was added in 1870, and the black and white marble floor was laid in 1898. There are also various memorials from World War I, where alabaster and various marbles have been used. 

Various memorials

I am not sure when I will make a return visit but, quite unusually, the two guide books that I bought were very comprehensive and it will certainly require a good couple of hours to cover the various points of interest described in them.

The Lady Chapel

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

All Saints Wath - The Exterior

All Saints church in Wath-upon-Dearne

Back in February 2016, when I undertook my investigation of the mediaeval churches of South Yorkshire and surrounding counties – beginning at St. Helen’s church in Treeton and nearby churches in Rotherham – I had been prompted by an encounter with Elmet Archaeology, based in Wath-upon-Dearne

A general view of All Saints church in Wath-upon-Dearne

As part of their day long conferences, aimed at professionals, students and the general public, a stone specialist from the Museum of London would use the nearby All Saints church to provide an introduction to standing buildings archaeology. 

The south elevation of All Saints church

Having worked with archaeologists before, for the restoration of All Saints church in Pontefract and for the Conservation Plan at Brodsworth Hall, I wanted to have a good look at this church; however, in the limited time available to me, I only had a very quick look at its exterior. 

Geology around Wath-upon-Dearne with two approximate quarry locations

Wath upon Dearne is set on rising ground next to the River Dearne, which is formed by a swathe of Oaks Rock that occupies the land to the south of the river valley and old quarries in close proximity to the church are believed to be the source of its building stone. This sandstone is fine grained, often flaggy and cross-bedded and with a pale brown to yellow colour. 

The porch

Even with just a brief survey of its stonework, the various additions to the church over the years were obvious from the changes in the pattern of the masonry to its various parts, and it has some very distinctive features that set it aside from the very many other churches that I have surveyed. The porch, added in the C14, is quite unusual in its design with its angled buttresses and ribbed stone tile roof, and it has a modern Welsh slate sundial.

The old clock face set on the base of the tower

Walking clockwise around the church, the rubble masonry to the lowest section of the tower contrasts with the squared masonry used for the porch and the old 17th century clock face has been placed here. Looking up at the Norman tower, the various upper stages are built with different styles of masonry – both the shape and dimensions of the individual blocks – which reflect different phases of building.

A view up the tower from the south-west

The belfry and spire were added c.1375 with windows in the Perpendicular Gothic style and, to the east elevation, the old steep roofline is clearly visible and on the east and west of the third stage, twin round headed windows have been blocked 

The north aisle

Moving round to the north elevation, the walls of the north aisle were added c.1360 and comprise well squared ashlar blocks that contrast markedly with the roughly coursed rubble walling of the Lady Chapel of c.1295, which appears disproportionate in size to the rest of the elements of the church. Here, one can find a couple of old stone coffins, which have been stood on end and leant against the wall. 

Stone coffins placed against the external wall of the Lady Chapel

The modern extension to the east end, which replaced the one that was added in 1920, obscures the part of the church and its rock faced masonry is austere and featureless, but its colour and texture is such that it blends in with the older parts of the church. 

The east end of All Saints church

In the churchyard, various headstones and chest tombs are scattered around and there is a simple war memorial cross, but the most interesting feature is the top of the spire, which was removed when it was rebuilt c.1714 and, having being subsequently rebuilt behind Church House and then dismantled, it was re-erected in 1973.

The old top of the spire in the churchyard

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Kenwood House

A gargoyle in the grounds of Kenwood House

My trip to the central library and the art gallery in Leeds took place on the last day of August and the next week was spent finishing my preparations for the Heritage Open Days at St. Helen’s church in Treeton. 

The front elevation of St. Andrew's church

With a day’s break between the events at St. Helen’s church, I wanted to make the most of the Heritage Open Days event for my own leisure and on the Thursday, I set off to see St. Andrew’s Methodist church in Sheffield, dated 1915, which has some modern stained glass. 

Modern stained glass at St. Andrew's church

Although built of local sandstone, its architectural features didn’t merit detailed investigation and I didn’t stay too long. Having never visited Nether Edge in Sheffield before, when I asked if there was anything in the neighbourhood worth seeing, it was recommended that visit Kenwood Hall - now Kenwood Hall Hotel. 

The west elevation of Kenwood House

A Heritage Open Day at this place had been arranged for the following week but I decided to go and have a quick look, to see if it would be visiting. Having introduced myself at the reception, I was told that I could have a wander round the grounds and the old house, which was used for conferences, at leisure. 

The south elevation of Kenwood House

Built in 1844 for the cutlery manufacturer George Wostenholm and designed by William Flockton in the fashionable Tudor gothic style, the original Kenwood House and its landscaped grounds sits in the middle of the Nether Edge region of Sheffield. 

The east elevation of Kenwood House

Based on Boston in the USA, this area is an early example of town planning - with large spacious houses and tree lined streets – and was considered highly desirable by wealthy business men, and it still has an exclusive character. 

Carved head stops to a bay window on the east elevation

Although not a listed building, Kenwood House is very unusual for Sheffield in that it is built from Carboniferous limestone from Derbyshire and not from local Carboniferous sandstone, although a medium grained gritstone, which is occasionally pink coloured, is used for the dressings and with a different buff variety for carved head stops on a bay window to the east elevation. 

A gargoyle

One interesting feature that I discovered when wandering around the small lake in the grounds was the presence of four enormous stone gargoyles, which have been placed next to the footpaths. I haven’t been able to find any information on these, and therefore don’t know their age and origin, but they look good in their present setting.

A gargoyle

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Leeds Art Gallery - Rock, Pebble, Quarry

Leeds Art Gallery

When making the decision to visit Leeds Central Library - on the last day of August in 2018 - I was partly influenced by the fact that “The Sculpture Collections” – jointly curated by Leeds Art Gallery and the Henry Moore Institute - was going to end on this weekend. 

Maternity by Jacob Epstein in Hopton Wood stone

Waking up very early on another hot sunny day, I discovered that my intended travel on the Saturday would be disrupted by the seemingly interminable strikes on the Northern Rail train service, and so I set out to catch the first train that I could to get to Leeds. 

Reclining Figure by Henry Moore in Horton stone

Not having the time for my usual preparation, I arrived to find that the Henry Moore Institute had terminated their part of the event early; however, also unknown to me was that Leeds Art Gallery had dedicated the Henry Moore Sculpture space to an exhibition entitled “Rock, Pebble, Quarry: The Sculptural Lives of Stone

Hieroglyph by Barbara Hepworth in Ancaster stone

Exploring the use of stone over the years, the exhibition included several paintings – including depictions of a tin mine and a quarry amongst other subjects – but, as a geologist, it was the stone sculptures that were of most interest to me. 

Red Fruit by Peter Randall-Page in red marble

All works on display were from the Leeds Museums and Galleries collection and included examples of various igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks – as well as other materials that were designed to imitate stone. 

Man with Child by Maurice Lambert in Verde di Prato

Materials familiar to me included Ancaster stone, Hopton Wood stone and Hornton stone, used by Barbara Hepworth (1953), Jacob Epstein (1910) and Henry Moore (1929) respectively; however, there were others, including the red marble by Peter Randall-Page (1987) and green Verde de Prato marble by Maurice Lambert (1931) – which is actually serpentinite - that I had never seen before. 

A detail of an unknown sculpture in alabaster

There were other sculptures in alabaster, white marble and basalt, whose details I didn't record and, although I generally appreciated the craftsmanship involved and the materials used, not all of them were to my taste.

A general view of various sculptures