Friday, 30 November 2018

A Sculpture Trail at Stoneface Creative

One face of a revolving double sided sculpture

When starting this Language of Stone Blog, I had intentions of trying to connect with like minded professionals who share my interest in stone - geology, geoheritagehistoric architecture, archaeology and public sculpture and monuments

Stoneface Creative on Storrs Lane

Also, as a qualified teacher of English as a foreign language (TEFL) and a student of both Spanish and Italian, I have been making contact with geologists from both countries who are interested in Geoheritage and tourism - and I like to think that my brief reports on the various places that I have visited will be of interest to them. 

A sculpted grindstone

On the last day of September, which had proved to be a very busy month – culminating in visits to the Longshaw Estate, Ranmoor and the Hill Top Chapel/All Saints church - I made a big effort to get to Storrs Wood, set in the Loxley Valley, where a Woodland Weekend was being organised by Stoneface Creative

A sandstone sculpture

I first came across Andrew Vickers at an event in Kelham Island Museum a few years ago and last year, when exploring the village of Grenoside, I discovered some more of his work – which I particularly liked. 

A sculpture in the Wood Shed

I had seen an advert for the Woodland Weekend event the year before but, being reliant on public transport, I thought that its remote location would make it very difficult to get to; however, making the most of the continuing dry weather, I decided to combine my visit with a walk along the River Loxley back to Malin Bridge, where I would catch a tram back to Sheffield. 

A multifaceted sculpture

From Treeton, where I live, to Storrs Wood, it needed two buses journeys and one on the tram to get to the Admiral Rodney at Loxley – which needed careful planning with the Sunday service – and then a further 15 minute walk, but I was so glad that I made the effort. 

The war memorial on Storrs Lane
Walking up from the River Loxley, the roadside on Storrs Lane – which has a war memorial and several sculpted gateposts - was packed with cars at lunchtime and this event was clearly very popular with families with young children. 

A carved gatepost on Storrs Lane

I briefly looked around the gallery space at Mill Spring House, before spending over an hour exploring the trail of mainly sandstone sculptures, which is in a magnificent woodland setting next to Storrs Brook, and then setting off to explore the River Loxley.

A sandstone sculpture

In Search of Henry Clifton Sorby

A detail of the tomb of Henry Clifton Sorby

During the Heritage Open Days events, held in September 2018, apart from organising my own event at St. Helen’s church in Treeton, I visited a few historic buildings in South Yorkshire, including mediaeval churches in Braithwell and Wath-upon-Dearne

A general view of the Hill Top Chapel

One of the places on my list that I didn’t manage to visit was the Hill Top Chapel in Attercliffe, built by Puritans in 1629 in a rural area set outside Sheffield, but which was subsequently engulfed by the industry that grew up in the Lower Don Valley and, like the Old Queen’s Head public house in central Sheffield, has unexpectedly survived the redevelopment that has taken place around it. 

The tomb of Benjamin Huntsman at the Hill Top Chapel

Taking advantage of the continuing fine weather in the last week of September, during which I had visited the Longshaw Estate and Ranmoor, I decided to go and have a quick look at this historic building and explore the churchyard, where Benjamin Huntsman and several members of the Sorby family – which I hoped included Henry Clifton Sorby - were buried. 

The tomb of John Sorby at the Hill Top Chapel

The chapel, which was largely rebuilt in 1909, is a simple structure and when I discovered that Henry Clifton Sorby wasn’t buried here, I just took a few photos of various enormous grave slabs, which would have been supplied from the quarries at Brincliffe Edge and provide fine examples of  and 18th century calligraphy and letter cutting

18th century calligraphy and letter cutting

Using my phone to discover that I would need to go to Ecclesall, to find his grave, I headed back into Sheffield to catch the right bus and, within the hour, I was wandering around All Saints churchyard, where I eventually found a relatively simple tomb – formed from pink Peterhead and grey Rubislaw granites, with a sandstone plinth. 

The tomb of Henry Clifton Sorby

Henry Clifton Sorby was the pioneer of using a microscope to study rocks, which forms the basis of my Glowing Edges Designs artwork project and currently involving the production of some unique Crepe de Chine silk scarvesThe design of the tomb doesn’t have much artistic merit, and is much smaller than the Sorby family tombs that I saw at the Hill Top Chapel, but I was just content to be out on yet another very warm and sunny late September afternoon. 

A general view of All Saints church in Ecclesall

Quickly looked at the exterior of the church, which was originally built in gritstone and substantially extended in iron banded Coal Measures sandstone – as well as the interior – before I went down to look at Ecclesall war memorial. From a distance, I thought that its white colour reflected the use of Portland limestone that had been recently cleaned. 

An interesting headstone in All Saints churchyard

Getting closer, however, I couldn’t see any sign of bedding planes or the abundant oyster shells that are normally weathered out in the historic buildings of the polluted northern industrial cities. Looking closely without the benefit of a hand lens, I confirmed that it was in fact a white marble and that, rubbing it with my fingers, it had a distinctive saccharoidal texture – which is formed when marble is exposed to the carbonic acid that occurs naturally in rainwater.

