Friday, 30 April 2021

St. Benedict's Square - Part 2

Belfry windows at St. Benedict's church

The tower of the old church in St. Benedict’s Square in Lincoln, at first glance, reminded me of the one I had seen less than an hour earlier at the church of St. Mary-le-Wigford, with double round headed windows to the belfry; however, it was actually built c.1670 to resemble this and the other late Saxon church tower in Lincoln – St. Peter at Gowts.
The tower at St. Benedict's church

A closer look shows that the tower is butted up against and partly covers the chancel arch. Although I have not seen a plan of the church before a large part of it was demolished, following extensive damage during the English Civil War, it is obviously not part of the original design.
A detail of a belfry window
The details of the belfry windows, especially the voussoirs to the arches and the shafts, are also not correctly profiled and a large number of well squared blocks are used in the walling, instead of the coursed rubble that would be more appropriate for a Saxon church.
The west window of the north chapel

Moving round to the north elevation, it can be seen that the tower also covers up one of the jambs of the west window of the north chapel, with the bed heights of the courses being greater and not bonded with the masonry of the latter.
A Perpendicular window in the north chapel

Carrying on to the north chapel, built by Robert Tattershall in 1378, much of the masonry, which consists of blocks that are large and well squared compared to the rubble masonry in the south wall of the chancel, has been rebuilt in brick. Only one Perpendicular Gothic style window with a four centred arch remains in the north wall, but it is likely that others previously existed.
The east end of St. Benedict's church

Finishing my very brief exploration of this fascinating church at the east end, the four centre, 3-light arched window at the east window of the chapel, like the one on the north elevation, has tracery with elements of the earlier Decorated Gothic style.
The east window of the chancel

The east end of the chancel is built in coursed rubble walling and the 5-light window has Decorated flowing tracery and, in the masonry above, a strange almond shaped oculus has been placed off centre high in the gable.
An oculus above the east window of the chancel

Thursday, 29 April 2021

St. Benedict's Square - Part 1

A carved head on the eaves of St. Benedict's church

Continuing with my walk along High Street, during my day out in Lincoln to explore its historic stone buildings, I next stopped at St. Benedict’s Square, where Lincoln war memorial stands in front of the old St. Benedict’s church, which is now home to the Lincoln Diocese Mother’s Union.
The church and war memorial in St. Benedict's Square

The war memorial, dated 1922, is built in Ancaster limestone in a Gothic Revival style, with gabled diagonal buttresses, crockets and other elaborate decoration, especially the numerous angels, which would normally be found on a church.
An angel on the war memorial

St. Benedict’s church, built in yellowish Lincoln limestone, is an ancient building that is mentioned in 1107 and was formerly the Lincoln Civic Church. It was extensively damaged during the English Civil War, with the nave and north aisle being demolished, and only partly rebuilt later in the C17 using recycled stone.
The chancel of St. Benedict's church

Quickly walking around its exterior, starting at the south side of the former chancel, the fabric comprises coursed rubble masonry with ashlar blocks used for the buttresses and dressings. A C13 date is indicated by the lancet window on the right hand side, with three further 3-light pointed windows to the west having Decorated Gothic tracery, albeit restored, which are of the C14.
Carved heads on the corbel table

A particularly interesting feature on this elevation is the corbel table with often crudely carved heads, which reminds me of the church of St. John the Baptist in Adel and others that I have encountered during previous online research, which are Norman in date.
A general view of the south and west walls of the chancel

Moving along the chancel, a small Decorated Gothic 2-light window is seen at low level and, on the west end, marking the point where the nave previously existed, there is the blocked chancel arch with a capital and the top of a shaft deliberately left exposed.
An exposed capital and top of a shaft

Looking squarely at this west end, the chancel arch is quite unusual in that it is both four centred and very steeply pointed and above this is a blocked square opening whose purpose is unknown.
The west end of the chancel

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Lincoln High Street - Part 1

A detail of the crest above the entrance to Lloyd's Bank

After getting off the train, my day out in Lincoln had begun by having a good look at the church of St. Mary-le-Wigford and St. Mary’s Conduit and, 25 minutes later, deciding that a visit to the outlying church of St. Peter at Gowts and St. Mary’s Guildhall would have to wait until another day, when both were open, I headed along High Street into the town centre.
A view along Lincoln High Street

Passing a few listed buildings of no great interest to this Language of Stone Blog, I turned right into Cornhill and took a few photos of the former Corn Exchange, which was originally built in 1847, with the addition of the east range in 1880.
The former Corn Exchange

The stone used here is Ancaster stone, an oolite quarried from the Jurassic Lincolnshire Limestone Formation just outside the village of Ancaster, where the Romans built a fortified town on Ermine Street to control passage through the Ancaster Gap and nearby ancient trackways.
A column made of Ancaster stone

