Wednesday, 25 September 2019

The Cathedral of the Peak - The Interior

A detail of the 'De Bower' tomb

“The Cathedral of the Peak” is a magnificent church and its gradual, essentially uninterrupted change from the Decorated to Perpendicular style is very unusual but, from the viewpoint of a standing buildings archaeologist, there is very little in the external fabric to provide interest and this is reflected in the interior. 

A view east along the nave

Looking down the nave, although the architectural historian will be interested in the unusual quatrefoil sections to the columns in the arcades, which rise nearly to the level of the clerestory, I found it a bit sterile; however, various heads can be seen, as at St.Mary’s church in Nottingham, when looking closely. 

A view west along the nave

As a geologist, with a background in restoring historic buildings, I like to see changes in the styles of masonry or building stones that indicate a major phase of rebuilding or restoration, which record the passing of very many years.That said, the Perpendicular Gothic period brings with it a great sense of achievement in the accomplishment of feats of stonemasonry and, although I barely noticed it at the time – except to take a quick photo – the pulpit here is quite spectacular. 

The pulpit

Moving in to the chancel, the ornate sedilia has quatrefoil mouldings and ogee arches that are also seen in the flat recesses on the opposite wall, and the east end has various ornate niches containing statues – carved in the 1950’s. 

The chancel

Looking at the masonry, large blocks of precisely squared gritstone are used throughout and the most interesting part of this in the chancel is the old roof line and the rubble masonry that is seen either side of the chancel arch, which has surprisingly been left exposed when all of the other masonry is finely finished ashlar

The east side of the chancel arch

In the centre of the chancel, there is the large alabaster chest tomb of Sir Sampson Meverill, d.1462, which is topped with a large slab of Purbeck Marble from Dorset, and set in the floor are the tombs of Sir John Foljambe , d.1348, and Bishop Pursglove, d.1579,both of which are slabs of shelly Carboniferous Limestone inset with a figurative brass

The tomb of Sir Sampson Meverill

The Lady Chapel was unfortunately closed due to safety reasons and I could not take a good look at the effigies of two females, dated c.1300, but I was able to closely examine the most spectacular monument in the church – in the De Bower Chapel

Effigies in the Lady Chapel

Attributed to Sir Thurstan De Bower and his wife Lady Margaret, there is considerable doubt that, being a wealthy yeoman who owned several lead mines, a monument would depict him as a knight in full armour like this. Nonetheless, this defaced grand alabaster monument, restored in 1873, is a work of very fine craftsmanship. 

The 'De Bower' tomb

The Cathedral of the Peak

Details of the parapet to the tower of St. John the Baptist's church

Known as the “Cathedral of the Peak”, St. John the Baptist’s church in Tideswell lies on the site of a chapelry within the parish of Hope, which was recorded in the Domesday Book; however, building of the existing church commenced c.1325, according to Pevsner, and was finished by 1400 – since when there have been no further additions to the structure. 

A general view of the south elevation

Although work was interrupted by the Black Death, 1349-1350, the church is very unusual in that it was essentially completed in a single phase of construction, where the development of the Decorated Gothic style and emergence of the Perpendicular Gothic style is clearly illustrated, and which includes the rebuilding in 1360 of an earlier chancel. 

The west elevation of the tower

Starting at the tower, which was the latest part of the church to be completed, the Perpendicular Gothic style is characterised by the tall west window, with its large mullions and simple panel tracery, and the very unusual octagonal turrets, with pinnacles, that top each corner. 

A detail of weathered Decorated Gothic tracery in the south aisle

Continuing clockwise past the castellated two storied porch, the arched windows to the south aisle have flowing Decorated Gothic tracery and this continues into the south transept, which has diagonal buttresses with now empty niches and grotesques; however, the sculptural decoration has been restored – probably during the major restoration by J. D. Sedding in the early 1870’s. 

