Sunday, 31 May 2020

A Day Trip to Derby - Part 4


A general view of St. Peter's church

Having finally photographed the monument to Bess of Hardwick at Derby Cathedral, towards the end of my day trip to Derby, I had 35 minutes before I had to catch my bus back to Chesterfield. 

St. Michael's church on Queen Street

I hadn’t stopped all day and I quite fancied a pint of beer at the Old Dolphin Inn, Derby’s oldest public house, but I decided instead to have a quick walk down Queen Street to look at the old St. Michael’s church, which had caught my eye. 

The tower of St. Mary's church

Now offices, I just took some photos of the grotesques on the tower before heading off towards St. Mary’s church, whose tower is adorned by large crocketed pinacles, but I didn’t cross the ring road and headed off towards the Museum of Making, which is located in an old silk mill next to the River Derwent. 

A view south along the River Derwent at Cathedral Green Footbridge

Seeing that the museum was closed for refurbishment, I made my way through Silk Mill Park, where there is a large statue to Bonnie Prince Charlie at the rear of the cathedral. It is another use of Derbyshire gritstone, with large ashlar blocks forming the plinth.

The statue of Bonnie Prince Charlie

Continuing to Corn Market, I carried on along St. Peter’s Street, where I was interested to see St. Peter’s church. It dates back to the C12, with various additions over the years, but I only had time to take a couple of photos of the east end. 

St. Peter's church

Although I didn’t explore this church, my photos show that it is built out of mottled red/yellow Triassic sandstone, which is the only example I saw on the day, with Derbyshire gritstone used in 1898 to rebuild the tower. 

A gargoyle on St. Peter's church

At the end of a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon in Derby, I set off along East Street, where I encountered the enormous Derby Ram sculpture, carved in Derbyshire gritstone by Michael Pegler in 1995. 

The Derby Ram on East Street

There were parts of Derby city centre that I had not yet seen and I was tempted to stay around in the sunshine for another hour; however, I had a long journey ahead of me and I decided that I had done enough for one day.

Waiting for the Comet at Derby Bus Station

Friday, 29 May 2020

The Monument to Bess of Hardwick


A detail of the effigy of Bess of Hardwick

On my day trip to Derby, my main objective was to visit the monument of Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury, better known as Bess of Hardwick, in preparation for a talk that I had been asked to give at St Peter’s church in Edensor – on the topic of “The Devonshire Marbles”. 

A general view

By the time I got to Derby Cathedral to see this monument, I had already encountered very many interesting stone built historic buildings and architectural sculptures and the magnificent Alkmund’s sarcophagus at Derby Museum and Art Gallery

A detail of the effigy of Bess of Hardwick

Bess died in 1608 and is interred with more than forty other members of the Cavendish family in the vault beneath the Cavendish Area in the cathedral, but the elaborate monument was constructed during her lifetime. 

Various heraldic devices

The large free standing monument, which stands against the south aisle wall, is attributed either to Robert Smythson, who built Hardwick Hall, or his son John, who built Bolsover Castle. It has similarities to the monument to her son Charles Cavendish, which occupies the Cavendish Chapel at Bolsover Parish Church, which was built by Huntingdon Smythson. 

A detail of the ornamentation

Through her four marriages, in particular to Sir William Cavendish and George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, Bess acquired vast lands that were exploited for their minerals – including gypsum, limestone and ironstone, which were used as decorative stone. 

A panel of 'cockleshell marble'

The monument is principally constructed from alabaster, with ‘cockleshell marble’ for various raised panels and possibly Ashford Black marble for various colonnettes, obelisks and panels; however, as seen in many monuments of similar age elsewhere, the alabaster was frequently painted but, on this occasion, I was unable to get near enough to closely examine the stone with my hand lens. 

A general view of the effigy of Bess of Hardwick

The painted effigy of Bess, described by Pevsner as "not particularly good" depicts her in a coronet and rich robes and the lengthy Latin inscription gives details of her long life, her four husbands and her building activities.

