Tuesday, 28 September 2021

The Former Walkley Board School

The Sheffield School Board crest

Arriving at Walkley House, dated 1874, having already quickly surveyed the former Bole Hill Board School – designed by WJ Hale in 1896 - at the beginning of my exploration of Walkley in Sheffield, I was very interested to see that this old board school has a very different architectural character.
A general view of Walkley House

CJ Innocent, of Innocent and Brown, had been appointed architect to the Sheffield School Board in 1871, after the Education Act in 1870, and this practice was responsible for 19 of the 22 schools built between 1873-1881 – with the Gothic Revival style being characteristic of much of their work.
The south-west elevation

The school is built in rock-faced sandstone for the walling, which is darker and contains more iron banding than the Crawshaw Sandstone previously seen in Crookes and Walkley. The massive sandstone used for the dressings also look different in colour - perhaps due to the late afternoon sunshine - but its physical characteristics are consistent with several good quality building stones that have been quarried from the Millstone Grit.
The pyramidal spire with a finial

The south-west elevation rises to a bell turret with a pyramidal spire and finial, a cusped pointed arched niche that incorporates the Sheffield Board School crest and an inscribed band and date stone at a lower level.

Above the original south-west entrance, which has a projecting gable, the entrance for the boys is clearly marked by a fine example of letter cutting - just one of the details that would probably not be expected in a utilitarian building.
The entrance for boys

Similarly, the end gable on the south-east elevation has detailing, including voussoirs that mark out a false arch with an infill of herringbone masonry, which again would add to the cost of the building of the school.
Voussoirs and herringbone masonry in a false arch

In comparison, the south-east and north-east elevations are relatively plain, with the large gables, dormer ventilators in the roof and the large chimney stacks being the most notable features.
The upper part of the south-east elevation

Being sited on a steep hill, the east end of the school has a particularly monumental appearance, with the large round headed windows being taller than most of those that I had seen in very many mediaeval Gothic churches.
A view of the steeply sloping site of the school

On the opposite side of the road, a large infants' school was built in 1907 to a design by Hemsoll and Paterson, who were cited in newspaper reports as having used Crawshaw Sandstone and Stoke Hall stone - in at least one of the schools for which they were the principal architects.
Walkley Primary School

I couldn't get near enough to have a good look at the sandstones used in this school, although from a distance I could see that the walling stone is quite uniformly pale buff in colour; however, despite being weathered and party colonised by lichens, I could still distinguish the difference between the stones used in the entrance gate pier and the boundary wall.
A detail of the gate pier at Walkley Primary School

Friday, 24 September 2021

An Exploration of Walkley - Part 2

Walkley Carnegie Library

Continuing my exploration of Walkley, after having a quick look at the former Bole Hill Board School, I headed back down towards Walkley Road and stopped briefly to have a look at a terrace of houses. Two of these have been recently cleaned to reveal the original pale buff colour of the sandstone, which I assume to be the Crawshaw Sandstone quarried at Bole Hill.
Terraced houses on Walkley Road
Further down the hill, the Grade II Listed Walkley Carnegie Library was built in 1904 to a design by the architects Hemsoll & Paterson, who had worked with Sheffield council on a number of projects, including three Sheffield Board Schools.
The Walker Carnegie Library

At Greystones Board School, at least, the architect specified Bole Hill stone for the walling and Stoke Hall stone from the Kinderscout Grit for the dressings and this combination of sandstones is again seen at Walkley Carnegie Library.
A detail of the splayed elevation

These stones have a similar colour, but only the Stoke Hall sandstone is quarried in large enough blocks to make it suitable for large dressings, lintels and columns, as is seen to good effect on the splayed elevation of the library.
Terraced housing on South Road

On the opposite side of South Road, the terrace here is built out of a different sandstone, which has thicker beds, a darker colour and iron staining. It’s provenance is unknown but, in the area, the Loxley Edge Rock was also extensively quarried – a sandstone that I have not seen in an exposure or knowingly in any building.
A detail of the terraced housing on South Road

Continuing down Walkley Lane, the steeply sloping ground - which is a feature of Crookes and Walkley – runs down to the Don Valley, presenting views of the escarpment of the Greenmoor Rock, which was quarried to make bricks before eventually becoming a landfill site.
The escarpment of Greenmoor Rock seen from Walkley Road

As I walked down this hill, I noted further places where the slopes have necessitated landscaping of the junctions between the roads and the paths, before arriving at my next destination – the former Walkley Board School on Burnaby Crescent. 
Landscaping on Walkley Road

