Tuesday, 31 December 2019

St. Peter & St. Paul Old Brampton - IV


A detail of the monument erected by Gilbert Clarke

Continuing my investigation of the interior of the church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Old Brampton, I had a look at the various monuments and ancient sculptures that are scattered all around the church. 

A detail of the sculpture of St. Peter

At the west end of the nave, either side of the tower arch, two C13 sculptures depicting St. Peter and St. Paul have been reset into the wall. The Historic England listing states they were originally located on the south wall of the south aisle, presumably along with the similar sculptures that are found on the exterior. 

A detail of the sculpture of St. Paul

To the left hand side of the tower arch, there is the ornate grave slab of Matilda Le Caus, who died c.1225 and who was thought to be part of the family that owned the Manors of Brampton.  It was found buried in the graveyard during the C18 and shows Matilda’s head and shoulders set in a quatrefoil, with her heart in her hands and her feet appearing at the bottom of the slab. 

The grave slab of Matilda De Caus

In the north aisle, there are two large wall monuments, originally placed in the chancel, which commemorate members of the Clarke family of Somersall Hall, who were eminent in Chesterfield from Elizabethan times onward. 

The monument erected by Gilbert Clarke

At the west end there is a large, partially painted alabaster monument, which was erected in 1673 by Gilbert Clarke in memory of ten members of his family who had died during the century. It features crudely carved angels who are pulling back curtains from the central Latin inscription, baskets of fruit, three coats of arms and a pair of skulls and crossbones. 

A detail of the monument erected by Gilbert Clarke

The more restrained Neoclassical monument at the east end of the aisle commemorates Godfrey Clarke (d.1734) and his wife Catherine and is built in various Italian marbles, which would have once looked quite spectacular but have now lost their polish and are very dull.

The memorial to Godfrey Clarke

St. Peter & St. Paul Old Brampton - III


A view east along the nave to the chancel

The exterior of Old Brampton parish church with its broach spire - as at Bolsover, Hope and Baslow – and its miscellaneous stone sculpture has much to interest a geologist and standing buildings archaeologist, and the interior is also very interesting. 

A view west along the nave to the tower

Once inside, after I had discovered how to operate the lighting system, I purchased a guide and soon discovered very many interesting features. Unusually for a church guide, it provides an account of the construction history and complements Pevsner’s description, which on this occasion is quite haphazard and not that easy to follow. 

The north arcade

Starting my investigation with a good look at the form of the 3-bay arcades, the most striking features are the large semi-circular arches that appear over the easternmost two bays. These record an attempt in 1821 to create more space for an ever growing congregation by the removal of the original columns and inserting galleries in the aisles, only for them to be replaced in 1868 by Samuel Rollinson, following the diagnosis of structural problems. 

The south arcade

The responds to both arcades are all octagonal on plan, with the original west column to the north arcade being circular and the equivalent in the south arcade being quatrefoil in plan. Rollinson’s restoration places a quatrefoil column to the north and a circular column to the south, which presumably reflects the original mediaeval configuration, which is considered to be Early English Gothic in date. 

An original quatrefoil column in the south arcade

Looking at the masonry above the arcades, it is not easy to determine obvious changes in the style of masonry that usually accompanies the addition of a clerestory – especially since its irregularly shaped and thinly bedded stones are not discernible from those that constitute the bulk of the earlier parts of the church. 

The west side of the chancel arch

The chancel arch is also very interesting, with a flattened basket arch above the pointed arch built, which suggests that the latter was added at a later date. Above the arch, the masonry exhibits a distinct step that may relate to phase of rebuilding at this point; however, there is no attempt to explain this feature in any of the documentation that I have read. 

The east side of the chancel arch

At the west end of the nave, the pattern of the masonry to the east wall of the tower appears to be severely disrupted between the clerestory and above the internal buttresses, which are an unusual feature, possibly reflecting adjustments to the tower when the clerestory was built.

Disturbed masonry to the east wall of the tower

Monday, 30 December 2019

St. Peter & St. Paul Old Brampton - II


A general view of the south elevation

Continuing my investigation of the church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Old Brampton, the east end of the south elevation kept me occupied for some time, with various stone carvings built into the walls of the chancel and south aisle. 

A stone carving on a buttress to the chancel

In the angle buttress, there is a large block of face bedded gritstone that is decorated with what could be three crossed swords, but there is no mention of this in Pevsner, the Historic England listing or the church guide. Fragments of old grave slabs are often found reset into the fabric but the thickness of the stone suggests that this may be a deliberate decoration of one of the stones used in the buttress. 

The south elevation of the chancel

In the wall below the parapet of the chancel, which like the east end appears to have been raised, there are four trefoils with grilles in the centre; however, when looking at the interior of the chancel, these are not visible and their position generally corresponds with the corbels that support the roof timbers.

