Wrong Rock

I’d like to introduce the concept of ‘stone miles’. A bit like ‘food miles’, building stones are often transported great distances (in some cases halfway around the world) when local ones will do, often much better. David Williams from ‘Stories in Stone‘ recently posted about the slate used for the new café at the top of Mt. Snowdon in Wales being made not of Welsh slate but of Portuguese. The problem is that British planning laws make quarrying difficult and expensive. Yesterday I came across an example of where this is having repercussions even on a small county scale.

Here is a lovely old church in the Staffordshire Moorlands having an extension built – can you spot the problem?
Moorlands Church

The main church is made of the local bedrock, the Rough Rock (Carboniferous, Upper Namurian [OK, Lower Bashkirian if you insist] in age). It is not hard to track down the original quarry that supplied the stone. It is only ~500 metres away, now overgrown but otherwise OK. This is what the Rough Rock looks like …
Rough Rock

The problem is the extension is being built from Hollington Mottled Stone. I’ve discussed the Hollington Stone before, it is a Lower Triassic sandstone and looks like this – spot the difference?
Hollington Stone

Now, I’m not criticising the church. They have used the most locally available currently quarried building stone, it even comes from the same county, but it is the wrong rock and it doesn’t match. When it weathers it will become a closer match in terms of colour, but in terms of grain size and texture it simply isn’t right.

The Rough Rock is no longer quarried in Staffordshire for building stone. It is quarried where it is less well cemented, for glass sand, but that is another story. It is a shame that planning laws are such that it is simply uneconomic to reopen the original quarry to take a limited amount of stone for a heritage project that will be a perfect match to the church stone.

Britain is rapidly loosing it’s geodiversity. In Staffordshire about 25 different rock types were locally quarried for buildings. We are now down to two, and one of those isn’t really suited to much beyond drystone walling repairs. It is very sad to see local historical heritage buildings being added to with the wrong rock simply because it is the closest available match going.

3 Replies to “Wrong Rock”

  1. On the subject of stone miles, I was pretty shocked to find that the granite I bought for my garden steps came from India and the slate in my hall floor from Brazil. Norway is pretty much made of granite and slate! Yet the difference in labour costs means it is economically more viable to ship this stuff around the World than to source it locally.
    Seems like madness to me!

  2. Greetings. Ian, thanks for mentioning my blog about building stone. I like the idea of stone miles. It does amaze me how far stone travels, especially as you note, when there’s a perfectly fine quarry only 500 meters away. I am guessing that few people have any clue where the stone, say in their granite countertop, comes from. When I was doing research on building stone in Seattle, I was told by someone that the stone they used was made specially for them! Others simply thought all of it came from Italy. After all, isn’t that where all the good stone comes from? Furthermore, what those folks didn’t know was that their stone might have been quarried in Finland then shipped to Italy where it was cut before getting sent all the way to Seattle. I do hope that people will start to consider the amount of resources needed to ship stone. As I wrote, my new line is “Prevent the Reuniting of Gondwanaland; Don’t Ship Stone.” Cheers,

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