Streets of London for tourists: Explore the stones on London’s pavements and façades with an app

The Queen Victoria Memorial in London, by sculptor Sir Thomas Brock, completed 1924. Photo: Paasikivi / <a href=""target="_blank">Wikimedia Commons</a>, <a href=""target="_blank">Creative Commons License</a>

The London Pavement Geology project provides geological information with guidance

For tourists interested in natural stones, there are only two questions when facing Buckingham Palace in London: “What does the king do?” is the first, and “What material is found on the façades?” is the second. Answers to the second question are now available in an app that you can download for free: on the Buckingham east façade, where all visitors inevitably pass by, it is Caen limestone. The stone was formed in the Middle Jurassic, is a sedimentary rock, and was mined in quarries in Normandy. Then in the description there is a photo with the address of the palace and the name of the nearest subway station.

Not the king, but the stones on the buildings and the paths in the British capital are the focus of the new app. The idea came from Dave Wallis, once a professional oil and gas executive who was also a geologist and who wanted to create a geological guide through London all his life.

With the initiative, he wanted to bring geology closer to citizens and provide students and scientists with a reference work.

The work was carried out by Dr. Ruth Siddall, a geologist at University College London (UCL), who had previously prepared several detailed surveys on the subject. Dave Wallis was the co-creator. She calls her way of working “Urban Geology” and makes the results available on her website. They go far beyond London to the Midlands or Cornwall and even to Doha, the capital of Qatar in the Persian Gulf.

By the way: Committed geologists elsewhere are also devoting themselves to this research on paving, façades and construction methods. They have enough reason for this, because across the entire northern hemisphere, the Ice Age glaciers have transported enormous amounts of boulders towards the south like a huge conveyor belt.

One experience when using the London app is that it is best to turn around before moving on. For example, in front of Buckingham Palace, behind the visitors, is the Queen Victoria Memorial, magnificently designed from Carrara Statuario Marble. Detail according to the app: the base of the fountain, the walls of its basin, and the pedestal are made of Carrara Sicilian Marble.

On the London Pavement Geology website, one can find ample stone information about places from England and Wales to Scotland under “GeoSites”.

London Pavement Geology

Ruth Siddall, Urban Geology

(26.06.2024, USA: 06.26.2024)