Tuesday, 30 April 2019

St. Laurence Adwick le Street - Part 1

A general view of St. Laurence's church

After a good start to 2019, preparing “The Building Stones of Leeds” for the Sheffield U3A Geology Group and exploring the historic buildings of Dronfield, together with its mediaeval church, my next day out was undertaken on a very ad hoc basis. 

The geology around Adwick le Street

With the very unseasonable weather continuing, and having decided to go to Doncaster market, I realised that the train I was due to catch continued to Adwick le Street. Speculatively phoning the rector, not long before I was due to leave my house, I was told that St. Laurence’s church – set on the Permian Brotherton Formation - could be opened for me. 

A general view of the east end of St. Laurence's church

Approaching the east end of the church from the railway station, the castellated parapet and crocketted finials to its prominent tower immediately gives away its style as C15 Perpendicular Gothic and, moving closer, the larger ashlar blocks to the tower and the rubble walling to its east end, with its dressings, are typical of the dolomitic limestone from the Cadeby Formation

A closer view of the east end

At first glance, the masonry to the chancel and north chapel at the east end appears to be quite uniform and the symmetrical gables, with oculi, and the uninterrupted string course suggests that just one phase of construction is seen here; however, all documentary sources refer state that the chancel is Norman and that the north chapel is C13 in date – the latter being confirmed by its simple lancet windows. 

A general view of the east end

Looking closely at the stonework, subtle variations in the shape, size and colours of individual blocks or sections of masonry can be seen. For example, the blocks beneath the string course on the north chapel are generally larger than those in a similar position in the chancel, and there is very much less yellow colouration of the limestone – the latter being a feature of this church.

A detail of the east window of the chancel

Examining photographs at high resolution, there is also a very distinct change in the colour of the stone in the chancel above the geometrical window, which is a Victorian restoration of a pre-existing Decorated Gothic style window. The line of the change coincides with the use of brick in the interior, which the church website considers to be the result of a partial restoration of the chancel that was undertaken in 1895. 

A general view of the north chapel

Less obvious, and this would need close examination on site, is an apparent break in the masonry above the east windows to the north chapel that is obscured by a phase of repointing to the whole of the east elevation. On the north elevation of the chapel, at the same height, the masonry has been obviously altered using a course of large squared blocks and the masonry is of a much better quality than that of the east elevation, with the courses here being much more even and regular.

The north elevation of the chapel

Sunday, 28 April 2019

St. John the Baptist - The Interior

A general view of the arches and columns in the arcades

After briefly exploring the exterior of the church of St. John the Baptist in Dronfield, I entered the porch, where the steeply pointed late C13 arch to the south door shows the physical characteristics of the Silkstone Rock quite well. 

A detail inside the porch

Distinctly yellow to orange in colour, and medium grained, in places it contains iron banding and pellets that have weathered away. Despite its relatively sheltered position, some of the jambs are delaminating and the carved headstops have lost most of their fine detail. 

A view of the nave and its arcades

Once inside the church I firstly noticed the form of the arcades, which are Early English Gothic style with barely pointed arches and circular columns that to my eye are uniform in shape and size – suggesting that the arcades were built at the same time, although the church guide appears to suggest otherwise. 

Views of the north and south aisles

I didn’t spend much time looking at the details of the masonry, but the bare stone walls provide evidence of different phases of building or repair, especially in the aisles where there is considerable variation in the size and shape of the stones; 

The old roof line in the nave

In the nave, except for two infilled clerestory windows at the east end and the masonry above the old roof line over the chancel arch, I couldn’t see any obvious changes in the masonry at clerestory level, which is usually very noticeable when the original nave has been subsequently raised and windows inserted. 

A view west along the chancel

Entering the chancel, built c.1260, the large expanse of squared and coursed walling is quite striking and the numerous later monuments on its lower parts do not impose on the fabric in the same way as those in a chancel that is typically much smaller. The sedilia is in a very ornate Decorated Gothic style, with ogee arches and multiple cusps – as well as containing very fine floral details and figurative carving. 

A detail of the sedilia

In the chancel, the wall monuments are mostly Victorian and mainly comprise white and black marble, with some alabaster, and inscribed fine grained sandstone grave slabs, with monumental brasses, covers most of its floor. 

An inscribed grave slab in the chancel floor

The most interesting monument is the alabaster chest tomb and effigy to Sir Richard Barley, dated c.1470, which has been at some time mutilated and is also covered in graffiti – with various initials, dates and other markings scratched into it.

The monument to Sir Richard Barley

Thursday, 25 April 2019

St. John the Baptist in Dronfield

A general view of the church of St. John the Baptist in Dronfield

After taking a good look at the historic buildings of Dronfield, which I assumed to be built from locally quarried Silkstone Rock, I then wandered down the hill along Church Street to have a look at the church of St. John the Baptist

A general view

Usually, when surveying a church for the first time, I walk around its exterior to assess its principal structural form and features and take a few general photos, before looking at the details; however, the extremely bright February sunshine made photography quite difficult and I therefore didn’t closely examine the exterior on this occasion 

The chancel

Compared to most of the mediaeval churches that I had previously seen during my exploration of South Yorkshire and its surrounding counties, its most striking feature is the very large early chancel with its very pronounced buttresses – dated 1260 by the official church guide, but which Pevsner attributes to the early C14, based on the style of the tracery in the windows. 

