Engineering geological studies of bedrock formations

Map of UK showing the location of Formations studied

The BGS has an ongoing research program to investigate the distribution of physical (geotechnical) properties and the regional variation of these properties within particular geological formations across the UK.

These studies have assessed in detail the engineering geological characteristics, mineralogy, industrial applications, geological hazard potential, physical properties and behaviour of the formations.

All geotechnical data from these studies are stored in the National Geotechnical Properties Database. The work on the Mercia Mudstone and Lambeth groups compliments reports published by CIRIA (the Construction Industry Research and Information Association).

Photograph of weathered, dessicated, highly fissured Gault clay at the Selborne Brickworks, Hampshire Gault Formation

The Gault Formation is a sequence of clays, mudstones and thin siltstones that extend from East Anglia to Dorset and surround the Weald.

Photograph of unweathered jointed Mercia Mudstone (Cropwell Bishop Formation) Mercia Mudstone Group

The Mercia Mudstone is a sequence of predominantly mudrock strata with subsidiary amounts of siltstone, sandstone, gypsum, anhydrite and halite. It underlies much of central, southern and north-west England on which many urban areas and their infrastructures are built.

Photograph of interbedded sand and gravel of the Harwich Formation in a cutting for the A2 at Shorne, Kent Lambeth Group

The Lambeth Group is a highly variable sequence of clay, silt, sand and gravel with occasional beds of lignite, limestone, sandstone, mudstone and duricrust. The Lambeth underlies much of the London and Hampshire Basins.

Photograph of the Mugrave Shale Member at Runswick Bay, North Yorkshire Lias Group

The Lias is predominantly clay and mudstone with interbeds of limestone and occasional ironstone, sandstone and siltstone. The outcrop extends across England from Dorset to Yorkshire with some outliers in Somerset and Wales.

Photograph of Sherwood Sandstone outcrop in the Victoria Centre Car Park, Nottingham. Sherwood Sandstone Group

The Sherwood Sandstone Group comprises sandstone and pebbly sandstone with subsidiary beds of conglomerate and occasional mudstone and siltstone. The Sherwood Sandstone is present in several basins across England, namely the Carlisle, Cheshire and West Lancashire, Worcester, East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and Wessex Basins.


Entwisle, D C, Hobbs, P R N, Northmore, K J, Skipper, J, Raines, M R, Self, S J, Ellison, R A, Jones, L D. 2013. Engineering Geology of British Rocks and Soils: Lambeth Group. British Geological Survey Open Report, OR/13/006.

Jones, L D, and Jefferson, I.  2012.  Expansive soils. In: Burland, J, Chapman, T, Skinner, H, and Brown, M. ICE manual of geotechnical engineering. Volume 1 Geotechnical Engineering Principles, Problematic Soils and Site Investigation.   (London: ICE Publishing).

Hobbs, P R N, Entwisle, D C, Northmore, K J, Sumbler, M G, Jones, L D, Kemp, S, Self, S, Barron, M and Meakin, J L.  2012.  Engineering Geology of British Rocks and Soils – Lias Group.  British Geological Survey Open Report, OR/12/032.

Northmore, K J, Entwisle, D C, Reeves, H J, Hobbs, P R N, and Culshaw, M G.  2011.   The relevance of lithostratigraphy in the assessment and investigation of engineering ground conditions in UK mudstones.   Proceedings of the 15th European Conference on Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering. Anagnostopoulos, A. et al. (Eds.).

Freeborough, K.  2005.  Determination of the shrinking and swelling properties of the Lias Clay: laboratory report.  British Geological Survey, IR/07/035.

Jones, L D, and Hobbs, P R N.  2004.  The shrinkage and swelling behaviour of UK soils: the clays of the Lambeth Group.   British Geological Survey Report. RR/04/001.

Hobbs, P R N, Hallam, J R, Forster, A, Entwisle, D C, Jones, L D, Cripps, A C, Northmore, K J, Self, S J, and Meakin, J L.  2002.  Engineering geology of British rocks and soils — Mudstones of the Mercia Mudstone Group.   British Geological Survey Research Report, RR/01/02.

Jones, L D.  2001.  Determination of the shrinking and swelling properties of the clays of the Lambeth Group.  British Geological Survey Report, IR/01/054.

Jones, L D, and Hobbs, P R N.  1998.  The Shrinkage and Swelling Behaviour of UK Soils: Mercia Mudstone.  British Geological Survey Technical Report, WN/98/14.

Jones, L D and Hobbs, P R N.  1998.  The Shrinkage and Swelling Behaviour of UK Soils: Gault Clay.  British Geological Survey Technical Report, WN/98/13.

Forster, A, Hobbs, P R N, Cripps, A C, Entwisle, D C, Fenwick, S M M, Raines, M R, Hallam, J R, Jones, L D, Self, S J and Meakin, J L.  1994.  Engineering geology of British rocks and soils: Gault clay.   British Geological Survey Technical Report, WN/94/31.


Contact Marcus Dobbs for more information