The Building Stones Database for England is described as the first online searchable tool bringing together information on all the different types of stone that have been used in the buildings of England over the centuries.
The database is free to use and is accompanied by illustrated guides, highlighting the geology and distinctive stone buildings in different areas of the country
Users can browse the geological map, search by postcode, address or place name. Or they can look for a specific building stone and representative buildings or structures made with each stone type.
The database can also be used to source specific stone for repair work or new construction.
Production of the database was motive by a desire to help support those that work to protect old buildings. Nearly half (49%) of England’s listed buildings are made from stone and it is a key material in many more. It also features heavily in conservation areas and historic high streets, as well as in thousands of unlisted buildings and structures. Finding suitable stone to repair them is often difficult to source, Historic England says.
The database details which stone come from which quarries, empowering mineral planning authorities to take steps to protect them.
Clara Willett, senior building conservation advisor at Historic England, said: “England’s diverse geology has given rise to a huge variety of building stones, which in turn has helped shape our historic landscape – from cottages to grand castles, industrial mills to bridges.
“Before modern transport, buildings were constructed with locally available building stones, which commonly reflect the area’s geology. This has helped create the character and distinctiveness of our towns, villages and rural landscapes.
“The need for a database was identified following research which revealed that – despite the importance of stone to England’s historic environment – there was no comprehensive catalogue to help match stones used in a building to their source.
“Historic buildings are generally best repaired with the same type of stone used in their construction. Understanding the properties and performance of the original stone helps to determine the replacement. Like-for-like repair avoids further damage caused by incompatibility, as well as being important for a visual match.”
The launch of the new database and guides has been timed to coincide with The Natural Stone Show in London this week (6-8 June), where Historic England is hosting a conservation conference.
The need for the database and planning tools was first identified in 2004, when the government commissioned a report, Planning for the Supply of Natural Building and Roofing Stone in England and Wales (also known as the Symonds report), which examined the issues affecting the supply and demand of indigenous building stone in the UK.
The report highlighted the problems of sourcing appropriate stone to repair historic buildings, recommended that mineral planning authorities should identify and protect heritage quarries and that – to help with this – a national database of building and roofing stone sources should be compiled. Nineteen years later, and the work is complete.
To access the Building Stones Database for England, visit historicengland.org.uk/building-stones-england