Original and restored sculpted details on the south transept

Moving on to the chancel, the change in style of windows from arched to flat headed indicates the adoption of the new Perpendicular Gothic design for the rebuilt chancel, although the geometrical tracery is a throwback to the early Decorated Gothic style. 

Perpendicular Gothic windows in the chancel

In all of the fabric seen up to this point, there is no change in the masonry – either the type of stone or the shape, size and tooling of the blocks – and a yellowish coloured Millstone Grit of unknown provenance has been used throughout. Compared to other similar gritstones that I have seen in the Peak District National Park, this one is relatively soft and moulded details, as well as the ashlar, are often severely weathered. 

A general view from the north-east

The north elevation of the church, including the transept, essentially mirrors the south elevation although the buttresses between the windows of the chancel are shorter and lack finials.

A detail of the window tracery in the north transept

The churchyard is quite limited in size, with part of it set on rising ground to to the north of the church and a quick exploration revealed a couple of large chest tombs, but I saw nothing of great architectural interest. There is, however, a part set aside for several Commonwealth War Graves.

The Commonwealth War Graves

Vernacular Architecture in Tideswell

A gryphon outside the former NatWest Bank

As I discovered when investigating Baslow and Stoney Middleton in March this year, unless using the relatively frequent services on the routes from Sheffield to Bakewell and Castleton, it is not easy to explore the Peak District National Park by bus. 

The routes to  Tideswell and Hope from Treeton

Having already been on very enjoyable field trips to Poole’s Cavern, Monsal Dale and Rushup Vale with the Sheffield U3A Geology Group – with the last one ending up with a walk to Hope – I decided to go and have a look at Tideswell, which I last visited more than 20 years ago when surveying the RIGS in the Peak District National Park. 
My original plan was to arrive at 12:35 on the Stagecoach No. 65 but, with the return buses to Sheffield at either 13:36 or 16:37 not suiting my timescale to explore St. John the Baptist’s church and the vernacular architecture in Tideswell, I decided to catch the Hulleys No.173 to Hope, where I had made arrangements for St. Peter’s church to be opened for me – after which I would then return to Sheffield on the First Mainline No.272

A view along Queen Street

All of this of course depended on the First Mainline No. X54 bus, from Harthill to Sheffield, turning up on time in the first place – a route that has been cut from 2 buses per hour to a notoriously unreliable hourly service, with the timings for the morning ‘rush hour’ now being quite ridiculous. 

Fountain Square church

Having arrived in Tideswell as planned, on Queen Street, I set out to have a quick look at its vernacular architecture and historic buildings, which essentially use local Carboniferous Limestone for the walling and Millstone Grit for the dressings - with stone tiles for the roofs of the older buildings and Welsh slate for the later buildings. 
This combination of stones is a typical pattern in the villages of the White Peak and it is the more prestigious buildings that tend to be built entirely with Millstone Grit which, unlike the Carboniferous Limestone, can be carved into intricate ornamental details. 

A gothic style window at Pursglove Lodge

Most of the Grade II Listed vernacular buildings that I encountered aren’t of great architectural merit, although they do contribute significantly to a large Conservation Area; however, I saw a couple of buildings that I particularly liked – Blake House and the Oddfellows Hall – and, next time I visit Tideswell, I will further investigate the area around High Street and Market Square.

Market Square

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

A Reconnaissance of Pontefract

A spectacular exposure of the Yellow Sands Formation

The Sheffield U3A Geology Group trip to Rushup Vale and the subsequent walk from Mam Tor to Hope made a great day out in the middle of May, to look at some interesting geology, and three days later I was on the road again to Pontefract – to prepare the June field trip. 

The proposed route for the field trip in Pontefract

Although I had a plan in place, based on my own investigations and observations during several previous visits to Pontefract, I am a lot younger and generally walk faster than most of the Group’s members and, as with my reconnaissance of the Greenmoor/Brincliffe Edge Rock for the September meeting, I was glad to be accompanied by Paul May. 

