Strategic Stone Study

England has a rich and varied architectural landscape.  This is due to the variety of local stone used in buildings and other structures, giving character to our towns, villages and rural landscapes.  The Strategic Stone Study aims to identify and map distinctive building stones across the country, their use in representative iconic and vernacular buildings and ascertain the source quarries for these stones.  Quite an ambitious project!

Four Geology Trust counties (Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire), together with the Stone Centre in Derbyshire, participated in a pilot exercise in 2008 – 2009, each producing data for the project by different methods.  This enabled English Heritage to formulate the best procedure to be used as the project was rolled out across the country.  The remainder of our member counties have since completed their contribution to the main stage of the project.

From 2009 to 2011, English Heritage sought experienced local geologists and historic buildings experts in each county in England to provide data on quarries, building stones and representative stone structures, ranging from cathedrals and castles to small cottages, barns and bridges and even to walls, pavements and kerbs. This information was gathered from the personal knowledge of local experts and existing archives (e.g. RIGS and BGS databases, County and National Monument Records), supplemented by some fieldwork.  The data has been fed into spreadsheets and a written, illustrated summary, or ‘atlas’, of each county’s building stones produced.

The output of the project has been made freely available on a Geographical Information System (GIS) on the web, hosted by the British Geological Survey and called EBSPits (English Building Stone Pits).  Data from all of the main building stone counties of England is now available.

The new database will provide local authorities with the evidence they need to make informed decisions on the safeguarding of building stone sources.  It will also enable heritage organisations and others to make sensitive repairs to buildings in their care, and it is hoped that it will encourage the use of indigenous stone for new builds, thereby supporting our stone industry and stone craftsmanship.

It has been enjoyable and very satisfying to contribute to such a worthwhile project, utilizing the knowledge and expertise that we, as a collection of geoconservation groups, have built up over many years, and that fits so well with the ethos of our work.

If you would like to find out more about our experience and the practical aspects of doing this work, please email us at  If you would like to contact English Heritage about the project, please email Alison Henry at .