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

An Exploration of Walkley - Part 1

The entrance for boys at Bole Hill Board School

A couple of days after my exploration of the historic architecture of Crookes, I returned to Walkley on the No. 52 bus and - after reaching the end of Heavygate Road - I alighted at the first opportunity on Walkley Road and then retraced the route to look at the details of the road junction with Compton Street.
The junction between Walkley Road and Compton Street

Here, I got talking to a couple of similar age who, like me, were very keen to take advantage of the bright sunshine on the 28th of February 2021 and who told me about Ruskin House, which I had never heard of before.
Ruskin House

This was the former site of the St. George’s Museum, founded in 1875 by John Ruskin, who had close links to the city of Sheffield. Although not a listed building, and having had many changes and uses since being built, it still has some interesting architectural details.
The remains of an old quarry

Crossing over Bole Hill Road, I had a very quick look around the wooded area that formed the northern extent of the old quarries that extracted the Crawshaw Sandstone from the escarpment, but now there are only vegetated mounds of rock waste.
The north elevation of Bole Hill Board School

From here, however, I could get glimpses of the rear elevation of the Grade II Listed Bole Hill Board School by WJ Hale – the architect who had designed the Wesley Hall and St. Luke’s and the Congregational churches in Crookes.
A glimpse of the former Bole Hill Board School

When reading an article by Peter Kennett, on the Sheffield Area Geology Trust (SAGT) website, I was interested to see that the stone from Bole Hill and Walkley Bank had been used to build a handful of Sheffield Board Schools.
The south-west elevation of the former Bole Hill Board School

Most of the schools mentioned have now been demolished and, having had a quick look at the exposures of the Crawshaw Sandstone at Bolehills, where I thought that these beds wouldn’t be particularly good for building, I was curious to know if I could recognise the stone that has been used here.
A general view from the north-east

From a distance, I could see that the stone used for the walling comprises well bedded, uniformly light buff coloured medium grained sandstone, which has been cut into blocks with a limited bed height and not that much bigger than a large brick.
The east elevation

The dressings are of a uniform massive sandstone, which is probably Stoke Hall stone from the Kinderscout Grit at Grindleford - a material commonly used for the dressings in the board schools. This durable stone has been used for the Victorian Town Hall in Sheffield city centre and also for the principal features at the adjacent Peace Gardens.
The caretaker's house
The same pattern of masonry is seen in the caretaker’s house, which was bathed in bright sunshine at the time of my visit, but neither this or the main school had any elaborate detailing that I could see – which is evident in the architect’s later work on the churches in Crookes – and only the stepped gables and the pagoda like octagonal bell turret form features of much interest.
The bell turret

I particularly liked the simple letter carving on the caps on the piers to the narrow gateways, which distinguish the separate entrances for the boys and girls – a distinctive feature of very many of the Sheffield Board Schools.
The entrance for girls

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

From the Rivelin Valley to Hillsborough

A bridge over the River Rivelin

After walking down the steep hill from Bolehills in Crookes to St. Michael’s Cemetery in Walkley, I had to revise my original plan to further explore this part of Sheffield. Although I had already seen several interesting historic buildings and obtained samples of Crawshaw Sandstone, I had only covered a distance of less than 3 km and still had plenty of energy to continue my walk. 
A weir near the site of Spooner's Wheel

Leaving the cemetery and going to have a quick look at the Rivelin Paddling Pools, which had been built in 2013 on the site of the New Dam, constructed in 1853 as a supplementary water supply to Spooner's Wheel - where scythes and cutlery were made – I contemplated following the Rivelin Valley Trail to Malin Bridge.
Hollins Bridge
Deciding to leave this to another time, when I would join the trail a few kilometres further upstream, I stopped briefly to photograph the Grade II Listed Hollins Bridge, which was built in the early C19, and carried on walking along the Rivelin Valley Road. 
The confluence at Malin Bridge
20 minutes later, I arrived at the confluence of the River Rivelin with the River Loxley at Malin Bridge, where much of the river bed is heavily stained by rusty red coloured iron oxides/hydroxides. Several mines in the vicinity produced coal, ganister and fireclay, which can often be a source of pollution but the only ochreous seepage that I have seen is in the bank of the River Loxley a couple of hundred metres upstream. 
A sculpture at Hillsborough Place Garden