Ecclesall war memorial

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

A Trip to Fulwood on the No. 120 Bus

Fossil Lepidodendron roots in Sheffield Botanical Gardens

Usually, when I have set out on my travels - using only public transport - I have planned to go to a place where I know that I will find something interesting; however, when I set out on the No. 120 bus to Ranmoor and Fulwood – having visited the Longshaw Estate and Padley Gorge only the day before - I had no idea what I might find, because I had never been to this part of Sheffield.

Oakwood - now part of Notre Dame High School

Like Dore, Grenoside, Norton and other old villages that are set on the hilly suburbs of Sheffield, I suspected that they would contain a variety of historic buildings that are built from the local stone; however, having seen only a couple of Victorian churches and a few large private houses of similar age, including Oakwood, alongside the main road, the bus arrived at the terminus in Fulwood – set in an inter-war housing estate - and not seeing anything of interest within walking distance, I didn’t get off the bus. 

St. John's church in Ranmoor

Although a little disappointed in what I had seen to date, on the return journey to Sheffield, I got off the bus at St. John’s church in Ranmoor, which I had noted as being open during the Heritage Open Days event a couple of weeks earlier. 

Ancaster limestone used in the south door surround

Except for the tower, the original Victorian church - built in 1879 - was burned down in 1887, with the new church designed by Flockton and Gibbs reopened a year later. It is constructed of a rock faced iron stained sandstone and dressings of Ancaster limestone – a Jurassic oolitic limestone that forms a strong visual contrast in the building. 

Ranmoor war memorial

In its churchyard, the Cornish granite war memorial is a Celtic style wheel-headed cross, with knot carving and having had a quick look at this, I decided to head back to Sheffield via Endcliffe Vale Road, another road that didn’t have much of architectural interest. 

The Ridge in Ranmoor

I only stopped to follow a sign to Ranmoor Village - which I thought might direct me to it shistoric centre – only to find that this was just the name given to an area of student accommodation, where the sole point of interest was a very large rough block of local Carboniferous sandstone used creatively to identify a particular block of housing. 

An information sign in Sheffield Botanical Gardens

At this point, I had just accepted that this wasn’t going to be my day for finding things and, as the sky had turned very cloudy with an imminent threat of rain, I didn’t even stop when I got to the Sheffield Botanical Gardens, where the fossilised roots of the Carboniferous club moss, Lepidodendron – found when Sheffield Midland railway station was being built – and some large blocks of coal are well worth seeing.

Blocks of coal in Sheffield Botanical Gardens

Friday, 23 November 2018

Burbage Brook & Padley Gorge

A general view of Burbage Brook

After being given directions at the Moorland Discovery Centre in the Longshaw Estate, I took a short walk through some woodland until I came across Burbage Brook. This rises in the moorland beyond Burbage Bridge to the north, where it cuts down through the Chatsworth Grit into the softer mudstones and siltstones of the underlying Marsden Formation, leaving a valley that is flanked by Higger Tor and Carl Wark to the west and Burbage Rocks to the east. 

A geological map of the area around the Longshaw Estate

On the geological map, the Burbage Valley and the areas surrounding these prominent topographic features are marked as being covered in large expanses of head, formed during the Quaternary Period, when the region experience periglacial conditions. 

A view across moorland to Higger Tor and Carl Wark

These form an unsorted and poorly sorted mixture of massive boulders, which have become detached from the rock exposed in the Gritstone edges, along with gravel, sand and clay that have formed by solifluction and soil creep and are moving downslope to the valley bottoms. Together with the blockfield and the scree slopes beneath the edges, with which they merge, they form a very distinctive part of the scenery to the east of the Derwent Valley

A view up Burbage Brook

From the northern boundary of the Longshaw Estate at Surprise View, Burbage Brook crosses the Chatsworth Grit and cuts through the head to expose large boulders along its course for nearly 2km, where there is a dramatic change in the landscape, where it enters Padley Gorge

Burbage Brook at the head of Padley Gorge

The brook, which until this point has been surrounded by heather and bracken covered moorland with very few trees, plunges into a steep sided gorge that contains several small waterfalls and is strewn with boulders and has densely wooded slopes, where the numerous oak trees were dropping their acorns – which are quite painful when falling on an unprotected head. 

A view down to Padley Gorge

Clearly seen as a characteristic v-shape on the geological map, this marks the point where Burbage Brook and its predecessor water courses have cut down into the Marsden Formation. 

A path alongside Padley Gorge

The well defined paths that are well maintained by the National Trust, and in part comprise lengths of riven flagstone, turn into often torturous routes through the boulder littered woods and which run high above the level of the brook in the gorge, where it is not possible to see exposures of the bedrock. 

A view along an old quarry face at Bole Hill Quarry

Not far from Grindleford railway station, the path branches up to Bole Hill Quarry, where there are extensive exposures of the Chatsworth Grit, which here is slightly reddened – unlike most of the gritstone from this formation that can be widely seen in the area. 

A sample of Chatsworth Grit from Bole Hill Quarry

Here, in the last week of September, there were several clumps of fly agaric which, even without trying to look for them – as other people that I met on my walk were doing – stood out amongst the trees and other vegetation. 