A green man on the south wall of the chancel

Above the doorway with triangular head in the centre of the south wall of the chancel, there is a carved head of a green man. On the east wall of the south aisle, above the window, there is a damaged tablet carved with a seated figure of Christ and to the left is a figure of the Virgin and Child, which Pevsner dates to c.1300.

Sculptures on the east wall of the south aisle

Looking closely at the laminated sandstone in the walling, the high concentration of iron is apparent as dense layers of brown coloured oxides that frequently cover the surface of many blocks and others are seen to be rippled siltstone, which is very susceptible to weathering. 

Details of building stones in the chancel wall

It is likely that most of this poor quarried Coal Measures sandstone has been quarried very locally, with the nearest gritstone for the quoins and dressings brought in from Baslow Edge, with possible other sources for the better quality general walling stone. 

A figure on the south aisle

In the south wall of the south aisle, there is a reset carved figure just below the parapet, another green man next to the left jamb of the right hand window and another small head to the right of the head of the same window. These would have been removed from their original places during the insertion of the late Perpendicular Gothic square headed windows, as also seen in the clerestory, and randomly placed in their current positions. 

A green man on the south aisle

The porch, according to Pevsner, is also Perpendicular Gothic and its front is built out of large blocks of gritstone, which are very similar in character to those used in the parapets and buttresses and contain well defined graded bedding

Views of the porch

The roof is made from large flat slabs of fine grained sandstone that probably come from the Wingfield Flags,a short distance to the west at the head of the Linacre Valley. These are the equivalent of the Brincliffe Edge Rock/Greenmoor Rock further to the north and, like its northern equivalent, this formation was once highly valued for paving stones, stone slates, gravestones, kerbs and road setts.

The porch arch and south door 

The roof of the porch is supported inside by a vaulted arch and, on the outside, the arch to the doorway is decorated with now eroded carving and its apex is styled with an ogee arch. The south doorway is Norman, but it has been reset with a slightly point arch in the C13 style.

The vaulted arch inside the porch

Carrying round to the west end of the north aisle, the narrow lancet is the only window to survive from the C13 and, except for the east window to the chancel and the slit window in the tower, all of the windows are square headed in a Perpendicular Gothic style.

A lancet window in the west wall of the south aisle

Sunday, 29 December 2019

St. Peter & St. Paul Old Brampton - I


A general view from the south-west

Following my day out to Bolsover, where I investigated its geology, historic architecture and mediaeval church, I set off to North-East Derbyshire again a couple of days later – this time to Old Brampton, a small village set on an unnamed sandstone of the Pennine Lower Coal Measures Formation 5 km west of Chesterfield. 

A geological map of the area around Old Brampton

Lying on an ancient road that runs from Chesterfield westward across the moors, the church of St. Peter and St. Paul was established c.1100 and, approaching from the south-west through the C19 lychgate, the squat tower, with a slit window on the south elevation, is Norman in date. 

The east elevation

The masonry comprises laminated, iron rich Lower Coal Measures sandstone, with Millstone Grit used for the quoins and dressings, and although a similar style of masonry is used for the belfry, the stone itself appears slightly lighter in colour. A close examination of my photographs indicates that this is due to a greater degree of differential weathering and the loss of a greater part of the surface of the stone. 

The south elevation of the tower

Looking from a distance, the later addition of the belfry and the broach spire – attributed to the very early C14 – is quite obvious, as are the angle buttresses, the strange detail below the south window and the very late Perpendicular Gothic window to the west elevation. 

A detail of the belfry and broach spire

Continuing clockwise to the north aisle, a Victorian addition now provides external access to the tower and gritstone head to the west window is very different in colour to the rest of the masonry in the church and is particularly interesting to the geologist. 

The west window of the north aisle

The north aisle, with its blocked round arched doorway, was added in the C13 but, looking closely at the eaves, the height of the wall has been raised by several courses. This probably took place in the later part of the C15, along with the addition of the clerestory and castellated parapets. 

A general view of the north aisle

Continuing past the vestry to the east end, the large arched window with cusped tracery is a C19 replacement, with the uniform buff coloured medium grained gritstone being typical of those produced in Stanton and Darley Dale

The east window of the chancel

As with the north aisle, an examination of the masonry above the corner buttresses shows that predominantly larger, more precisely cut blocks are used above this level, which suggests that the roof of the chancel has also been raised.

A general view of the east end

Friday, 27 December 2019

Bolsover Castle - A Retrospective


The front elevation of the Little Castle

My day out to Bolsover proved to be very productive, with a walk around the town and a trip to Bolsover Parish Church adding to my knowledge of the geology of the region and its exploitation for building and decorative stones

A general view of Bolsover Castle from Station Road

Although I only took a few photographs of it from a distance, when entering and leaving the town, no trip to Bolsover is complete without a mention of Bolsover Castle, which is set on a spur of the Magnesian Limestone escarpment that overlooks the Hockley Valley and has commanding views across the valley of the River Doe Lea to the west. 

