Sunday, 15 August 2010

A curious case of iron-stained stone

The local sandstone at Belsay, in Northumberland, is shot through with iron ore deposits, with the result that the cut stone, used for building in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, is liberally flecked with black spots that become more prominent with weathering. The effect is distinctive and odd, as if buildings have been randomly sprayed with grapeshot. Good examples are in Belsay village, where the quality of the ashlar used for ordinary shops, as seen here, is a telltale sign of aristocratic patronage, and also at Belsay Hall itself, a staggeringly austere essay in Greek Revival architecture created in the 1810s when the Monck family decamped from the nearby castle, where they had lived since the 14th century and which still exists in a wonderfully unspoilt setting. Well worth a visit.


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