The south aisle with trefoil parapets

Except to the tower, the lack of castellated parapets is also quite noticeable. The roof levels to both aisles were raised in 1855 to accommodate trefoil windows – with a similar detail to the south elevation of the chancel – and the clerestory parapet also appears to be altered. Looking at the size and shape of the blocks of stone used for these parapet details, it is likely that the castellations were removed during this, or a previous phase of Victorian restoration

The remains of a possible Anglo-Saxon cross

While walking further around its exterior, I also noted the disintegrating base and part of the stem of what is considered to be the remains of an Anglo-Saxon cross and a headstone that is made of white marble – with typical saccharoidal weathering.

A gravestone made in white marble

At the edge of the churchyard, near to the Garden of Remembrance, very many of the headstones are notable for being extremely large and are probably from the quarries at Brincliffe Edge in Sheffield.Here there is also a headstone made by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which has a nice carved tiger - the crest of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment.

A Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone

Friday, 19 April 2019

Silkstone Rock in Dronfield

Memorial stones at the old Dronfield Methodist Church

At the beginning of 2019, I spent my first few days out preparing the February field trip with the Sheffield U3A Geology Group to investigate The Building Stones of Leeds and, having finished this in plenty of time, I began to plan for the rest of the year – to continue my investigation of the geology and mediaeval churches in and around South Yorkshire by public transport. 

A geological map of the area around Dronfield

Having already explored Norton on the edge of Sheffield a few times, it was just a natural progression to take the bus a little further south to visit the town of Dronfield, which lies on a syncline that is formed within an extensive outcrop of the Silkstone Rock

Dronfield Baptist Church

Alighting from the bus at the edge of the old centre of Dronfield, a walk along High Street downhill to the church takes you past numerous historic stone buildings – the oldest dated at 1596 – that are constructed from what is presumably locally quarried Silkstone Rock. 

Dronfield public library

The former Manor House C1700, now a public library, is constructed in a light brown/buff coloured sandstone that is of a uniform tone where large blocks are used in the quoins and dressings; however, the smaller blocks used for the ashlar walling, which are presumably taken from less massive beds, have a greater yellow/orange and occasionally dark brown colour variation. 

22-26 High Street

A little further down High Street, on the opposite side of the road, a terrace of mid 19th century houses have a slightly different character. Here, where the dark patina typical of Carboniferous sandstones has been weathered away, an orange colouration is dominant.

The Peel Monument

The Peel Monument, erected in 1846 to commemorate the repeal of the Corn Laws, is obviously completely different and, at a distance, looks like it could be made of grey granite from Devon or Cornwall - which is common in Victorian monuments. A close inspection, nevertheless, reveals that it is in fact a very coarse Millstone Grit with frequent fingernail sized pebbles. 

The former Dronfield Methodist Church

The former Dronfield Methodist Church, dated 1863, is also built with sandstone that contains distinct yellow/orange colouration, and several memorial stones that have been included at the base of its west elevation are distinctly reddened. 

The Hall and the Blue Stoops Inn

The Hall, of the early C18, and the Blue Stoops Inn opposite, dated 1594, are built with sandstone that has similar physical characteristics to the buildings previously noted and this pattern continues in the historic buildings that line High Street. This includes the refurbished and apparently cleaned Dronfield Hall Barn, which is set back some distance from the road. 

Historic buildings on High Street

At the bottom of High Street, the doorway of the old town hall provides another example of reddened sandstone and turning the corner into Church Street, which winds down the hill towards the River Drone, the early Georgian Old Vicarage and the adjacent Red House are particularly notable for being constructed in red brick.

The Old Vicarage and the Red House

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

The Victoria Quarter in Leeds

Marble columns and pilasters in County Arcade

During my preparation of a field trip to Leeds with the Sheffield U3A Geology Group, to explore its building stones, I encountered numerous interesting historic buildings over a series of visits to the city and Leeds Central Library and Leeds Minster – at opposite ends of the city centre – deserved particular mention, when I first encountered them in 2018. 

Marble columns in County Arcade

On my last day out to Leeds, towards the end of January 2019, I had worked out the route that I would take with the group the following month, but I had a few nagging doubts about the various decorative stones that I had encountered. In particular, the marble used for the columns in the County Arcade, has been described as Italian Sienna marble in at least one of the documents that I had read during my internet research. 

The Triton Stone Library

Having specialist interests in identifying building stone, partly based on my practical experience of the building restoration industry in London, I have previously devised the Triton Stone Library – designed to satisfy an architect’s specification to “match the existing” - but I have never pretended to be an expert in decorative stone. 