The Latin inscription

Derby Cathedral - The Interior


The Museum of the Moon suspended from the nave ceiling

Entering the west door of Derby Cathedral, having briefly explored its exterior, the very tall tower arch forms the backdrop to the stairway to the Georgian gallery but, beyond this point, there is no exposed structural stonework to be seen in the church. 

The tower arch

Once inside the cathedral, the Museum of the Moon by Luke Jerram, and its accompanying light show, so dominated the nave that I just took a few quick record photographs of the principal structural elements. Measuring seven metres in diameter, the moon features 120dpi detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface. At an approximate scale of 1:500,000, each centimetre of the internally lit spherical sculpture represents 5km of the moon’s surface. 

The chancel screen by Robert Bakewell

Although the interior is very impressive, especially the wrought iron screen by Robert Bakewell, this Language of Stone Blog only refers to the masonry elements, which here is limited to the flooring and the wall monuments. 

Flooring in the north aisle

The general walkways around the cathedral are paved in a pale coloured polished stone, which I assume is Hopton Wood limestone, and in the sanctuary, there is a chequerboard pattern floor, composed of lightly veined Carrara marble and a black limestone that – given the patronage of Bess of Hardwick and subsequent members of the Cavendish family – is very probably Ashford Black marble

The monument to Sir William Wheeler

On the wall of the north aisle, there are notable C17 monuments to Sir William Wheeler and William Allestry that are made of alabaster, which has partly been painted, and another in the Neoclassical style to Thomas Chambers by Louis-Fran├žois Roubiliac

The monument to William Allestry

In the Cavendish Area, on the opposite side of the cathedral, the monument to Lady Caroline Cavendish – built in white and black veined Italian marble – is another example of the trend of using imported decorative stones in the C18. 

The monument to Thomas Chambers

I would have spent more time photographing the innumerable fine architectural details, in various materials, that can be seen at Derby Cathedral but, on this occasion, my objective was to see the monument to Bess of Hardwick.

The monument to Lady Caroline Cavendish

Monday, 25 May 2020

Derby Cathedral - The Exterior


A general view from Silk Mill Park

During my day trip to Derby, I had a good walk around the historic city centre and I caught glimpses of the tower of Derby Cathedral many times from afar but, when finally arriving at its west door after walking down St. Mary’s Gate, it soon became clear that the tower was the only part left of the original early C16 church. 

A general view from Cathedral Road

The very late Perpendicular Gothic tower, one of the biggest in England, is built in Ashover Grit extracted from the Duffield Bank quarry, in the village of Duffield, which is set on the River Derwent 7 km north of Derby. Here, there is another St. Alkmund’s church – one of only six dedicated to Alkmund, the C8 Northumbrian prince and Mercian martyr. 

A general view of the east end

Duffield could also be the source of the gritstone used for Alkmund’s sarcophagus at Derby Museum and Art Gallery, which was discovered at St. Alkmund’s in Derby – the mother church to the one in the village; however, stone has been extensively from the Millstone Grit that lies to the east of the River Derwent and from Coxbench, which supplied stone from the Rough Rock for many buildings in Derby. 

The west door with ironwork by Robert Bakewell

The bulk of the cathedral, built 1723-26, is by the famous Georgian architect, James Gibbs, with the Derbyshire gritstone ashlar being uniformly buff in colour and more typical of the Ashover Grit found further north at Darley Dale and Stanton-in-the-Peak

The west elevation of the tower

Starting a quick exploration of the cathedral at the west end, and looking up at the tower, there is much more decoration than usually seen on late Perpendicular Gothic churches – with various friezes, canopies and the parapet being very ornate. 

The west door of the south aisle

The west end of the south aisle, in contrast, is in the Palladian style with bold rustication to the doorway, prominent keystones and a pediment above, which were a trademark of Gibb’s most famous work. Above, the oculus has a similar rustication and this recurs in the tall round arched windows along the south aisle.

Swithland slate grave slabs

Alongside the south aisle, there are several inscribed Georgian grave slabs set into the sandstone paving, which are made of purple/grey slate. This is 
Swithland slate from Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire, which had a good reputation for roofing and monumental work and was widely used in the region before cheap Welsh slate replaced it. 

