Open University Geological Society (London Branch)


Local Geology

Geotrails and Building Stones

Geology on the Underground

Geotrails and Building Stone walks in London Branch area


Hog's Back Geowalk

Devised by Brian Harvey in 2002 for LOUGS, the Hog’s Back Geowalk has been written up and trialled by Iain Fletcher. It is a circular country walk of 7 miles from central Guildford westwards to Compton and back. As there are few accessible geological exposures, it explores the relationships between geology, topography, land use and building stones. The route is mostly on footpaths and pavements, including a section along the river, and mostly of gentle gradient except for the Chalk slopes up and down the Hog's Back ridge.
Click to download (We hope to make a second version available with maps)

Albury Trail

The circular Geology Trail from Newlands Corner to Albury and back was devised by Iain Fletcher and his Surrey RIGS Group some years ago. It was produced as a booklet funded by SITA, but which is now out of print and has been scanned and put on the website to be used by all. It includes an excellent cut-away diagram of the landscape showing exactly where the 9 stops are with a more detailed description of each including stratigraphic column and diagrams and photographs. Many OU students will know the Geotrail from Level 2 Geology trips and may wish to revisit on their own.

Click to download

Green Chain Walk Geotrail

Designed by the London Geodiversity Partnership, including LOUGS members, the trail is a seven mile walk from the Thames Barrier to Lesnes Abbey. Twelve geologically interesting stopping points along the way have been selected featuring the SSSIs at Gilbert’s Pit, Charlton, the Dog Rocks and the fossil beds in Abbey Woods.
Click to download

Thames Path Geotrail

Designed by South London RIGS group, the path starts at the Thames Barrier Information Centre and follows the Thames path national trail, with a short deviation along the Green Chain Walk, for 6 miles ending in Rotherhithe
Click to download

Britain’s geological map

The British Geological Survey has made the geological map of Britain freely downloadable on their website and via an app. Details of both the solid and superficial rocks are shown.


Building Stone Walks

Urban Geology

A series of Building Stone walks devised by Dr Ruth Siddall of University College, London, based on her knowledge of marbles, the quarries they came from and with information from her former colleague, Eric Robinson:

A new website has been created with an interactive map to call up locations of individual buildings with their building stones, listed by Ruth in the itineraries below. This project was conceived and initially funded by Dave Wallis – a semi-retired Oil & Gas professional.

1. UCL & the University of London

A comprehensive look at the Building Stones both inside and outside on the UCL campus.

2. Tottenham Court Road

This guide is an update of Eric Robinson’s walking tour, originally published in 1985. Tottenham Court Road has transformed since then, but many of the stones still remain and there are a few new additions. The final section describes the stones in more detail.

3. Two Buildings at The Angel, Islington

The cross‐roads at The Angel, Islington are where the Pentonville Road (running north) becomes the City Road (running south) and St John Street, running towards Clerkenwell and Smithfields, becomes Upper Street, the hub of Islington. Two major new office complexes, both owned by the property developers Derwent London have recently been completed which are of notable attention with respect to the geology of their building materials.

4. Hyde Park Corner

A short geological tour of the war memorials on or near the traffic ‘island’ of Hyde Park Corner.

5. St Pancras New Church

A description of the building stones on the exterior and the interior of St Pancras New Church, on the corner of Euston Road and Upper Woburn Place. The church was consecrated in 1822.

6. Gresham Street & the Guildhall

Eric Robinson wrote his two ‘London: Illustrated Geological Walks’ books in 1984 and 1985. Both of these featured the Guildhall area; however this part of the city of London, just north of St Paul’s Cathedral, has been transformed since then, with few of the Buildings that Eric described still standing. Amongst these of course is the 15th century Guildhall, which was almost obscured from view in the 80s, the yard was opened up in the 1990s and a number of new buildings have sprung up along the western end of Gresham Street.

7. The Russell Hotel

The foyer and staircase of the Hotel Russell, Russell Square, are famous for their ‘sumptuous’ marble decoration and they make for a fine display of primarily French decorative stones.

8. Queenhithe

This short walk along Upper Thames Street, EC4, and the north embankment of the Thames from Southwark Bridge to the Millennium Bridge links Eric Robinson’s walks around Southwark (Robinson, 1993) to St Paul’s Cathedral (Robinson & Bishop, 1980). However it takes in a series of buildings with wide and geologically interesting selections of stones. The interiors of Vintner’s Place and Thames Court are also of geological interest.

9. Regent's Place, West Euston

The Regent’s Place development is nearing completion with the office blocks in the North East Quadrant almost ready for their new occupiers. The site is owned by British Land and occupies 13 acres and comprises offices, restaurants and bars as well as residential buildings and social spaces. The developers pride themselves on their use of natural materials and a number of stones are used here. This guide introduces the geology of the main stones used in the site.

10. Victoria Street

This walk starts at Westminster Abbey and follows the north side of Victoria Street, SW1 as far as Westminster Cathedral and then returns along the south side of Victoria Street back to Westminster Abbey.

11: Piccadilly

Piccadilly and its surrounding streets is an ideal place to study global geology in just a few hundred meters. Buildings on the street feature London’s classic building material, Portland Stone, as well as granites, gneisses and marbles from Scotland, Scandinavia, China, India and many other localities.

