Building Stones Database for England Map Explorer
Search the map for stone structures, building stones and their sources.
England's rich architectural heritage owes much to the great variety of stones used in buildings and other structures. The building stones commonly reflect the local geology, and add to the local distinctiveness of towns, villages and rural landscapes.
Understanding vernacular building types, materials such as local stone, detailing and colour is key to the National Model Design Code approach and the overall aim that new development should respect and enhance the existing character of the surrounding area and create a sense of place.
The Building Stones Database for England brings together information on local building stones, their uses and sources as an online interactive GIS (Geographical Information System) resource.
The Building Stones Database for England Map Explorer lets you explore building stones and their sources throughout England, as well as the bedrock and superficial geology.
You can browse the geological map, as well as search for a building stone, stone source or structure, or search by postcode, address or place name.
Working with the British Geological Survey (BGS), local geologists and historic buildings experts, we have identified important building stones, where they came from and potential alternative sources for repairs and new construction. The database has been designed as a resource for mineral planners, building conservation advisers, architects and surveyors, and those assessing townscapes and landscape character.
The 45 illustrated guides identify and describe local building stones in each county or area in context of the local geology and sources such as quarries. There are also companion spread sheets which provide the information for the area from the database.
There is also a glossary to help with building stone geological terms; and another guide with suggestions on further reading, online resources and contacts.
The guides and companion spread sheets will be of interest to mineral planners, building conservation advisers, architects and surveyors, and those assessing townscapes and countryside character. The guides will also be of interest if you want to find out more about local buildings, natural history, and landscapes.
The database was developed in response to a report commissioned by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (now the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) on the 'Planning for the Supply of Natural Building and Roofing Stone in England and Wales' (2004). Produced by the Symonds Group Ltd, this report examined the supply of building and roofing stones and recommended that a national database of building and roofing stones should be established and that mineral planning authorities should identify and safeguard resources to ensure the supply of indigenous stones for the repair of historic buildings and vernacular architecture as well as new build.
It also recommended that a national database of the building and roofing stones should be established which would help identify the building stones used and their sources.
The database is an output of the Strategic Stone Study (SSS). The SSS was commissioned in response to the report on the Planning for the 'Supply of Natural Building and Roofing Stone in England and Wales' (2004) recommendations.
The SSS was funded by Historic England with an initial contribution from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (now the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities). The project was phased over 10 years and we have worked with the British Geological Survey, and local geological and historic building experts to undertake the research and fieldwork across the country.
Due to the huge number of stone structures in England it hasn’t been possible to include all of them. The database was designed only to include examples of stone structures that illustrate the use of indigenous building stones and local or regional vernacular character.
If a building is included in the database, the building stones used in its construction will be outlined in the entry.
Even if the building isn’t included, the database can still be a good place to start to identify stone type(s). Using the location of the building, you can search for other buildings and stone sources in the vicinity as well as the underlying geology to get an indication of the types of building stones used.
Firstly, you need to identify the characteristics of the stone you need to replace and understand the causes of deterioration. Archival research may provide information on the stone and its source. A visual inspection will give some details, but more detailed examination through petrographic analysis (mineral and textural analysis) is often the only way to determine the properties.
It is advisable to replace like-for-like since this replicates the original in terms of its chemical, physical and mineralogical properties. This compatibility means that the replacement stone should perform and weather similarly to the original and won’t cause preferential deterioration to the original stone. If, however there is a technical need for the replacement stone to have different physical properties to the original stone then these need to be determined and their impact on the original stone considered.
Remember to allow adequate time in your project plan for identifying, sourcing and ordering stone. You can obtain samples of potential replacement stone for analysis and test these where necessary.
For more advice on this topic, see our guidance Identifying and Sourcing Stone for Historic Building Repair.
Mineral planning authorities (MPAs) are responsible for planning and managing the extraction of mineral resources in an area including building stones. They are either part of the county council, or unitary authority or in some cases combined local authorities, or national park authorities.
Under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the MPAs draw up and consult on minerals local plans which set out policies for the adequate supply of minerals by:
Certain types of minerals are planned for on a strategic scale, for example industrial minerals such as silica sand and brick clay whilst others are considered on a more regional / local scale, such as building stone which reflects the built character of a given area and promotes local distinctiveness when used in new buildings or the repair of heritage assets.
For more detailed guidance, please refer to GOV.UK Minerals Guidance.
Mineral resources are finite and can only be worked where they occur. Increased land use pressures such as development can result in mineral resources like building stone quarries no longer being operational.
Under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the mineral planning authorities are responsible for defining Mineral Safeguarding Areas and Mineral Consultation Areas to ensure the sustainable supply of minerals of local and national importance.
For more information, please refer to GOV.UK Minerals Guidance.
Local landscape character and the combination of history, cultural and economic activity, geodiversity and biodiversity are mapped as National Character Areas (NCA). For each NCA there is a profile document which describes the natural and cultural features that shape the landscapes, how the landscapes have changed over time, the current key drivers for ongoing change, and a broad analysis of each area’s characteristics and ecosystem services. The profiles include notes on local vernacular and building materials.
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