Many of the churches in the West Country were rebuilt from AD 1250 onwards. Previously churches were probably wood or very primitive stone structures. Saxon and Norman stone work was usually solid and simple, robust but not as elegant as the fashions of the thirteenth century dictated. The cathedrals of the period set the trends - delicate windows and decorated doorways. As far as possible parishes, or at least their major benefactors, wished to emulate them.
There was a plentiful supply of granite (moorstone) which was hard, strong and very resistant to weathering. It could be used to build sound churches and towers which would last almost for ever. It was however almost impossible to work finely. It could not be used to make fine window tracery and decorative carvings.
On Roborough Down they found the answer!
The granites of Dartmoor were forced up from below through the rocks of the Devonian and Carboniferous periods about 290 million years ago. They did not break the surface and solidified while still underground. Granite consists mainly of quartz, mica and feldspar. The quality and colour of granite varies with the proportions of quartz, mica and feldspar, the rate of cooling and the amount and type of the absorbed materials. A dyke of rock of exactly the right combination of all these elements occurred on Roborough Down. This rock is called felsite. It is a sort of granite but it has less quartz and more feldspar than the average granite. It has the rare qualities of being easily won from the ground, very resistant to weathering and could be carved into ornate shapes.
Stone was recovered from a row of small quarries and pits on Roborough Down. Our ‘Bring Your Own Picnic’ last June was held in the most easterly of these. The row runs in a westerly direction and there is a further outcrop near Bere Ferrers. The stone has been used in the churches at Tamerton Foliot, Bickleigh, Shaugh Prior, Meavy, Sheepstor, Walkhampton and Buckland Monachorum. It was also used in Buckland Abbey and many of the better houses in the area.
There are no information boards on the site so you must search elsewhere if you need further information.
To ‘find’ this cache, visit the following places:-
a. Go to N 50° 27.993 W 004° 06.077. You will find that you
are in a trough like depression, running across Roborough Down.
This is the felsite quarry and after rain it is often
Photograph yourself, one of your team or your GPS with the quarry/pit in the background.
Estimate the volume of the large stone, at the location, in cubic inches.
Roborough Down is open access land. We all have the right to use and visit all parts of it without seeking anybody’s permission or approval.
b. Go to N 50° 25.635 W 004° 09.190. You will find
yourself by Tamerton Foliot Church. The main structure is limestone
from Plymouth but the window tracery is Roborough stone. When each
of the side aisles was added to the church the old Roborough stone
windows were re-used in the new walls. While you are there, notice
the variations of colour of the stone caused by impurities.
Count the number of glass areas there are in the Eastern window on the South side of the church.
A footpath leads through this churchyard, past the windows concerned. This is public access and there is no need for you to leave the path or enter the church for the purposes of this cache.
c. Go to N 50° 29.445 W
004° 01.827. You will find St Leonards Well at the side of the
road on the outside of the churchyard wall. You do not need to
enter the churchyard. The cover of the well is built of rough hewn
granite blocks but the front is felsite. The felsite front looks as
though it was once part of a large window and this is an example of
good stone being reused.
Work out why the two types of stone have been used.
For the purposes of this cache you do not need to leave the public road.
When recording your find please post a photograph of yourself, one of your team or your GPS with the quarry/pit in the background.
Also, please e-mail us your answers to the following questions:-
a. What properties of felsite endeared it to medieval church
b. How does its composition differ from normal granite?
c. What lies between the outcrops on Roborough Down and Bere Alston?
d. What was the volume, in cubic inches, of the large stone at the first location?
e. How many glass areas were there in the window at Tamerton Foliot?
f. Why and where were the two types of stone used for the well cover at Sheepstor?