Looking closely at the ashlar blocks, ripples and graded beds, which vary in colour, can easily be distinguished and these are particularly well developed in the stone used in the columns, where the banding is quite obvious from a distance.
River Island
Returning to High Street, the recently built River Island shop caught my eye and, going over to have a close look at the stonework, I immediately recognised this as the variety of Ancaster limestone known as ‘weatherbed’ or Ancaster Rag.
A close up of Ancaster 'weatherbed'

When working at the Gregory Quarry in Mansfield, I sawed this very dense and often blue hearted stone along with Ancaster ‘hard white’, which is less dense and much softer in comparison. It occurs above the ‘hard white’ and ‘freestone’ in the quarry and is packed full of gastropod fossils and other shell debris, with a crystalline cement, and its durability makes it very suitable for plinths and parapets in buildings.
'Blue hearted' Ancaster stone at Glebe Quarry

This stone also takes a good polish, with its colour variation making it a very popular material for internal flooring. A particularly good example of this can be seen at the extension to The Collection museum in Lincoln but, unfortunately, this was shut due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.  
Ancaster 'weatherbed' flooring

Next door to River Island, Lloyd’s Bank is also built in Ancaster limestone, which like that seen at the former Corn Exchange is the ‘freestone’ variety. Dating to 1902 and originally the Capital and Counties Bank, it is built in the Baroque Revival style, with ashlar masonry and a rusticated ground floor and quoins.
Lloyd's Bank
The building was being scaffolded at the time of my visit, obscuring much of the stonework, but it was possible to obtain a glimpse of the finely carved crest with figures above the splayed entrance, where the stone has weathered with a light brown patina.
Figurative sculpture on Lloyd's Bank

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

St. Mary's Conduit in Lincoln

A detail on the north end of St. Mary's Conduit

The church of St. Mary-le-Wigford was the first stop on my day out in Lincoln, to further explore its historic buildings, and the next – the Grade II* Listed St. Mary’s Conduit – is set 20 only metres away in its grounds.
A general view of the conduit and church

As with St. Mary’s church, I had passed by this ornate structure numerous times when living in Lincoln and during my many visits to this wonderful historic cathedral city, but I had never stopped to look closely or tried to find out anything about it.
A general view from across High Street

The conduit was set up by the inhabitants of the south ward of Lincoln, with it being built from fragments of the Lincoln stone reused from the Carmelite Friary, which stood a short distance away to the south, on the opposite side of High Street, until its dissolution in the 1530’s. It first supplied water in 1540 and, although finally shut down in 1907, Lincoln’s conduits were trusted more than the mains water during the typhoid epidemic of 1904/5.
The east elevation

Having no information about the monument to hand at the time, I just took a set of photos to record the general architectural features of each elevation, which included various fragments of decorative masonry set within it.
A view of the east and north elevations

On the east elevation, which was in deep shade, I was interested to see that several of the stones have failed by ‘bursting’ – an unusual weathering phenomenon that I had first noticed in the Lincoln stone, when living in Lincoln back in 1984, but have not encountered
since elsewhere.
A detail of the east elevation

The Church of St. Mary-le-Wigford

The west door at the church of St. Mary-le-Wigford

When planning my day out in Lincoln, to fit in with the bus timetable from Treeton and to reduce the cost of the train fare, I caught the 9:53 train from Sheffield and arrived at Lincoln station at 11.18, giving me just over 5 hours to explore the places on a comprehensive itinerary.
A general view from the platform at Lincoln railway station

Before I had even left the platform, I caught a glimpse of the first of these, the church of St. Mary-le-Wigford – the oldest in Lincoln – which is set on the corner of High Street and St. Mary’s Street, with no churchyard and its south side hemmed in by the railway.
A general view of the east end

Leaving the station and approaching the east end of the church, the two lancet windows in the wall of the chancel indicate a C13 date to this part of the church. Its Lincoln stone masonry comprises coursed rubble, with massive stones used for the window dressings and buttresses. The limestone is yellowish in colour with a darker patina but, looking closely, occasional orange coloured blocks can be seen and these display a greater degree of weathering.
The north elevation

Moving on to the north elevation, it can be clearly seen that the roof of the chapel at the east end was raised, during the restoration of 1872 by R C Clarke and Son of Nottingham, with the removal of the original castellated parapet and its replacement with several courses of ashlar masonry, topped by a Welsh slate roof.
A detail of the masonry on the south elevation
General views of the elevation were partially obscured by large trees and I didn’t look closely at the details of the stonework; however, the Perpendicular Gothic style 3-light square headed windows, which are of slightly different sizes, have had their tracery at least restored.
A view up of the belfry

Looking up at the top of the tower, the belfry windows in the its upper stage have double round arches and a central shaft, and are considered to be transitional Anglo-Saxon/Norman in style and dating to the later C11, although parts of the tower adjoining the nave are believed to date back to the late C10.
Details of windows in the belfry