12: St Paul's Churchyard

This walk starts at St Paul’s Underground station, and takes in a circuit around the Cathedral via Paternoster Square and St Paul’s Churchyard and back to the tube station via the west end of Cheapside. Culturally and archaeologically this is one of the oldest, continuously occupied parts of the City of London, particularly as a religious centre. It was part of the Roman city of Londinium and the first St Paul’s Cathedral was constructed in 604 AD on the same site as the present cathedral built by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London in 1666 and completed in 1710. The areas directly north and southeast of the Cathedral were destroyed by bombing in World War II and these were developed in the 1960s and 70s with the creation of Paternoster Square and the construction of new office buildings - however the 1960s and 70s buildings were largely demolished in the late 1990s and the area was redesigned and rebuilt, along with neighbouring Cheapside.

13: Cigala Restaurant, Lamb's Conduit Street

This is a geological visit, rather than a walk, to the Spanish restaurant Cigala at 54 Lamb's Conduit Street, located on the corner of Rugby Street in WC1N. The food at Cigala has much to recommend it and is a destination in its own right. However urban geologists should choose to eat their tapas from the outdoor tables on a Summer evening. This will give an opportunity to view its exterior, clad crazy paving‐style in a wide variety of decorative stones, reminiscent of the Roman café‐bars called thermopolia, known from excavations in Pompeii and Herculaneum, but which would have been a feature of any Roman street. These too were clad with marble offcuts salvaged from other buildings or waste pieces supplied by marble cutters. At Cigala and back in the 21st Century, the same decorative technique has been employed, using up randomly shaped and sized offcuts of waste marble.

14: Church's Shoe Shop, Regent's Street

The shop which now houses Church's shoe store, at 200 Regent's Street, W1 is a real gem with a spectacular façade clad in limestones, serpentinites and granite. Most striking is the red and white banded Campan Mélange from the French Pyrenées which is not commonly seen on the exterior of buildings. Also present are Cornish Granite and a variety of serpentinites and serpentinite breccias from the Italian Alps.

15: Lamb's Conduit Street

The starting point of this walk is Russell Square Tube Station and the tour is broadly circular. The aim is to introduce the hydrogeology and building stones used in this quiet corner of Bloomsbury as well as a brief introduction to the history of this area.

16: Luxury Lithics on Bond Street

The stones in the shop fronts of Old Bond Street reflect the luxury goods sold inside. This is a constantly changing area of exotic building stones.

17: Waterloo & City

This walk, from Waterloo Station to St. Paul’s Cathedral takes in the fossils to be seen in the Royal Festival Hall and details of Westminster and Blackfriars bridges. There is a brief stop at the Black Friar Pub to view the building stones amongst other things. Helen Gordon describes her experiences on this walk in the Economist’s Intelligent Life article.

18: Urban Geology in Fitzrovia

A diagonal walk from Warren Street tube station, Tottenham Court Road finishing at Oxford Circus station. Several exotic stones will be encountered on the way including the recently discovered, spectacular ‘Madagascan Blue Granite’.

19: Memorial to the Siege of Malta

A rather grubby, monolithic block of limestone stands just outside the church of All Hallows by The Tower on the pedestrianized Byward Street in EC3. This monument was erected almost 9 years ago and the London climate and pollution have not been particularly kind to it. Nevertheless this stone is well worth a look both to the geologist and the historian of World War II. The memorial commemorates the siege of Malta during WWII.

20: London's Pub Geology

A spotter’s guide to the geology of London’s Victorian pubs. It begins with details of the stones used and finishes with a gazetteer of where they were spotted. It will be constantly updated. Readers are encouraged to submit details of geologically interesting pubs that they are familiar with.

This list is often added to, check Ruth Siddall's page for the full list and more great tours of London's Buildings.

British Library

A guide to the building stones in the courtyard and entrance lobby of the British Library, Euston Road by Eric Robinson.
Click to download

Green Park

Naomi Stevenson describes Portland Stone new and old on her Green Geology site. The 'Green' refers to her use of public transport to get to the places she describes, in this case the Piccadilly Line to Green Park (also Victoria & Jubilee Lines) and Hyde Park Corner. The buildings she refers to are the station entrance at Green Park – Sea Strata designed by John Maine with sculptures of the 'Portland Screw' and at Hyde Park Corner, the new Bomber Command memorial, the Memorial Gates erected for the Millennium and the old Wellington Arch.
Click to download

Crystal Palace Park – the ‘Geological Illustrations’

An audio trail is now available which is downloadable as an iPhone app. It was created by Dan Boys Audio Trails from an initiative by Alister Hayes, London Borough of Bromley and explains the ‘Geological Instructions’ with the help of actors. A map is available on the website:

Guildford Building Stones

A guided walk around the building stones of Guildford Town Centre devised by Surrey RIGS. The route is mapped out and details of the 13 stops are illustrated. An explanation of some of the rocks and a geological map of Surrey are included.

Click to download

Miscellaneous building stone references collated by the London Geodiversity Partnerships

Most of the above are included in the LGP document Building London and there are additional references as well (not all electronically available).

Building stones of London

Last, but by no means least: Building stones of London on the British Geological Survey site


Stones in Cemeteries


Dr Wendy Kirk (UCL) has created this generic guide which works for cemeteries in the London area.
Click to download

City of London Cemetery

A Geological walk in the City of London Cemetery by David Cook and Wendy Kirk
A guide to gravestone geology and weathering features. A version of the same cemetery from the programme for schools created by UCL Geology Department.
There is also an audio guide to specific graves:

St. Pancras Gardens

A guide to gravestone geology and weathering from the programme for schools created by UCL Geology Department.

Kensal Green Cemetery

A guided walk by Eric Robinson around the first of the Magnificent Seven.
Click to download

Geology and London's Victorian Cemeteries

A personal overview of Victorian cemeteries in London, particularly from a geological perspective, written by David Cook.
Click to download