Sculpture on the Little Castle

I first visited the castle back in 1985, along with Hardwick Hall, when I moved to Sheffield after a year spent working for the District Valuer/Valuation Office in Lincoln – where I had first developed an interest in historic stone buildings – and I was particularly struck by the Little Castle and its magnificent fireplaces. 

Cavernous decay in sandstone from the Coal Measures

The next time that I visited Bolsover Castle was at the beginning of 1993 when I was commissioned to advise on a suitable building stone for the restoration of the Little Castle. Red Mansfield stone, which Sir Charles Cavendish had brought from his aborted project in Kirkby-in-Ashfield – 15 km to the south as the crow flies – is the principal building material, with local Carboniferous sandstone used for some dressings

A selection of large stone samples 

I arranged for large samples of various stones being sent to site, with accompanying technical information, with the English Heritage building surveyor choosing a suitable replacement from these, and I visited briefly again in 1994 and 1995, when living in Bakewell, to see the completed restoration work.

A group photo at the Little Castle

The last time I visited Bolsover Castle was in September 2009, during an afternoon field trip with a large group of Spanish students from Vigo, which I had been teaching English to at Swinton Academy. Throughout the three weeks that I had been teaching them, I had lent them my camera on previous field trips – to take photos for an ongoing classroom project – and the entrance steps to the Little Castle made a good setting for our group photo. 

A fireplace in the Little Castle

Magnificent as Bolsover Castle is, and one of my favourite English Heritage properties, having seen it a few times without there being any added attractions, the very overpriced entrance fee has stopped me from going back; however, now that the wall walk has been opened and I have a good reason to have a close look at the fireplaces – for my pending talk at St. Peter’s church in Edensor - I will go and have another look.

An ornate fireplace in the Little Castle

Thursday, 26 December 2019

The Cavendish Chapel


The effigies of Sir Charles Cavendish and his wife Katherine

At the time of my visit to Bolsover Parish Church, I was getting to the end of a biography of Bess of Hardwick and I had just been invited to give a talk, in 2020, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the consecration of St. Peter’s church in Edensor – which was rebuilt by the 7th Duke of Devonshire on the Chatsworth Estate

The monument to Sir Charles Cavendish

With Bolsover being inextricably linked with her youngest son Sir Charles Cavendish - the youngest son of Bess of Hardwick - and his descendants, I was particularly interested in seeing the monuments in the Cavendish Chapel, as they would undoubtedly use decorative stones that were quarried from the family estates, which would be the subject of my talk. 

A detail of the effigy of Katherine

The chapel was commissioned in 1618 by William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle, to house the large standing wall monument to his father Charles Cavendish (d.1617) and his mother Katherine (d.1627), who are represented as recumbent effigies, with kneeling children beneath. 

A detail of the kneeling children

The designer is not specifically mentioned in any published sources that I have seen but Huntington Smythson - the grandson of Robert Smythson who designed Bess of Hardwick’s tomb in Derby Cathedral - built the Cavendish Chapel and he may well have been responsible for the Sir Charles Cavendish monument too. 

A column of Ashford Black Marble

The principal material used is alabaster, with Tutbury in Staffordshire almost certainly being the source, with Ashford Black Marble used for columns and panels, which have been painted with gold lettering - including the epitaph by Ben Jonson

The epitaph by Ben Jonson

Another particularly interesting stone is ‘cockleshell marble’, an ironstone from the Coal Measures that is packed with Carbonicola bivalve fossils, which are formed of calcite. It is used for small panels and other details and it was the first time that I had knowingly seen this stone, although it does occurs in some of the ornate fireplaces at Bolsover Castle, which I have visited on a few occasions. 

A panel of  'cockleshell marble'

The source of this unusual stone is not known but the working of ironstone from the Coal Measures in North-East Derbyshire was once an important industry, with the Dogtooth Rake above the Cockleshell Coal being particularly productive. It was mined in opencast workings or bell pits and, like so many minerals on their estates, the Cavendish family had ready access to it. 

A general view of the Henry Cavendish monument

The other great monument in the Cavendish Chapel was commissioned by Henrietta Cavendish Holles Harley in 1727, to commemorate her grandfather Henry Cavendish and his wife Frances, as well as her mother Margaret. 

A general view of the Henry Cavendish monument

Designed by James Gibbs in a Classical style and sculpted by Francis Bird, it makes extensive use of Italian brecciated and white marble and others but, although very impressive, it wasn’t particularly relevant to my research and I therefore didn’t look very closely at them.

The pediment of the Henry Cavendish monument