Monthly Archives: July 2021

Simplified Geology of Humber region 5.

Field quarries is a term used to describe usually fairly shallow diggings into the surface of fields overlying chalk bedrock, this usually done by the farmer and his/her workers. As with parish quarries the chalk quarried might have been used as hard-core but it was also broken down (crushed) and spread as lime on fields, or parts of fields, where the soil was acidic. Field quarries were once common on the Wolds but most now have been infilled and top-soiled over so they are hardly perceptable in the landscape today. Although I haven’t travelled the route for a few years, either side of the main road between Beverley and Market Weighton it was possible to see a number of field quarries in various states of disuse. The picture above shows a disused field quarry on the south bank beside the junction of the old Brigg Road from Barton with the minor road to Saxby All Saints. It, and indeed all ex-chalk quarries, become a mini nature reserve if left to Nature to re-colonise.
Usually the largest chalk quarries seen today, whether still worked or disused, were/are commercial ventures. Until recently there were two large-scale examples, the huge quarry above South Ferriby and the one above Melton. However, the former is now mothballed as is the Humber bank cement works to which the chalk was transported by conveyor belt – the large rock-grabbing machines, the crushing plant and the dumper-trucks used to carry the chalk lumps across the quarry-floor all now stand silent. The large commercial chalk quarry at Melton Ross near Humberside Airport is still in production. Large, once commercial, chalk quarries but now disused exist on both banks of the Humber Estuary. The easiest to explore now forms part of the Humber Bridge Country Park (where the large car-park is currently being used as a Covid testing centre) immediately west of Hessle (s.p.b.s., ‘Little Switzerland’).
(to be continued)

Simplified Geology of Humber Region 4.

The fact that the Humber Estuary bisected the ‘Ferriby chalk’ escarpment has meant that the side of the Humber valley immediately east of the boulder clay ‘Cliffs’ has been an ideal location for quarrying the chalk rock. By driving a level-floored cutting into the valley side an increasingly deep wall of chalk was revealed and quarried back or side-wards. Furthermore, by constructing wooden piled jetties into the Humber foreshore and on a level with the quarry floor it was possble to transport the bulky quarried material by boat (keels or slopes). The photo above, originally in the collection of Brian Peeps of Barton now, I think, in Barton Civic Soc. archives, shows the once jetty at Leggott’s Quarry (s.p.b.) and rail trucks ready to tip their load of chalk into the hold of a waiting barge. The date of this picture is uncertain but is almost certainly inter-War. The jetty shown is now derelict.
Chalk quarries were in fact excavated for a number of purposes. Parish quarries were excavated by vestries (see earlier blogs on local government through the ages) to provide hard-core for road repairs and possibly building foundations. Like field quarries (see later), these were usually relatively small quarries. Two examples survive on the south bank; the one on the left, now wooded, going down the scarp slope into South Ferriby from Barton on the A1077 and the relatively large example on the right going out of Barton on the road to Barrow, this now the site of a small housing estate built on the quarry floor. I dont know of the locations on the north bank but parishes such as North Ferriby and Swanland would have had them. Have just remembered that the once parish quarry in Hessle is a good example being the quarry with allotments in it beside the road to North Ferriby coming out of The Weir area of Hessle.

Simplified geology of Humber region 3.

The photo. above shows the ‘cliff-face’, not on the coast as at Flamborough Head, but at the head of a chalk quarry on the south-Humber bank just west of the parish boundary between Barton on Humber and South Ferriby and commonly known as Leggett’s Quarry (chalk quarrying here ceased in the late 1960s so the cliff-face and quarry floor provide a good example of flora regeneration on exposed chalk surfaces). In some parts of Europe chalk is mined but on Humberside chalk has always been quarried and quarry-men worked in the open.
By far the oldest chalk quarry in the region is the one that now forms part of the Humber Bridge Country Park in East Yorkshire at the northern end of the Humber Bridge (the quarry floor and cliff-face often known as Little Switzerland). The Meaux Chronicles (s.p.b.s) record that ‘stone’ for the conventual buildings came from a quarry at Hessle, this the forerunner of the present quarry. Almost certainly back in the 13th century the blocks of chalk would have been shaped by stone-cutters at the quarry floor before being transported to the abbey site, this to reduce the volume of un-needed stone being transported. Overland transport of the stone would have been kept to a minimum as when the site of the abbey and that of the quarry were distant transport of stone costs were the greatest demand on the project’s budget. In the case of Meaux Cistercian Abbey the stone from Hessle would have been transported by boat/raft along the north shore of the Humber Estuary then up the River Hull and finally along a canalised drainage channel to the site itself. I have recently come across an A5 size book which gives much information on medieval quarrying, building and transportation of stone using many surviving illustrations from Continental sources – Erlande-Brandenburg, A. ‘The Cathedral Builders of the Middle Ages’ (Thames and Hudson, no date given),ISBN 978-0-500-30052-7.
(to be continued)

Simplified geology of Humber region 2.