Continuing down Holme Lane to Hillsborough, there isn’t a great deal to see but, arriving at Hillsborough Place Garden, I was interested to see a small sandstone sculpture that suddenly appeared on 7th May 2020, which commemorates the work of the NHS (National Health Service) during the COVID-19 Pandemic. 
Architectural details on Holme Lane
Next to this, I very surprised to see that a very ordinary two bay detached brick built house has an extremely elaborate doorway, with the columns and pilasters to the sandstone surround having capitals that are finely carved with floral details. 
The weir on the River Loxley at Hillsborough
Stopping briefly to admire the civil engineering work involved in the weir and two bridges either side of it, where large blocks of stone – probably the coarse Rivelin Grit (Chatsworth Grit) – have been used in their construction, I carried on up Walkley Lane to investigate the prominent Catholic church of the Sacred Heart. 
The Church of the Sacred Heart
Built in 1936 by C.M.E Hadfield, of the same family architectural practice that had built St. Michael’s Cemetery and St. Joseph’s church in Handsworth more than 50 years previously, its very austere construction in red brick reminds me of Battersea Power Station; however, the west door has some fine stone sculpture by Philip Lindsey Clark, who also undertook much of the carving at the church of St. Theresa in Manor. 
The tympanum at the Church of the Sacred Heart

The stone used for the tympanum and the column beneath it, which is carved into a figurative form, is not a sandstone but a Jurassic oolitic limestone. In the East Midlands and Yorkshire, Ancaster stone is the most common limestone seen in dressings, but Clipsham stone is occasionally found and - as at Crookes Cemetery - Bath stone has been brought all the way from the Monks Park mine in Wiltshire. 
A sculpture by Philip Lindsey Clark

Carrying on to Langsett Road, I ended my day at the Supertram stop in Hillsborough, where the unlisted Walkley and Hillsborough District Baths, built in 1926, is now home to the JD Wetherspoon Rawson Spring public house.
The former Walkley and Hillsborough District Baths

St. Michael’s Cemetery in Walkley

The monument to the Foster family

When planning my day out to explore the geology and historic buildings of Crookes, I had originally intended to also explore Walkley, principally to have a look at the Sheffield Board School at Bole Hill Road by WJ Hale and another at Burnaby Crescent by Innocent and Brown – architects that I had never heard of before.
A panoramic view from Bolehills

Standing on the highest point of Bolehills, however, where I was looking down at the 15 storey tower blocks in Stannington on the other side of the Rivelin Valley, I realised that I had made a great mistake in the planning of my walk.
My planned exploration of Crookes and Walkley

Making my way down to the Rivelin Valley through an area where the Crawshaw Sandstone was once extensively quarried, I came across a steep path to St. Michael’s Catholic Cemetery, which was my next planned stop.
A view down to the Rivelin Valley
After giving my best regards to a young woman who was running up the path, I mumbled to myself - “I am not going back up that chuffing hill” - and decided that I would explore Walkley another day.
The path to St. Michael's cemetery

Arriving to find that a funeral was about to take place at the cemetery, I just discreetly wandered around the cemetery to photograph the Grade II Listed chapel by Charles Hadfield – of the family architectural practice that had designed St. Joseph’s church in Handsworth – and a couple of the large monuments that are also listed.
The chapel at St. Michael's cemetery

I didn’t examine the building stones here, but the Historic England listing states that these are Greenmoor Rock for the walling, with a coarser sandstone used for the quoins and dressings, which was quarried at Worrall from the Loxley Edge Rock – another sandstone used for very many historic buildings in Sheffield.
Although a few of the sandstone blocks surrounding the statue of St. Michael have a green/grey colour typically associated with the Greenmoor Rock, this formation is best known for producing for paving stones and memorials and the walling stone is generally thin bedded – a characteristic that is not seen in the masonry here.
The statue of St. Michael
On this occasion, I was more interested in the pale cream coloured stone used for the statue of St. Michael, which is a Jurassic oolitic limestone. The same architectural practice designed Crookes Cemetery chapel, dated 1908, where Bath stone from the Monk’s Park mine in Corsham, Wiltshire, has been used for dressings, in preference to the Ancaster stone from Lincolnshire that is normally used in this region.
A detail of the statue of St. Michael
A few metres to the west of the chapel, the striking monument to GH Foster and family provides an example of pink Peterhead granite from Aberdeenshire in Scotland, which was used widely by Victorian architects and memorial masons – often in combination with the grey Rubislaw granite.
The monument to the Foster family

The white stone used in its plinth and for the ornate gables, pinnacles and angels, however, is not Portland stone – as also stated in the Historic England description – but is white Carrara marble from the Apuan Alps in Italy.
A detail of the monument to the Foster family

From a distance, these materials look very similar and it is very easy to make this mistake, especially when dirty but, if able to get close enough to touch the stone, the marble has a uniform saccharoidal texture – formed by the chemical weathering of the interlocking calcite crystals – whereas the weathered surface of Portland stone typically has exposed angular fragments or even thin beds of fossil oysters and other shellfish.
An angel carved in Carrara marble

On this occasion, the iron railings prevented me from being able to get near enough to touch the stone, but I was nonetheless able to observe its texture and - although the loss of fine detail confirmed that the surface was weathered - there were no signs of any fossils. structures. 
A fine detail carved in Carrara marble