Wednesday, 29 July 2020

A Tour of Chatsworth House - XI

A column of porta santa marble

By the time that I entered the Dome Room, on my tour of Chatsworth House to look at its decorative stones, I had encountered numerous examples of locally quarried stone that I could use to illustrate my forthcoming talk on “The Devonshire Marbles”, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the consecration of St. Peter’s church in Edensor

The Great Dining Room

Along the way, I had also seen a wide variety of marbles and granites, whose geological origin are in the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea and at one time were administered by the Roman Empire. During his travels to Italy, William Cavendish established links with Faustino Corsi and others who were able to source rare stones. 

A column of porta santa marble

When entering the Great Dining Room, a column of porta santa marble from Chios in Greece is the first thing that I saw, with Italian white marble to its plinth and grey veined marble as panelling – presumably both from the Apuan Alps

Hopton Wood limestone skirting

As with the State Rooms in the old house, the space is dominated by the dining table and its fine contents, but I soon found what I think to be a variety of Hopton Wood limestone in the very high skirting. Further along the west wall, a very simple white marble fireplace is surrounded by statues made by Richard Westmacott the younger, whose work I was familiar with at the Royal Exchange in London. 

A fireplace with statues by Richard Westmacott

Just as I was about to leave the Great Dining Room, I noticed a very fine table top made out of Swedish red porphyry and a variety of Blue John vases, with Ashford Black Marble plinths.

A Swedish red porphyry table top and Blue John vases
When finally leaving, I came across columns of africano breccia, which was widely used in Classical times – with its source now confirmed as ancient Teos, now Si─čacik, in the Izmir province of Turkey.

A column of africano breccia marble

Sunday, 26 July 2020

A Tour of Chatsworth House - X

Various marbles in the Dome Room

Continuing my tour of Chatsworth House, to look at its decorative stones, I then entered the Dome Room, which marks the start of the North Wing, built by Sir Jeffry Wyatville - 1820 to 1842. 

 A C19 cast of Mercury by Giambologna

The influence of William Cavendish’s trips to Italy, and his love of sculpture and stone, is immediately apparent in the C19 cast of Mercury by Giambologna, with a pedestal of yellow and pink marble that looks like the giallo antico marble seen in the North Corridor and Chapel Passage. Looking closely, the plinth is Derbyshire crinoidal marble from the Chatsworth Estate. 

Pavonazetto and 'oriental alabaster' columns

The large moulded door surrounds and wall panels are made with grey veined white marble from the Apuan Alps, and on each side of the room are a pair of supporting marble columns, which Pevsner identifies as “pavonazza and gialastro”. 

A detail of an 'oriental alabaster' column

Referring to The Geology of Chatsworth House, these are described as being pavonazetto, a brecciated marble from Turkey containing white clasts in a red-purple matrix and ‘oriental alabaster’, which is a banded calcite deposited in hot springs and probably Italian.

A detail of a pavonazetto marble column

On either side of the doorway to the Great Dining Room, there are large vases in rare peach coloured occhio di pavone bigio marble, a late Cretaceous shelly limestone from Turkey, which are set on grey granite pedestals of unknown provenance.

A detail of an 'oriental alabaster' column

Friday, 24 July 2020

A Tour of Chatsworth House - IX

Various decorative stones used in a Victorian inlaid tabletop

A tour of Chatsworth House can turn into a bit of a maze, with routes and the position of exhibits sometimes changed, as I discovered when trying to find a magnificent Victorian inlaid table that I had seen in an article published by the Mercian Geologist back in 2008. 

A Victorian inlaid table

Eventually coming across this after taking a few photographs of the Oak Stairs, I recognised many decorative stones that I had previously seen at churches at Edensor, Stoney Middleton and Bolsover. Others, such as the green fluorite and barytes with galena, I had encountered at the Peak District Mining Museum in Matlock and in Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Various decorative stones

The Duke’s Red and ‘cockleshell marble’ are not very common, with the latter being unusual in that is an ironstone from the Coal Measures, which is packed full of non-marine lamellibranchs that are preserved in calcite. 

Various decorative stones

Ironstone is usually found above coal seams and sometimes occurs in concentrations that are viable for opencast mining. Going back to the times of Bess of Hardwick, the Cavendish family have since acquired vast areas of land that are very rich in hard rock and mineral resources, which William the 6th Duke of Devonshire used to great effect.

Various decorative stones

Saturday, 18 July 2020

A Tour of Chatsworth House - VIII

A malachite clock presented by Czar Nicholas I

On my tour of Chatsworth House, having had a good look at the reredos in the Chapel, I retraced my steps along Chapel Passage back to the Painted Hall and then walked up to the Great Stairs, which were built by William Talman from 1689 to 1690. 

