Reporter 397, 17 February 1997

If These Stones Could Speak

"The entrance and the stairs are clad with highly polished Hopton Wood stone (carboniferous limestone) from quarries near Matlock in Derbyshire. The pilasters and pillars are made of well-patterned Swedish green marble. This handsome stone, in geological terms an ophicalcite (originally a dolomite), has prominent green banding "Swedish green " has been worked at since 1650 or even earlier, and the quarry was specially reopened to supply the stone."

Sounds familiar ? This is the Brotherton library as seen though the eyes of a geologist a detail from the book "The Building Stone Heritage of Leeds" by the late Frank Dimes and Murray Mitchell of the Department of Earth Sciences and published this month by the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society.

The book is presented in the form of four walks through central Leeds with the buildings described in turn. All of the major buildings are included and dozens of minor buildings, ranging from the Parish Church to the latest Leeds Halifax building It is packed with fascinating detail and insight.

It is far more than just a geological catalogue of a square mile of the city : The historical dimension are fascinating-the few early buildings were of local stone, from long-forgotten quarries at Scothall, Woodhouse Moor and Meanwood - the old abandoned mediaeval "bell pit" mines which gave problems to the builders of the Corn Exchange. One can picture the architectural liberation of the railway and clients leafing through sample books of marbles from exotic locations, unexpected orders arriving in distant quarries, special trains rumbling through the Victorian night, gangs of workmen, sweating shire horses and bowler hatted foremen. and gangs of skilled craftsman with droopy moustaches and sad eyes.-all lovingly creating a proud city.

There is a wealth of unexpected detail, like this gem about the Baltic brown cladding of the Lloydes bank building in Bond Street.detail. "This stone comes from Kotka in Finland, about half a mile from where the road to St Petersburg crosses the Russian Border. It is easily recognised because of its colour and the prominence of spherical feldspar crystals with green reaction rims known as Rapakivi structures - after the nearby town."(p36)

If you're near Maples in Vicar Lane look out for the mountain green also known as Cold Spring Green, Aqua Pearl and Royal Emerald from Jay in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. - a Precambrian medium-grained green pyoxene-garnet gneiss, a high grade metamorphic rock of granitic appearance with large pale blue iridescent feldspar porphyroblasts.(p73)

- and don't forget to 'tut-tut' at the expensively polished granite of the Observatory in city square ruined by clumsy cleaning.

Buy this book and a shopping trip will never be the same again.

Copies at £9.00, can be obtained from Clare Jackson the Department of Earth Sciences' Library ( Tel : 0113 233 5210 )

Dr John Lydon


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