Why use building stone?

Stone has been used for building and roofing for many hundreds of years. Many of our historic stone buildings are protected by legislation to help ensure their survival, but they all deteriorate with age and erosion by the elements. It is important that these valuable cultural assets are repaired and maintained, and adequate supplies of suitable stone are essential. 

Stone for repair and maintenance must be compatible with the original for technical reasons – the wrong stone can hasten future damage - and for aesthetic reasons – the wrong stone may harm the appearance of the structure. Therefore it is essential to secure stone from either the original source or a closely similar source. To do that we need to know where particular building or roofing stones were originally worked and be able to obtain planning permission to extract more stone when required. 

Stone is also vital for new buildings. Many conservation areas include stone buildings and new development in these areas should be compatible, and so a supply of similar stone for construction is required. Even where there are no historic stone buildings the aesthetic appeal of new development can be greatly enhanced by the use of stone both externally and internally. Working stone for new buildings also helps to make quarrying operations economically viable in the periods between the sporadic contracts to supply stone for conservation. 

Why use English building stone?

Many buildings in England were constructed using locally quarried stone because it was difficult and costly to haul materials for long distances. Other buildings used stone from good sources further away, such as Portland Stone and sandstones from Yorkshire, transported by sea, canals and later railways. Stone from Scotland, Wales and France has also been used in England. Ideally, supplies of all these stones should be safeguarded so that authentic material is available, whatever its origin. 

Why use local stone Download 1.2Mb pdf

Because of both the importance of using compatible materials for repair of historic buildings, and the need to construct attractive new buildings that maintain local and regional distinctiveness, it is vital that adequate supplies of English stone remain available. A vigorous English stone industry is essential for maintaining our national heritage and the character and appearance of our cities, towns and villages...read on > Why use local stone pdf presentation 1.2Mb) 

The intrinsic value of building stone Terry Hughes

The English Heritage pilot study into the historic use of building stones and the need for particular stones for repair and to conserve the built heritage has raised the issue of how to determine the relative value of individual stones. This value derives from a number of intrinsic factors which will each provide a level of importance against which the stone could be assessed read on

Obtaining stone for roof conservation

Can’t they find a quarry somewhere more suitable, like an industrial estate in the Midlands?” This suggestion was made by an objector to a proposal to re-open a quarry which had supplied the raw materials for hundreds of historic buildings in the south west and for which no other source was available.  These sentiments are regularly expressed whenever a quarry is proposed, regardless of its size, purpose or intended duration.  Clearly the notion that any similar stone will do instead is not one that accords with those who are trying to conserve historic buildings. Read on

Building Stones of London

The City of London is in an area that has no indigenous building stone; its underlying layers of sand, gravel and clay are poorly consolidated materials that are not suitable for use as building stones.

Despite this, stone has been used as a major construction material in London since Roman times.

Read The British Geological Survey’s guide

British Geological Survey Minerals Resources

Geological maps and reports on UK minerals including building and roofing stones

Memoirs of the Geological Survey of Great Britain, England and Wales

The aim of the later memoirs was to provide an objective and comprehensive account of the geology of the published 1:50,000 map area. They were designed to be read in conjunction with the map, though they also contained enough geographical information to allow them to be read alone. They are available to be read online.

Finding British Stone Suppliers

Stone Specialist Journal list of British stones

Stone Testing Why do it?

Testing and Assessing Stone.pdf

Presentation by Tim Yates of the Building Research Establishment at the 2011 Stone Show

The BRE Stone List

BRE tested and assessed a number of stones currently produced in the UK in 1996 (limestones) and 1997 (sandstones). The information was compiled for the web in 2001. Some results for sandstones are based on earlier BRE research undertaken as a pilot project prior to the start of the limestone work and on the results of tests carried out for producers by other test houses. 

Standards and guidance for building stone use

A list of British Standards and other guidance

Historical transport map

Historically stone was restricted to local use because of the cost and difficulty of transporting such a heavy material. As transport systems developed stones were able to reach more distant markets. This 1834 map links the geology of England and Wales with the rail, canal and river transport systems. Zoom and drag to get a detailed view.

Town trails and a bibliography of building and roofing stones

Find information about your local stones using the author or county lists

Urban Geology in London

Ruth Sidall's geology walks around London

Global Heritage Stone Resource designation

The International Association of Engineering Geologists has proposed the formal recognition of selected important stone through their designation as Global Heritage Stone Resources....read on


Journey through the valley of stone. A website guide to the history of building stone in the Rossendale Valley, Lancashire. External link.

Stone slate roofs in Rossendale. Link to the Stone Roofing Association website.


The British Geological Society's national archive of geological photographs. Free downloads of 1000 x 1000 pixel images for non-commercial use. Just credit "British Geological Survey" and include the catalogue reference, the P number.

A geologists guide to English building stones Eric Robinson

Stone used in buildings varies from place to place throughout England. What follows is an attempt to review the basic features and introduce some of the language used by architects and art historians in describing stone, and to a lesser extent, by the trade. Geological terminology may come a poor fourth. read on

The building stone industry in Britain: past and present Graham Lott

Britain produces building stone from sedimentary rocks (sandstones and limestones), coarse and finely crystalline igneous rocks (granites, dolerites, basalts etc.) and some metamorphic rocks (slates and marbles). >

Bibliography of English Building Stones

Arranged by author

Arranged by county

Bibliography of roofing slates and stones (Stone Roofing Association website)

Stone weathering and decay: the ICOMOS-ISCS

Illustrated glossary on stone deterioration patterns

This is a welcome international addition to the current cascade of books and other publications concerned with weathering and stone decay. The atlas, which is comprehensive and attractively produced, is also available as a free download from the website and should, as its preface states, go a considerable way towards the setting up of a common language amongst those interested in describing stone decay patterns and  in communicating them to co-workers in the field of stone conservation and repair..... read on


The German Wikipedia site on stone. In German language but this link will add the Google Translator to your browser toolbar.

1 Abgrenzung

2 Vorkommen der Naturwerksteine

3 Bezeichnung der Naturwerksteine

4 Definitionen von Naturstein


The National Heritage List for England (NHLE) is the official database which provides access to up to date information on all nationally designated heritage assets.  You can:   

Search The National Heritage List for England to find out if something is designated; 

Report a minor amendment to an entry on the list; 

Apply for something to be designated using the online listing and designation application form;

Cross search national records on the List with local records of England's historic sites on the Heritage Gateway.

Researching Historic Buildings in the British Isles

Would you like to find out more about the history of your house? Do you want to research any historic building? Is it in the United Kingdom or Ireland? If so this guide by Jean Manco will start you on the detective trail. Some information could be just a few clicks away, but to get the full story you will need to visit libraries and archives. Researching Historic Buildings points the way. It includes hints on planning a research programme, and clues to finding and understanding useful sources. 

Portland stone Jurassic limestone