Adjacent to the pavement on St. Mary’s Street, behind the street sign, a floriated capital from the rebuilt south aisle forms the uppermost part of the Offerings Box that is formed with various salvaged pieces of ornamental masonry.
A feature formed of salvaged masonry
Continuing to the base of the tower, the coursed rubble masonry rises without any change in pattern to the upper stage, with large sometimes crudely finished side-alternate quoins providing further evidence of the lingering Anglo-Saxon architectural influence.
A detail of the quoins to the tower
The very tall west door, which has a restored nail head moulding, further points to the antiquity of the tower and, although I didn’t notice these due to the weathering of the stone, the large simple imposts are decorated with a chequer-board pattern.
A detail of the west door

Looking generally at the tower, apart from the Perpendicular Gothic flat headed 2-light window that has been inserted immediately above the west door, the masonry appears quite consistent in style, although work has been undertaken to it over the years and it was restored by Watkins & Son in 1908. 
A view up the west elevation of the tower

A particularly interesting feature to the right of the west door is a reset Romano-British gravestone, with added Anglo-Saxon inscriptions. It serves as a dedication stone and the latter reads “Eirtig had me built and endowed to the glory of Christ and St. Mary, XP”.
The dedication stone

I finished my very brief exploration of the church by taking a quick look at the south aisle, which was added in 1877. At the time of my visit, access was blocked by heras fencing and, having no opportunity to look for the various fragments of mediaeval masonry that have been incorporated into the fabric, I just took a couple of general photographs.
The south aisle

Friday, 23 April 2021

A Day Out in Lincoln

 A detail of the Romanesque frieze at Lincoln Cathedral

After more than 6 months of having my travel restricted during the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020, having used the Sheffield to Lincoln railway a few times, between Kiveton Bridge and Retford - whilst exploring places around the Chesterfield Canal – I decided to have a day out in Lincoln.
The extent of my day trips from Treeton by public transport

At 58 km from Treeton as the crow flies, it is as far as I had travelled by public transport during the previous 5 years – including trips to Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham and Derby – and I was determined to make the most of the day.
This ancient city is one of my very favourite places and I fell in love with it when first taken there with a ‘prospective father in law’, in an old MG Midget that I eventually owned. I have since lived there twice, take guests there and, on my recommendation, it was added to the field trip itinerary for the Spanish students who attend the Heart of England summer school.
Spanish students in Lincoln

When first living and working there as a Cadet Valuer with the District Valuer/Valuation Office, my first ‘proper job’ after graduating with a geology degree from Nottingham University, I developed an interest in historic buildings and building stone.
At Lincoln, the escarpment of the Jurassic Lincolnshire Limestone Formation known as Lincoln Edge - stretching from Grantham in the south to the Humber Estuary in the north – has been cut through by an earlier course of the River Trent, which is now occupied by the River Witham.
Iron Age remains dating to the 1st century BC have been found at Brayford Pool, but it was the Romans who took advantage of its strategic position. The northern end of the Fosse Way joins Ermine Street and a legionary fortress was built on the escarpment, with the city walls extending down to the river - a settlement that later became known as Lindum Colonia.
The west gate of Lincoln Castle

Fragments of the old Roman walls remain, but it is the mediaeval Lincoln Castle and Lincoln Cathedral that now dominate the town and, along with very many other mediaeval churches and secular buildings, these provide good examples of the use of the locally quarried limestone.
A 'burst' stone at the Old Bishop's Palace

Although not having the experience of the weathering and durability of various building stones that I possess now, from casual observations in many old buildings and boundary walls, however, I noticed that plain masonry had very often appeared to ‘burst’ open, with no apparent relationship with the planes of bedding and jointing or atmospheric pollution.
Disintegration of Lincoln stone at the Old Bishop's Palace

As part of a consultancy project for English Heritage, mainly concerning Bolover Castle and Sutton Scarsdale Hall, I was asked to have a quick look at the Old Bishop’s Palace in Lincoln, where this type of weathering was very noticeable. A year or so later, when living in Lincoln for the second time, I was invited up onto the scaffold on the west front of Lincoln Cathedral and very many of the finely carved details had distintegrated in the same way.
The west front of Lincoln Cathedral

I have never encountered similar weathering in any other stone, particularly other stones from the Lincolnshire Limestone Formation such as Ancaster and Clipsham, nor have I been given any plausible explanation for this pattern of weathering and decay.
The Old Bishop's Palace
Although I have seen many examples of the Lincolnshire Limestone where used as a building stone, I have only seen exposures of it in situ during brief visits to the Cathedral Quarry in Lincoln and Glebe Quarry in Ancaster - the source of the stone that I cut for a few months at the Gregory Quarry in Mansfield.
Glebe Quarry at Ancaster

Living so far away from Lincoln and not having a car to undertake more thorough investigations, or having access to laboratory equipment, I assume that this relates to the progressive thinning of the beds from south to north Lincolnshire and the change from a clear water to a muddy facies.

A view of Christ's Hospital Terrace