Fly agaric funghi in Bole Hill Quarry

Finally arriving at Grindleford railway station, I was unable to take advantage of the Grindleford Station Café - which was highly recommended to me - due to the imminent arrival of the hourly train service back to Sheffield; however, I did have time to take a few photos to the entrance of the Totley Tunnel, which was opened in 1893 and, at 5.7 km, has the distinction of being the second longest railway tunnel in the UK.

The entrance to the Totley Tunnel

Thursday, 22 November 2018

The Longshaw Estate

A public information sign in the Longshaw Estate

The week after my trip to Edensor and Chatsworth House, with the fine weather continuing into late September, I decided to go out to the Peak District National Park again – this time to the Longshaw Estate on the No. 272 bus. 

A Google Earth view of the Longshaw Estate

I had travelled on this route several times in recent years to see Cave Dale and Peveril Castle in Castleton, St Michael & All Angel's church in Hathersage and also Carl Wark, Higger Tor and Burbage Rocks

The Fox House

Alighting at The Fox House this time, I checked the bus timetable for my return journey and was extremely surprised to discover that, apparently, no buses ran back to Sheffield between 13:30 and 16:30. With no network connection available on my phone to check online what I thought was an obvious error, given the popularity of this bus route, I had to change my plans. 

A Discover Longshaw leaflet

Having never been here before, I had just intended to spend a couple of hours here – to go to the visitor centre, before having a quick wander around to see what there was to do on an extended future visit; however, with no signposts that I could see to direct me beyond the car park and an outdated Discover Longshaw leaflet containing a map that was upside down – with north strangely depicted at the bottom of the map – my day wasn’t going well. 

The map on the Longshaw Estate website

Instead of trying to find a way to Longshaw Lodge, I went to the Moorland Discovery Centre, which I could see, and I briefly discussed these problems with a very helpful member of their staff. Explaining that I was a geologist and that I wanted to see some rocks, I was provided with directions that would get me to Burbage Brook and, if I wanted, down through Padley Gorge to Grindleford railway station, where I could then catch the hourly train back to Sheffield.

Grindleford railway station

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Chatsworth House

A view of the Neoclassical Chatsworth House from Paine's Bridge

Having spent the best part of two hours exploring the village of Edensor and St. Peter’s church, I was about to set off across the park to Chatsworth House when the heavens opened and, although I was able to take advantage of the nearby Edensor Tea Cottage, the timing of the return bus journey to Sheffield meant that I could only quickly explore Chatsworth Park

A general view of Chatsworth House

Except for a couple of occasions, when I had passed through Chatsworth Park on the way to Bakewell and Haddon Hall back in 2016, I hadn’t seen Chatsworth House for nearly 35 years and when it came into view I was struck how clean it looked. 
Unknown to me, a £14 million programme of cleaning and restoration had been carried out in 2012/13, which required the reopening of the Burntwood Quarry at Beeley, which was one of the six original quarry sources of Ashover Grit used in the construction of the house. 

The Neoclassical Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House is essentially divided into two distinct parts, the original Neoclassical style house built by the first Duke (1687-1707) and the north wing and further additions by the sixth Duke (1822-1842). 

A detail of Paine's Bridge

It is the original house, which replaced the one built by Bess of Hardwick, that has always interested me most and, after quickly looking at the bridge over the River Derwent by James Paine c. 1761 – which contains reused Portland stone statuary carved by Caius Gabriel Cibber – I took a few photos of its architectural details. 

A detail of the west front of Chatsworth House

Having worked as a site manager for the restoration of the frieze sculpture on the Royal Exchange, and seen many others carved in Portland stone in London, I was very impressed by the pediment of the west front of Chatsworth House. 

A detail of the pediment frieze sculpture

Unlike relatively soft Portland stone, the sandstones from the Millstone Grit are considered to be quite difficult to finely carve and, more often than not, they are used for simple dressings and any ornamentation is quite crude. Although I could only discern their quality by zooming in with my camera and blowing them up on screen, the details – especially the antlers of the deer that form part of the Cavendish crest, and the various ancient weapons that form the background to this – are quite exceptional. 

Sculptures on a retaining wall at Chatsworth House

The cost of producing this kind of work is very substantial and, having only seen others like this on several buildings in London, I was extremely surprised to see that the retaining wall to the formal garden to the west of the house is also decorated with relief sculptures of similar quality, as well as two large sphinxes set on large plinths – also carved by Cibber. 

Queen Mary's Bower

With less than 20 minutes left before I had to catch the 218 bus back to Sheffield, I took a very quick look at Queen Mary’s Bower and the North Gateway, where the sandstone used has distinctive liesegang rings.

The North Gateway to Chatsworth House

I finished my brief exploration of Chatsworth Park at the Stable Block - also designed by Paine. As with Wentworth Woodhouse, which probably matched Chatsworth House for prestige in its heyday, its grandeur is quite remarkable when considering that such a fine example of architecture was solely designed as a place to keep horses.

A detail of the Stable Block at Chatsworth House