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The Strategic Stone Study Database

University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford, © Tarnia McAlester

Strategic Stone Study

England's rich architectural heritage owes much to the great variety of stones used in buildings and other structures. Stone buildings commonly reflect the local geology, imparting local distinctiveness to historic towns, villages and rural landscapes. Stone is the major building material in many of the half-a-million listed buildings and 9,500 conservation areas in England.

If the character of these buildings and areas is to be maintained, supplies of new matching stone are needed for repair and for new construction. In many cases however, the source of the original stone is not known and even if it is known, it is not unusual to find that the quarry has long-since closed. This makes it difficult to obtain suitable stone for repairs or for new-build projects. By identifying the most significant building stones used in the past and by establishing where they came from and potential alternative sources, the Strategic Stone Study attempts to address these problems.

Lock-up, Liverpool, © Mark Fletcher

What is the Study?

The Study is led by Historic England (formerly English Heritage), working with the British Geological Survey and local geologists and historic buildings experts from each of 35 counties in England. For each county, using a combination of fieldwork and historic records and maps, a representative range of historic structures, from castles and cathedrals to houses and cottages, boundary walls, roofs, bridges, kerbs and paving, has been selected and the types of stones used, identified. This has enabled the most significant building stones in each county to be established and, where possible, the original source of stone for a particular building or settlement was identified. In addition, the location of all quarries that produced these stones has been mapped, so that potential sources for conservation and new build can be recognised and safeguarded. This information is published on the freely-available English Building Stone Pits (EBSPits) website.

Search the Strategic Stone Study Database.

Why was the Study undertaken?

Farm buildings, Cromford, Derbyshire, © Tarnia McAlesterEaston-on-the-Hill, Northamptonshire, © Geckoella LtdStar Castle gate, Cornwall, © Geckoella Ltd

For conservation work it is important to obtain stone that matches the original, not only in appearance, but also in terms of mineral composition, porosity and permeability. If not, the new stone will be a poor visual match and could hasten the weathering and decay of the adjacent stone. Awareness of possible sources of matching stone is therefore vital.

The Department of Communities and Local Government National Planning Policy Framework (2012) recommends that local authorities safeguard important sources of building stone. The Strategic Stone Study contributes to this vital process by identifying, for each county, the significant stone types used in the past, and their potential current sources.

Publishing the Study

Historic England commissioned the British Geological Survey to expand its database of UK quarries, mines and mineral workings in order to accommodate this innovative database called England's Building Stone Pits (EBSPits). The data are freely available on a Geographical Information System accessed through the British Geological Survey's web site. In addition, the data for each county can be freely downloaded as a series of Excel spread sheets. Written accounts of the building stones of each county are contained within a series of illustrated atlases (and data).

Search the Strategic Stone Study Database.

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information included in this website and atlases is accurate, individuals or organisations should independently verify information before acting on it. Neither Historic England, the British Geological Survey, the Natural Environment Research Council nor any of the sources who provided information for this study, shall be responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the use of, or results, obtained from the use of, this information.

Please contact Alison Henry for further information.

Church ruins, London © Tarnia McAlester

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