The Cadeby Formation at Pontefract Monkhill station

Starting at the road cutting at Pontefract Monkhill railway station, this exposure of the Cadeby Formation has numerous crystal lined cavities known as vughs, which form along the line of the bedding planes, and it is the only exposure of accessible Permian dolomitic limestone that I know of in Pontefract. 

Weathered sandstone at All Saints church

At the nearby All Saints church, which I considered to be one of the key locations on the day along with Pontefract Castle, we quickly looked at the main points of interest here before leaving the car at Friarwood Car Park, which would be the meeting place for the Group on the day. 

Parking charges are a consideration on a field trip

Taking note of the very reasonable parking charges, we then discovered a rock face at the back of Stringers Coaches that I hadn’t noticed before. After having a quick word with the girl at the desk of the petrol station, we were told that it probably wouldn’t be a problem for the Group to start our field trip there and contact details of the owners were provided. 

Tourist information on Southgate

Continuing up Southgate, we stopped at the old General Infirmary, where various information boards and blue plaques informed us about the history of St. Richard’s Dominican Priory and the Hermitage, and then had a very quick investigation of Friarwood Valley Gardens, where the predecessor of the mainly culverted stream once formed the steep sided valley here. 

The stream in Friarwood Valley Gardens

Moving on to Dark Lane, which I had previously discovered from the West Yorkshire Geology Trust website, we stopped to look at the outcrop of the Yellow Sands Formation that was not yet covered in ivy – before knocking on the door of Sundial House. We just wanted to let the owner know that our Group would be turning up in the following month, to look at the rock outcrop in his garden that we could see from the road. 

In the front garden of Sundial House

Much to our surprise, after our introduction was made, we were shown around his garden – where the Yellow Sands Formation and the overlying Cadeby Formation, complete with vughs, are spectacularly exposed.

In the garden of Sundial House

With the whole Group being invited to come back in June, and with a subsequent mutually beneficial arrangement – for us to be accompanied around Pontefract by a member of Pontefract Civic Society – the rest of the day just fell into place as I had envisaged it. 

Local Carboniferous sandstone used for walling

Briefly looking at the market place, the museum, several historic buildings and various monuments - including the market hall where we bought some Pontefract cakes - we finished at Pontefract Castle, where we made our final arrangements for the tour of the castle magazine.

The Counting House public house

Saturday, 7 September 2019

A Walk from Mam Tor to Hope

A view from Mam Tor to Winnats Pass

The Sheffield U3A Geology Group field trip to Rushup Vale ended much earlier than usual and, as we were all preparing to separate at the end of our walk, a couple of the other members of the group asked me if I wanted to go with them on a walk from the nearby Mam Tor to the village of Hope, where we could then catch a bus back to Sheffield. 

A geological map of the area around Mam Tor and Hope

With it being a warm and sunny day, and having no reason to get back home early, I thought that this was a good idea, especially since the last time I had walked here was more than 20 years ago, when undertaking a survey of the Regionally Important Geological Sites (RIGS) in the Peak District National Park

The trig point on Mam Tor

Starting at Mam Tor car park to the west of the vertical rock face that has been formed by landslips, which gives the name “Shivering Mountain”, we made our way up to the trig point, where there are all round panoramic views, and then carried on eastward towards Back Tor

A view east along the ridge towards Back Tor and Lose Hill

The ridge here is composed of the Upper Carboniferous Mam Tor Beds, a repeating sequence of alternating sandstone and shale, which are turbidite deposits formed on the edge of the continental shelf. These are susceptible to rotational landslides and evidence of this can be seen at the foot of Mam Tor, where they led to the closure of the road that once traversed this ground. 

Landslips have closed the road below Mam Tor

The route from Mam Tor to Lose Hill, at the east end of the ridge, is extremely popular with general tourists and seasoned walkers and is subject to considerable erosion. In addition to the paved paths, large areas along the ridge have been strengthened with large irregular sandstone blocks set into the ground. 