A view up the Great Stairs

Pausing to take a single photograph of the view down into the Painted Hall, I then looked up to the top of the stairwell, where more fine stonework by Samuel Watson – carved in Ashover Grit - surrounds niches that are filled by Italian white marble statues by Caius Gabriel Cibber

A black and white marble basin

Stopping half way up the stairs, there is a basin made in black and white marble that has similar characteristics to the bianco e nero di Portoferraio and the giallo e nero di Carrara, which form part of the Faustino Corso Collection

An alabaster doorcase and carved niches with statuary

At the top of the stairs, I just took a couple of photographs of an ornate doorcase, which was also made by Cibber using alabaster from the family estate at Tutbury, and a window sill made of Derbyshire fossil marble with crinoids

A Derbyshire fossil marble window sill

The State Rooms are full of masterpieces, but not noting any interesting decorative stone used in the structure, I quickly walked through them to the South Sketch Gallery, where a pair of large glass cabinets contain the mineral collection of the Duchess Georgiana

A part of Duchess Georgiana's mineral collection

A special exhibition was being held at the time of my visit but, with general visitors not being allowed to take any photographs allowed; however, having explained to the guide that I had been invited to specifically photograph objects that I would use for my talk at St. Peter’s church in Edensor, I managed to take a furtive general view. 

The Oak Stairs

Continuing along the West Sketch Gallery and carrying on to the Oak Stairs, the large malachite clock that was presented to the 6th Duke by Czar Nicholas I - a good friend and fellow minerals enthusiast, forms the centrepiece of the landing. 

A malachite table presented by Czar Nicholas I

This distinctive green mineral has been applied as a veneer with long strips laid in a book matched pattern, which is normally seen on expanses of marble walling. This , and this technique is also used in a table at the top of the stairs, which was also given by Czar Nicholas I and the urn on the stairs. 

A square urn on the Oak Stairs

Behind the balustrade, on each side of the stairwell, there is also a row of three white marble busts, which have pedestals that may be made of ‘oriental alabaster’- a banded calcite deposited in hot springs that probably comes from Italy. 

White marble busts on pedestals of 'oriental alabaster'

Another table at the top of the stairs is made of what I think of as typical serpentinite used as a decorative stone - perhaps verde di Polcevera from Genoa. It has large dark green clasts in a lighter green serpentine and calcite matrix, with the whole rock traversed by calcite veins.

A serpentinite table

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

A Tour of Chatsworth House - VII

A detail of the reredos in The Chapel

I spent less than 10 minutes in the Chapel Passage to take 20 general record photographs of a few of the things that caught my eye. With more time and space available to me, I could probably spend a good part of an hour there and I can easily imagine coming back here again with the Sheffield U3A Geology Group

The reredos

The next room that I visited during my tour of Chatsworth House was the Chapel, which according to Pevsner is "the finest room in Chatsworth”. It is dominated by the magnificent two storey alabaster reredos, with its Ashford Black Marble columns, which was carved by Samuel Watson to a design by Caius Gabriel Cibber

'Saint Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain'

The Geology of Chatsworth House, by Ian Thomas and Mick Cooper, states that the alabaster for the altarpiece itself was from Gotham, in Nottinghamshire, but the remainder was obtained from the family estate at Tutbury in Staffordshire - reputedly from the Castle Hayes Mine adjacent to the site of the Fauld munitions explosion

An Ashford Black Marble column

The Ashford Black Marble columns, which are 3 m high and 350 mm in diameter, were turned from single monolithic blocks of limestone from Sheldon Moor and are believed to be another example of the work of Samuel Watson. 

'Sicilian' marble and serpentinite

Looking down at the floor, two marbles have been used: the white variety with pale grey veins is probably the ‘Sicilian' variety of Carrara marble, from the Apuan Alps, and the green/brown stone forming wide bands is a serpentinite, which again is likely to be from Italy. A closer examination reveals that in places the serpentinite is deteriorating, with softer veins being preferentially worn away and the occasional repair with stone indents being needed. 

A detail of serpentinite flooring

At the time of my visit, Damien Hirst’s eight-foot tall bronze sculpture ‘Saint Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain’ was on display within the altarpiece and set on the floor was what looked like a large illuminated object that has the appearance of the mineral fluorite. I didn't get near enough to touch it and couldn't see any information about it and so it remains a mystery.

An object on the floor of The Chapel

A Tour of Chatsworth House - VI

A marble foot wearing a sandal

My exploration of the various decorative stones and geological specimens in Chapel Passage at Chatsworth House finished at the west end, where I encountered a granite that I immediately recognised, with its very distinctive appearance of large pink orthoclase feldspar phenocrysts set in a black matrix

A marble bust on a luxullianite pedestal

Luxullianite, the tourmalinised granite used in a pedestal, is from the village of Luxulyan in Cornwall and is probably best known for being used for the sarcophagus of the Duke of Wellington, which lies in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. 

Luxullianite bookends in Treeton

I first saw this rare stone in the old Geological Museum in London, as a plinth on one of the statues that once lined the upper galleries and, when undertaking fieldwork relating to my professional interest in building stones, I later acquired a large lump from a disused quarry that I had made into a pair of bookends

A figure of the goddess Sekhmet

There are also various ancient stone artefacts scattered around, which include a colossal marble foot wearing a sandal from Ancient Greece, a diorite figure of the Ancient Egyptian goddess Sekhmet and a Roman altar stone of unknown origin; however, with many other people often looking at them too, I couldn't closely look at any of the them and so I continued into The Chapel.

