Thursday, 17 June 2021

A Field Trip in Conisbrough - Part 1

Conisbrough Castle

My day out in Lincoln during September 2020 had more than made up for the Heritage Open Days festival, which had been severely cut back due to the COVID-19 Pandemic restrictions still in place and, although I was unable to gain access to various buildings, I took very many photos and I was kept busy writing my Language of Stone Blog for nearly 8 weeks.
The route of my planned field trip
For my next excursion, in week 28 of the pandemic, I decided to try out a field trip that I had tentatively proposed as one of the field trips for the Sheffield U3A Geology Group in 2020 – an exploration of the geology and historic architecture in and around Conisbrough, which occupies the north-east end of an outlier of dolomitic limestone of the Permian Cadeby Formation.

When undertaking geological survey work on behalf of the South Yorkshire RIGS Group and resurveying these sites for the Doncaster Geodiversity Assessment, while temporarily working with the British Geological Survey, I had identified several geological sites in the area that I thought had good educational value.
Conisbrough Castle

Alighting the X78 bus on Castle Hill, where the car park here is a good place to meet, I walked up to Conisbrough Castle, which is sited on a very small outlier of the Cadeby Formation. A short walk around the curtain wall provides a good introduction to the use of local building stone, as I had demonstrated with a Rotherham WEA geology class several years earlier.
St. Peter's church
On the west side of the castle, the moat cuts into the Pennine Upper Coal Measures Formation strata to produce a spring that, according to one of the English Heritage staff when I last visited the castle in 2015, flows permanently; however, this time, I couldn’t find it beneath the vegetation and continued up Castle Hill to St. Peter’s church.
Side alternating quoins at St. Peter's church
Allegedly, it is the oldest building in South Yorkshire, dating to c.750, and is full of interesting features and the various phases of construction and different architectural styles provide a good introduction to standing buildings archaeology.
A blocked Anglo-Saxon window

I have visited the church numerous times and, except during services, it has always been open to the general public and, on this occasion, I took a closer look at the Anglo-Saxon elements – side alternating quoins at the end of the nave, which were once on the exterior, and the blocked window above the north arcade.
The north aisle of St. Peter's church

Except for the Victorian north aisle, built in 1866, which I hadn’t previously examined in any detail, I didn’t spend any time looking at the exterior of the church and crossed the road to Wellgate, where a very unusual late mediaeval well cover stands at the edge of a small housing estate.
The old town well on Wellgate

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