The picture above shows part of the traditional farm buildings of a small farm between Barton on Humber and South Ferriby. It shows walling of chalk blocks roughly cut square and coursed and sections of brick walling of various dates. The steeply pitched roof covered by pantiles, of a type known as Dutch tiles (similar to Spanish style roofing roofing pantiles), may have originally been thatched. The site of this farm on rising land above the Humber Estuary foreshore (floodplain) means that the building materials reflect local raw materials. Chalk is the bedrock on the south Humber valley side while the estuarine clays of the Humber inter-tidal zone, prior to the building of linear flood defenses in the past, provided/provides clay for brick and tile manufacture (see Bryant, G.F. and Land, N.D. ‘Bricks, Tiles and Bicycles in Barton before 1900’ (Barton W.E.A., 2007).
Chalk, a particularly pure form of limestone, is the top strata of those that form the Earth’s mantle where the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Wolds form the Wolds, this strata tilted down from west to east. Chalk is a rock formed from the compressed exo-skeletons of an infinite number of plankton-like microscopic creatures living in subtropical shallow seas about 90 million years ago. Indeed, the Cretaceous geological era is so called from the classical Greek word for chalk. I understand that under the microscope lots of these exo-skeletons can be distinguished and, presumably, to some extent the porous nature of chalk is a result of the decomposition of the organic parts of the plankton.
Geologists, it seems to me, miss the evocative scope of their discipline – that all life contributes to the planet and the planet to all life. Here little creatures are immortalised in rock in the way that all flora and fauna today when their ‘bits’ are broken down will contribute to life in the future. The planet retains bits of all of us, and always has.

Simplified geology of Humber region.

I have decided to compose a series of blogs to compliment and extend on my extended essay ‘A Simplified study of the Geology of the Humberside Region and some examples of its im[act on the reion’s Social and Economic History’ (see section three of this website).
The rocks under the surface of soil and water form the ‘crust’ of planet Earth and although their mass seems great to us in fact the crust only forms 1% of the Planet’s mass, the lower ‘mantle and ‘core’ comprise the rest.
The rocks under our feet in this part of the world have moved around as directed by the movements of the tectonic plates of the Earth’s crust, as have all parts of the continental masses of the Crust, this with the gradual splitting-up of the once supercontinent of Pangaea, this before plants and land animals really evolved. Britain was on the north-eastern edge of the Laurasian land-mass – the Eurasian land-mass today.
The rocks of the Earth’s crust underlay the seas and oceans as well as the land and indeed some surface rocks today were formed in past subterranean environments.
The Humber Estuary, a recent feature on the Earth’s surface on a geological scale, essentially bisected the regions terrain, features in the terrain having previously existed for millions of years. The easiest example here to cite is that the Humber Estuary split the chalk escarpment resulting in the current names of Lincolnshire Wolds and Yorkshire Wolds. This escarpment had/has a west-facing scarp slope and an east-facing dip slope. The escarpment was formed by the tilting, by orogenic forces, of a strata of chalk rock.
The chalk rock was, in turn, created by the compression of detritus on the bed of shallow seas and lakes during the Cretaceous geological period. The picture above, taken from Wikipaedia, is an artist’s impression of life at that time, a hundred million years before the evolution of primitive man.

Cathedrals 12.

The theme of this, the final blog of this 12 blog series on the overview history of English Cathedrals, is 20th century cathedrals.
There were three new-build cathedrals in the 20th century, the 10 other new cathedrals being previously parish churches – Southwark 1905, Birmingham 1905, Bury St. Edmonds 1914, Chelmsford 1914, Sheffield 1914, Bradford 1920,Blackburn 1926, Leicester 1927,Derby 1927 and Portsmouth 1927.
The three new-builds of the 20th century are; Liverpool (s.p.b.), Guildford 1960s and Coventry 1962.
The construction of Guildford cathedral had begun in the late 1920s but was later interrupted by the restrictions and regulations of the Second World War. In some ways similar to Liverpool its style is lofty and plain. Its style is similar to a number of more modest 20th century churches in Hull – a topic worthy of further consideration.
Coventry cathedral was built between 1956 and 1962 in a very modernist style alongside the nave and chancel of the late-14th, early-15th century St. Michael’s church ruined by enemy bombing during the Second World War. As may be seen in the photo above the elegant tower and spire of the gothic church survived and is still used as a belfry. The new cathedral incorporates many items of modernist art, not only in its built style but also in its fixtures and fittings. Given its history Coventry cathedral has focussed-on the theme of Reconciliation in promoting its Christian ethics.
All three new-build cathedrals were officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II and it is certainly true that the building programme of both Liverpool and Coventry cathedrals were matters of national interest back in the day.
Will there be re-newed cathedral building in the 21st century?, probably not, the Established Church needing to be seen to be more concerned with people rather than bricks and morter, although a 21st century cathedral would probably be steel-frame and cladding – the beauty of holiness!
(I may take a week off before beginning my next theme.)