Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Church Street in Darfield

A detail of a gatepost at the Darfield Crown Green Bowls Club

From the time I arrived at All Saints church in Darfield to the time that the bell ringing demonstration finished, very nearly 4 hours had passed and, having thanked the volunteers attending this Heritage Open Days event and noted the grave of Robert Millthorp in the churchyard, I set off on my way home.

The grave of Robert Millthorp

Having arrived in Darfield from Barnsley on the X19 and, having already briefly explored School Street before arriving at the church, I decided to further explore the old part of the village and then catch a 218/219 bus from Nanny Marr Road.

Darfield Church Hall

After passing the former early C20 picture house, which is now the church hall, my first thought was to sit down and have a pint of Timothy Taylor's Landlord in the beer garden at the Cross Keys public house.

The Cross Keys public house

Having quenched my thirst and established the times of my bus, I then set off along Church Street and immediately came across the Grade II Listed late C18 Thornhill House, but I didn’t take a photograph of it. 

Garland House

Continuing along Church Street, another attractive Grade II Listed late C18 house, Garland House, is now used as a surgery and on the opposite side of the road, there is the Darfield Cenotaph – set in Miners Welfare Square, which dates to 1923.

Darfield Cenotaph

The subscribers stipulated that the cenotaph, designed by a Mr. C. Watkin of Darfield, should be built with Darfield stone (Mexborough Rock). It takes the form of a monolith with a sword of sacrifice on the face, which is surmounted by semi-spherical carving and representations of laurel wreaths, and it was unveiled in 1930.

A gatepost at the Darfield Crown Green Bowls Club

Crossing the road again, the entrance to Darfield Crown Green Bowls Club has a gatepost that has the inscription “Miners Welfare Scheme 1923”. Such charitable institutions, which provide social and recreational facilities for the community, still form an integral part of the former coal mining districts in South Yorkshire and other regions.

Terraced houses along Snape Hill Road

Moving further along to the end of Church Street, the character of the street alters, with detached properties and large gardens being replaced by dense terraced housing. These possess little architectural merit and this is reflected by the Darfield Conservation Area boundary at this point.

Field House

Looking at various old maps, these were built sometime between 1890 and 1904, like those previously seen on School Street, and those on St. Mary’s Road, Snape Hill Road, Edward Street and Thomas Street completely engulf Field House, which is shown on the 1850 map.

A map of Darfield in 1890

Sunday, 28 June 2020

All Saints Church in Darfield - Part 10

The descent from the belfry to the bell ringing chamber

When deciding to visit All Saints church in Darfield, during the 2019 Heritage Open Days festival, part of the reason was that there would be a demonstration of bell ringing and I had hoped that I would be also able to get to the top of the tower, as at Aston and Barnby Dun parish churches. 

The ascent to the bell ringing chamber

Unfortunately, on this occasion, there was no access to the top of the tower but I am always interested in going up a spiral staircase to see parts of a mediaeval church that are not generally accessible to the public. 

A slit window in the spiral staircase

I was interested to see the method diagrams at Barnby Dun, but I don’t know the first thing about campanology and I therefore appreciated this opportunity to learn something about the ring of eight bells, which date from 1500 to 1979. 

A variation in masonry in the bell ringing chamber

During the introduction, I cast my eyes around the bell ringing chamber and noticed that the change in the masonry from the C12 to the C15 is quite clearly seen – with coursed and squared rubble changing to ashlar – along with the tracery in the Perpendicular Gothic north window. 

Ringing the bells

Having seen the bell ringers at work, I was invited to go up into the belfry, while the bells were being rung. On the occasions that I have been up to a belfry, I have always been impressed by the way that a large modern iron/steel frame, which is often necessary to provide structural stability, has been lifted and fitted into such a confined space. 

In the belfry

With my fingers in my ears, it was quite an experience to feel the vibrations and to see the movement of several large bells, which generates enormous stresses in the tower. Coming back down to watch the ringing demonstration, there was a constant sense of movement around me as I sat firmly on my chair. 

Ringing the bells

I had intended to visit the Darfield Quarries to take a good look at the Mexborough Rock but, being the only visitor to attend the last demonstration of the day, I felt obliged to stay to the end and therefore didn’t have the time on this occasion.

The descent from the bell ringing chamber

Friday, 26 June 2020

All Saints Church in Darfield - Part 9

A fragment of ornate Saxon masonry in the vestry

The chancel at All Saints church in Darfield is full of interesting features and this continues into the north chapel, where a Perpendicular Gothic window that looks perfectly normal on the outside jars with its surroundings on the inside. 

The north window in the north chapel

With a partition to a vestry on the east side and the organ to the west, there wasn’t space to examine the north arcade and I didn’t examine the details in this area; however, this window appears to have been forced into an opening that wasn’t designed for it, with no splayed reveals and the spandrels filled with rough masonry. 