Decorative Stone - The Complete Sourcebook

Following an enquiry on Facebook about the identification of the various decorative stones – based on photographs of one of the very many mediaeval churches that I have posted there – I ordered a copy of Decorative Stone - The Complete Sourcebook by Monica PriceAs the curator of the Corsi Collection of Decorative Stones at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, I had been aware of her for many years and thought that this would be a good place to start. 

A detail of a marble pilaster in County Arcade

When I received the book in the post, I compared the entries with several photographs that I had previously taken of the columns in County Arcade, as well as those available on the online Corsi catalogue, but I was still none the wiser – as were Francis G. Dimes and Murray Mitchell when they described the marble in The Building Stone Heritage of Leeds as "presumably Italian".

A detail of marble columns in County Arcade

Although a good introduction to the subject, its photographs of the relatively small samples in the Corsi collection, and others held in the museum, aren’t representative of the wide variety in colours and textures that are very often found in ‘marbles'however, this is shared in common with very many stone trade publications, online portals and company websites that I have seen.

A detail of a marble column in County Arcade

In my experience, I think that there is no substitute for seeing large quantities of any given stone - whatever its type - in the quarry or where used in buildings as large slabs or extensive expanses of masonry, where one can then get a better appreciation of any variation in colour and texture

A detail of a column and plinth in County Arcade

For my planned field trip, I had already done enough but, to satisfy my own curiosity and making the most of a sunny and warm early Monday afternoon in February, I took the train to Leeds again – with the objective to sample the lunchtime menu at Khao Gaeng Thai, before having a close look at the various stones that I had already noted in the arcades that make up the Victorian Quarter

Two types of Larvikite used in County Arcade

Firstly noting two varieties of larvikite, with its very distinctive Schiller texture, which has been used extensively for pilasters on the exterior of the three original blocks designed by Frank Matcham – to complement the butterscotch coloured Burmantofts faience – I had a further look at the Tranas Red granite from Sweden that is used as a skirting

A skirting formed in Tranas Red granite

Looking much more closely at the marble columns that mark out the shop fronts along County Arcade, its extremes of colour and texture made me think that this could possibly be Breccia di Seravezza, a notoriously variable marble from the Apuan Alps.

An attempt to identify the marble used in County Arcade

After locating a fossil ammonite in one of the Rosso Verona plinths, I finished off my survey of the building stones of the Victoria Quarter by taking a few quick snaps of the various granites that have been used in the redevelopment of the former Queen Victoria Street.

An ammonite fossil in a plinth made of Rosso Verona marble

Grey Hantergantick granite from Bodmin Moor in Cornwall has been originally used here for the flooring, together with pink Peterhead granite used for edgings; however, in places there is another variety of grey granite, which is different and is presumably a later replacement.

A detail of granite flooring in Queen Victoria Street

Sunday, 7 April 2019

The Building Stones of Leeds - Part 4

An ornate keystone on Moorlands House

In preparation for a field trip with the Sheffield U3A Geology Group, to investigate ‘The Building Stones of Leeds’, it needed two recces to turn an idea raised at the first meeting of 2019 into a viable day out that could entail a walk lasting 5 hours or more. 

The former Church Institute

Having already identified potential stopping points during a couple of visits to Leeds the year before, by the time that I had taken a good look at the County Arcade during my last visit, I decided that the group should take a lunch break at the junction of Albion Place and Lands Lane. 

Grey granite seats on Lands Lane

Here, a series of grey granite benches with comical bronze sculptures of dogs, by the artist Lucy Casson, were installed as part of the renewed urban landscaping in 2009. From this point, a good variety of architectural styles and materials can be seen in the buildings –especially the former Church Institute - and on Albion Place, another series of seats carved out of Portland Roach by Peter Yarwood form part of the same development. 

Portland Roach seats on Albion Place

Continuing along Albion Place, there are various listed buildings where local Carboniferous sandstone is the principal building stone and on the corner of Albion Street/Commercial Street, the highly ornamented Moorlands House utilises three varied sandstones from the Millstone Grit. 

Moorlands House

Before cutting through to Park Row, via Bond Street, I had a quick exploration of Albion Street to find the sculpted granite seats in the form of feet and with both polished and tooled surfaces. 

Granite seats on Albion Street

Arriving on Park Row, which I had surveyed a few days earlier, the route of the “Building Stones of Leeds” field trip with the Sheffield U3A Geology Group was now effectively set in my mind; however, having not yet explored Walk 3 from the Building Stone Heritage of Leeds, I finished my day by following it very quickly on the way back to Leeds railway station, after I had looked at the white marble war memorial on The Headrow.

The war memorial on The Headrow

When planning this field trip, I had always wanted to concentrate on the most interesting historic buildings of Leeds – from an architectural perspective – rather than organise a “rock spotter’s guide” and the highlight for me in the financial quarter was St. Paul’s House, a former factory that makes extensive use of Doulton terracotta in the dressings of a building made out of brick.

St. Paul's House