Sandstone blocks used to counteract excessive erosion by walkers

Carrying on to Back Tor, which forms a vertical cliff on the north side of the ridge that overlooks Edale, further examples of landslides and debris flows can be seen in the lower slopes and the turbidite sequence in the Shale Grit is well exposed. 

A general view of Back Tor

At Back Tor, with more than 3 km further to go on our walk, we all decided that we had done enough strenuous walking for the day and, instead of carrying on up the ridge that would eventually take us to Lose Hill, we took the lower path that took us down to Hope. 

St. Peter's church in Hope

With half an hour to wait for our bus back to Sheffield, and with the sun still shining strongly, I took advantage of the well stocked shelves of the local off licence and treated myself to a well deserved bottle of ice cold cider, before having a quick look at St. Peter’s church.

The walk from Mam Tor to Hope

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

A Geology Field Trip to Rushup Vale

Bowland Shale (left) and Bee Low Limestone (right) in Rushup Vale

A trip to the Peak District National Park is always extremely refreshing and, although I had spent a productive month investigating Nottingham and parts of Barnsley and West Yorkshire that I hadn’t known before, I was looking forward to visiting Rushup Vale. 

Meeting at the layby on the Sheffield Road

Meeting at the layby on the Sheffield Road, approximately 6 km west of Castleton, our itinerary for the day was to explore the interface of the White and Dark Peaks, where the sequence of the Upper Carboniferous Shale Grit, Mam Tor Beds and Bowland Shale overlie the Lower Carboniferous Bee Low Limestone

The geology of the area around Rushup Vale

Walking down Rushup Lane to the No Car Cafe, now part of the commercially developed outbuildings to Rushup Hall, whilst various members took advantage of the toilet facilities before our walk, I was struck by the numerous swallows that had just arrived from southerly latitudes – having previously seen only a pair that have been regular visitors to Treeton. 

Boggy ground along the line of a stream

Once everyone was ready, we then set off on our walk and crossed numerous watercourses that flow from the spring line that has developed at the junction between the Shale Grit and Mam Tor Beds and then form boggy ground on the Bowland Shale, which occupies the shallow valley bottom. Along this section of the walk, there are various changes in the slope leading up to the road that reflect the underlying bedrock. 

A temporary exposure of the Mam Tor Beds

We then proceeded to take a quick look at a temporary exposure that had been exposed with drainage work to one of the farms sited on the spring line, from where we had very good views of the apron reefs, which produce rounded landforms that rise above the valley to the south. 

A view across Rushup Vale with apron reefs in the middle distance

The next stage was to briefly explore the valley bottom into which a least 14 water courses flow from the north. Although the landforms indicate that an east flowing river probably once occupied the shallow valley, at the junction of the Bowland Shale and the Bee Low Limestone, there is no sign of it today. 

The entrance to Little Bull Pit

All of the streams that drain the north side of the valley disappear into swallow holes, as we discovered at Little Bull Pit. Here, Paul May undertook a hydrochloric acid test on the surrounding rock, which demonstrated that it was Carboniferous limestone. 

An outcrop of the Bowland Shale Formation

To the north of the stream that disappears down Little Bull Pit, there are exposures of the Bowland Shale Formation, which I had never seen before in outcrop and had expected to be highly laminated and very friable; however, the rock here is in the form of a dark grey, dense and brittle mudstone. 

A specimen of Bowland Shale

Continuing our walk up the apron reef limestone to Bull Pit, another very large swallow hole that is hidden by a copse and fenced off for safety reasons, we then paused for lunch before heading off down to the southern end of Rushup Lane, where we could clearly see the mound like apron reef of Gautries Hill

A view of Bull Pit

Also, although on private land, there is another example of a swallow hole here and another south flowing watercourse terminates in a small pond, where its extremely lush vegetation contrasts strongly with that seen earlier in our walk.

A swallow hole at the southern end of Rushup lane

This proved to be the last stopping point on the walk, which was originally intended to be longer, and we then walked back up Rushup Lane to the No Car Cafe, which had been especially opened for us.

A relatively short walk around Rushup Vale