The monument to Katherin Godfrey

Low down near to the floor is the monument to Katherin Godfrey, d.1658, which is surrounded by painted shields and various monumental brasses and a trapezoidal grave slab, but I didn't examine them closely.

An ornate recess in the north aisle

Moving back along the chancel and into the north aisle, two large recesses are built into the wall – one ogee headed with large cusps and small pinnacles and the other with a simple moulded arch and headstops

A simple moulded recess in the north aisle

At the west end of the north aisle, the opening that I had assumed to be a doorway with a high step is actually occupied by a stained glass window and, again, I cannot find any explanation of this in my reference sources. 

A window in the north aisle

The west of this, a large round headed opening has been blocked up. Again no sign of this can be seen on the exterior and this just adds to the long list of curious details and, after noting another quirky detail of masonry to the north of the tower arch, I went inside the tower. 
A blocked window at the west end of the north aisle

I took a couple of photos of two slit windows, to show the thickness of the walls, and got talking to one of the volunteers who showed me a fragment of a Saxon cross that is high in the tower and which my camera struggled to photograph

Slit windows in the tower

Having got onto the subject of miscellaneous stones that have been reused inside the church, I was then shown what looks like an upside down Norman window head in the south arcade and another Saxon fragment inside the vestry. 

A reused Norman window head in the south arcade

Thursday, 25 June 2020

All Saints Church in Darfield - Part 8

An old window above the north arcade of the chancel

Entering the chancel from the Lady Chapel, at All Saints church in Darfield, my first view was of the north arcade, where its east arch cuts into a large 3-light flat headed window. Like its counterparts above the south arcade, the window was once on the outside. 

A view to the north arcade from the Lady Chapel

The apex of the arch is off centred to the west, with a step in the masonry above it running westwards to the same level above the west arch. This marks a change from irregularly coursed masonry in the spandrels to well squared and coursed masonry above it. 

A general view of the north arcade

At the west end of the arcade, the arch is built adjacent to a large dressed opening and cuts through a moulded squinch like detail above it, which itself has a small opening. The west capital appears to have been partly hacked off and, above and behind it, there is a small rounded section of rubble masonry that follows the curve of the arch, as is normally seen in a vaulted ceiling

A detail of the west end of the north arcade

Like the opening to the chancel wall at the end of the south side of the nave, they may relate to the position of rood stairs but I have found no mention of these features in the church guide, Pevsner or the Historic England listing. 

A general view of the south arcade

Turning round to look at the south arcade, it would seem that its double west arch and the masonry above it are the same age as the former external walls of the chancel. The line of the precisely squared splayed dressings to the west window continues down to the floor and the east arch is butted against it. 

An old doorway in the east wall of the chancel

Moving back down again to the east end of the chancel, its south east corner has some more puzzling masonry. Here a broad arch, with exaggerated voussoirs, is tucked away beneath a section of wall that has been hacked away to again reveal a rubble coreThere is no obvious sign of a blocked doorway on the exterior, but an information panel in the chancel states that this once led to a vestry at the east end of the church. 

A joint in the masonry and reused Norman chevrons

Looking up at the junction of the east and south chancel walls, there is a butted joint that extends over twenty courses, with only one very long stone tying the sections together. To the west side of this, several blocks have chevron patterns, which is a typically Norman motif, and these are most likely to have been salvaged from the C12 church. 

The mosaic floor between the choir and sanctuary

Historic England cites Pritchett and Son of York as having done restoration work in the C19, but the only obvious Victorian work that I noticed was the floor to the chancel – a high quality mosaic floor, which I presume is made of various marbles from Italy and is dated 1897. 

Mosaic and Belgian red marble

The step to the altar rail is also made of a brownish marble, which has large patches of white and grey calcite. I am not an expert in decorative stones but, looking at a couple of my reference books, I think that it fits the description of a Devonian limestone from the Wallonia region of Belgium – Rouge Royal, Griotte or similar.

Belgian red marble forming the step to the altar rail

In the north-east corner of the chancel, there is a fine private memorial to Charles Bartholomew by his son, Charles William Bartholomew, who also gave the east window to the church in his honour. It has a green serpentinite surround, which encloses mosaic, an inscribed marble panel and a heraldic crest that is formed in what appears to be marble inlaid work.

The Charles Bartholomew memorial

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

All Saints Church in Darfield - Part 7

A detail of the effigy of Sir John Bosville

When briefly surveying the exterior of All Saints church in Darfield, I did not notice any obvious changes in the masonry between the south aisle and the Lady Chapel, which I had discovered when investigating the interior

A buttress hides the joint between the south aisle and the Lady Chapel

Looking at a general view of its exterior, the line of the masonry joint seen internally is covered by a buttress and a very close examination reveals that there are subtle differences in the levels of the masonry courses either side of it. 