A general view from the south-east

Due to the presence of well-established trees, it wasn’t easy to get a good photo of the south elevation, but its details, which include flat pilasters and a balustrade, can be appreciated from the south-east end.

A general view of the east end

The east end of the cathedral was built 1967-72 to the designs of Sebastian Comper and, although the bold rustication was not repeated, the proportions of the windows and the pilasters are sympathetic with the Gibbs design. 

A view along the north aisle

Returning to the west front via the narrow passage that runs alongside the north aisle, I then discovered that the cathedral was hosting the Museum of the Moon.

A sign for the Museum of the Moon

Sunday, 24 May 2020

A Day Trip to Derby - Part 3


A detail of the pediment at the Cathedral Quarter Hotel

After looking around Derby Museum and Art Gallery, I continued my exploration of Derby and very soon encountered St. Werburgh’s church, on Friar Gate, which is of mediaeval origin, but the earliest surviving part is the tower, rebuilt in 1601. 

The tower of St. Werburgh's church

The church is closed and I just took a few photos of the tower, which is managed by the Churches Conservation Trust, and the south elevation - taking note of the deterioration of the Derbyshire gritstone in the tower - which has been restored extensively, with blocks of new stone and with clay tiles. 

Details of repairs to the tower of St. Weburgh's church

Moving on to St. Mary’s Gate, the Grade I Listed County Hall is the first of several substantial historic buildings on this street. Built in 1660 in a Classical style, it provides another example of Derbyshire gritstone, this time a pinkish variety. 

County Hall

From here, continuing towards Derby Cathedral, the tower of the latter dominates the east end of the street and, on either side of the road, two large brick buildings with gritstone dressings form part of group of buildings that were built as the headquarters of the  County Council. 

The old County Offices

The buildings are constructed in the Renaissance style, with bold rustication and pediments to the porticos suggesting a date belonging to the first half of the C18, but these were in fact built from 1895 to 1912. 

The Cathedral Quarter Hotel

Looking closely at the fabric, the pressed red bricks and the crisp details of the gritstone dressings are indicative of their relatively recent date but, further towards the cathedral, there are some good examples of brick built early Georgian houses – including Simpson’s House.

A view east along St. Mary's Gate

Friday, 22 May 2020

Archaeology at Derby Museum


St. Alkmund's sarcophagus

During my investigation of mediaeval churches in and around South Yorkshire, I have often come across fragments of pre-Conquest crosses, in various sizes and states of preservation – with those at Leeds Minster and All Saints in Bakewell being the most memorable. 


A 10th century Anglo-Saxon carved slab

As a geologist, I am usually more interested in the stone than the geometric designs and figurative sculpture that are usually found on them, but I always like to see them. When at Derby Museum and Art Gallery, I was therefore especially pleased when I encountered the magnificent St. Alkmund’s sarcophagus. 


Fragments of Anglo-Saxon cross shafts

Carved out of a single block of reddish Derbyshire gritstone, it came to light when the Victorian St. Alkmund’s church – which replaced the mediaeval one – was demolished in 1968 to make way for a new ring road. 


An 11th century grave cover

Growing up in London, I was often taken to the Geological Museum on Exhibition Road – as well as the Science Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum, which is just around the corner on Cromwell Road. 


St. Alkmund's cross

With this very old fashioned perspective on museum design, as well as extensive experience of working with museums, as a consultant geologist - I particularly liked the way that the Natural History Gallery opened into the Archaeology Gallery. 


A 3400 year old boat made from a single tree trunk

Firstly noting the boat that occupies the centre of the gallery, I had a quick look at the rest of the exhibits, which include the Repton Stone from St. Wystan’s church - part of a large cross that once stood 4 m high and is believed to be dedicated to King Aethelbald of Mercia


The Repton Stone

In one of the display cabinets that I photographed, there is a fragment of a Viking hogback tombstone from the 10th century, which was fashionable with Norwegian settlers in Yorkshire and Cumbria but unusual for the Midlands. 


A fragment of a hogback tombstone

To finish, I photographed the display of Stone Age hand axes and scrapers implements before heading upstairs to have a very quick look at the rest of the museum – which was well worth seeing and deserves another visit.


A display of Stone Age tools