A Roman altar stone

A Tour of Chatsworth House - V

A quartz crystal

Moving into the Grotto from the Painted Hall, during my tour of Chatsworth House, a large bas-relief depicts the Roman Goddess Diana bathing, with her servants in attendance. The Grotto was at the heart of the 1st Duke's very modern plumbing system, which provided both hot and cold running water and flowed into a large Ashford Black Marble basin. 

The bas-relief of Diana in The Grotto

I didn’t get close enough to examine the stone but, in The Geology of Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, it is described as Roche Abbey stone – a Permian dolomitic limestone from South Yorkshire, which here is elaborately decorated with carved crabs, lobsters and shellfish. 

A view along Chapel Passage

Having a passion for stone in its many forms, the adjoining Chapel Passage formed the highlight of my tour and it is this section that also stands out in memories of my first visit to Chatsworth House, more than 35 years ago. 

A giallo antico marble pedestal

Immediately on the left, there are various white marble busts and statues of cherubs but I was more interested in the pedestals, which include a pink/yellow marble that looks like the giallo antico of the North Corridor and another that I can’t identify. There are two table tops, however, which have the distinctive brick red and olive green colours of diaspro tenero di Sicilia

A diaspro tenero di Sicilia table top with marble busts and minerals

Beneath the tables, there are several large geological specimens, including slices of petrified wood, various crystalline minerals, brain coral and, facing each other across the passage, a large freestanding amethyst geode and an enormous quartz crystal. 

Polished marbles and geological specimens

Further along, there is another table with a grey granite top, beneath which there are further examples of large geological specimens, with a slab covered in ammonites, a Carboniferous fossil fern and an aggregate of massive oyster shells being immediately recognisable. 

Various geological specimens beneath a grey granite topped table

Several more white marble busts are found along this side of the Chapel Passage, with other stones that I can’t identify forming the pedestals, which I am assuming are further examples of Italian marbles that the 6th Duke of Devonshire discovered on his travels.

Various statues and pedestals

Monday, 13 July 2020

A Tour of Chatsworth House - IV

A detail of a carved pilaster in the Inner Court

The Painted Hall in Chatsworth House has a very fine example of the use of Ashford Black Marble, one of the Carboniferous limestones from the Monsal Dale Limestone Formation on the Chatsworth Estate that acquired a national reputation as a decorative stone. 

A geological map of the area around Monyash

At a higher stratigraphic level, quarries on reef knolls in the Eyam Limestone Formation around Monyash once supplied large quantities of grey Derbyshire fossil marble, which contains a high proportion of crinoid stems and ossicles; however, only Mandale limestone is now produced at the Once-a-week Quarry near Sheldon. 

The fountain in the Inner Court

This very attractive stone is normally found highly polished in flooring, window sills, fireplaces and inlaid work but, in the Inner Court adjacent to the Painted Hall, it has been used for a large fountain, which I haven’t seen mentioned in any documentary sources. 

A detail of the fountain showing crinoid stems and ossicles

The surface of the limestone shows distinct signs of weathering and any polished finish that may have previously existed would have been now dissolved by carbonic acid, which naturally occurs in rainwater. 

Carved Millstone Grit pilasters in the Inner Court

The ashlar walling of the courtyard is built in uniformly buff coloured Millstone Grit, which was quarried from Ball Cross, overlooking Bakewell, and is generally plain in nature, except for carved serpents to some of the keystones and four pilasters that are elaborately carved with military equipment, as seen on the west boundary wall that overlooks the River Derwent

A carved pilaster in the Inner Court

Moving back into the Painted Hall, various white marble busts are found along the east wall and those that I photographed have pedestals made out of granite with large indistinct crystals of pink orthoclase feldspar, subsidiary white plagioclase feldspar, biotite mica and quartz

A white marble bust and pink granite pedestal

I didn’t closely examine the granites but my first thought was that they looked like the samples from Spain and Sardinia that formed part of my collection of building and decorative stones. These are of late Carboniferous to Permian in age and were formed in the Hercynian orogeny

A detail of a bust and pink granite pedestal

William Cavendish, the 6th Duke of Devonshire, was very keen to acquire ancient stones and artefacts for his Sculpture Gallery and his Italian agent, Gaspare Gabrielli, who was a dealer in rare stones. Pink granite called granito sardo was sent from Capo Testa, on the northern tip of Sardinia, to ancient Rome in great quantities and they may therefore be this variety. 

The fireplace in the Painted Hall

The fireplace in the Painted Hall is made from a veined red/brown variety of marble that I had seen a couple of weeks earlier in the chancel of All Saints church in Darfield, which I subsequently identified as a Devonian limestone from Belgium that is known as Rouge Royal.

A detail of Rouge Royal marble