A buttress in the east wall of the Lady Chapel

Continuing with my investigation of the Lady Chapel, further evidence of its construction history can be seen in the masonry of its east wall, adjoining the chancel. From the outside, it can be seen that the upper section of this wall is not bonded into the chancel and, at a lower level in the interior, a similar butted joint can be seen – this time appearing to be built against a pre-existing external buttress. 

The reredos in the Lady Chapel

To the right of this, a very solid looking ogee headed reredos is set in front of the east window, with a decorated niche in the corner and a piscina in the south wall, which is also elaborated with a cusped ogee arch. 

The niche and piscina

Beneath the piscina, there is a large tomb comprising a slab of polished and inscribed limestone, which is laid on six sturdy moulded sandstone legs. On the day, I didn’t get close enough to examine the slab and find out its date but, when blowing up my photograph to its actual size, I can determine several features that are typical of Carboniferous limestone

A memorial with a large polished Carboniferous limestone slab

Turning round to look at the south side of the Lady Chapel, there is a very fine war memorial, which is made of green serpentinite, with inscribed Apuan marble panels and some exquisite mosaic details. 

The war memorial

Below the war memorial, two alabaster effigies lay on a chest tomb decorated with shields in circles and quatrefoils - a knight with his head on an uncrested helm, with his lady with her head on tasselled cushion flanked by angels. 

The tomb of Sir John Bosville and his wife Anne

They are thought to be Sir John Bosville and his wife Anne, c.1400-1410, with a lion and a hound lying at their respective feet. I am no expert on the merits of mediaeval alabaster effigies, but I particularly liked the detailing of the chain mail around the knight’s head and neck. 

The effigies of Sir John Bosville and his wife Anne

As a geologist, with a specialist interest in the identification and matching of building and decorative stones, I am always interested to know their source. In mediaeval England, the area between Nottingham and Derby had a tradition of making the finest alabaster products and it is therefore very likely that they were made there. 

A lion at the feet of the effigy of Sir John Bosville

After taking a couple of photos of the detail of the east window in the old south wall of the chancel, and the arch that cuts through it, I went into the chancel and soon discovered that its north arcade has an equally interesting constuction history.

A view from the Lady Chapel to the chancel

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

All Saints Church in Darfield - Part 6

A carved architectural detail in the south aisle

After having a look at the nave and arcades at All Saints church in Darfield, I carried on my investigation of the interior in the south aisle, where I soon encountered an elaborately carved detail on one of the window sills. 

A view along the south aisle to the Lady Chapel

With the original box pews along its length obscuring the walling here, I didn’t investigate further, but it appears like it has been salvaged from a pre-existing part of the church or a monument and reused in a random fashion – as I had recently seen at Barnby Dun parish church

The possible location of a former wall memorial

Walking further down the aisle to the end of the south arcade, more box pews hide the bases to the columns and the next point of interest that I found was on the south aisle wall, above a section of Jacobean wood panelling. A section of masonry has three new tooled blocks, which fill a void and beneath these is a scar in the stonework, which I think may have been the position of a former wall memorial.

An opening to the south side of the chancel arch

In the masonry to the south side of the chancel arch, there is a large dressed opening, which I at first thought was a squint but actually leads at an angle to the Lady Chapel. Above it there is generally irregular masonry, with various reused tooled stones and an apparent void, all of which don’t make much architectural sense. 

A detail of the masonry south of the chancel arch

Very often, this is the position of the rood stairs, which allows access to the rood screen and sometimes continuing to the roof, as also seen at Barnby Dun, and it makes me think that this is part of the remodelling of the church that took place in the C15. 

Crudely altered masonry at the end of the south aisle

Moving back into the aisle, I was further surprised to see a double arch in the chancel ancade, whose eastern impost is set into a section of walling that has been very crudely altered, to leave a section of rubble core exposed. On the church website, a plan identifies this as a section of masonry that, along with others at the east end of the chancel arcades, dates to the C12. 

A detail of the exposed rubble core

Immediately to the east of this, there is a small vertical section of ashlar that comprises the remains of a south wall of the chancel, into which the arch to the Lady Chapel has been inserted at a later date. Oddly, the arch cuts through two 2-light flat headed windows,  considered to be Perpendicular Gothic by Nikolaus Pevsner, which would have been originally on the outside. 

A view along the south aisle from the Lady Chapel

He says: “For one curious fact no explanation can be offered. The chancel had two-light upper windows which are now inside the building. They cannot be earlier than Perp, and yet the S chapel is according to all evidence Dec. It might be said that the windows are re-used and the chapel itself later. But can the same be assumed of the reredos?”. 

A view along the south aisle from the Lady Chapel

At the time, I just took a few photos to record the principal features of the masonry here but, opposite the exposed rubble core, there is a very distinct break in the stonework. wall monument partly covers an irregular vertical joint in the stonework, with randomly coursed irregularly sized blocks to the west and larger and often square blocks to the east. Looking further up at the ceiling, the cornice also changes from stone to plaster.

A break in the stonework of the south aisle