The stones that built Cambridge

Members explore the impressive John Watson Building Stones Collection housed in the former Museum of Economic Geology at the Department of  Earth Sciences.

Dr Nigel Woodcock, Emeritus Reader of the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, talks to members of the CPS about the different stone used for Little St Mary's Church, Cambridge.

Photo: Dr Nigel Woodcock, Emeritus Reader of the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, talks to members of the CPS about the different stone used for Little St Mary's Church, Cambridge.

Members of the Society enjoyed a rare opportunity to explore the impressive John Watson Building Stones Collection housed in the former Museum of Economic Geology at the Department of Earth Sciences.

Before the viewing the Watson Collection the group was given an urban geology walk of buildings around Cambridge by Dr Nigel Woodcock, Emeritus Reader in the Department of Earth Sciences. On route we stopped to look at Little St Mary which featured glacial cobbles and Ancaster limestone. Dr Woodcock pointed out the stone used in the building and in the repair of the Church over the centuries.

The Watson collection comprises approximately 2,500 traditional building stones, roofing slates, road stones, flagstones and decorative and ornamental stones that were in extensive use throughout Britain and it’s colonies during the 19th and early 20th centuries. John Watson (1842-1918), who had worked in the Portland Cement industry, donated his collection to the museum in 1905, and continued to add to it until his death in 1918, after he fall from a ladder while pruning a fig tree. 1

Much of the collection is still displayed in its original bespoke Edwardian cabinets in a room filled with natural light, now used as the department’s common room. Of note in the collection are a number stones used in buildings around London. These include; English Granite from Haytor Rock Quarry in Devon that supplied stone for London Bridge in the 1830s. Craigleith sandstone from Barnton Park Quarries in Edinburgh and used in Buckingham Palace. Anston stone (Magnesian Limestone) from Kiveton Park Quarries, South Yorkshire and used in the Houses of Parliament.

The collection is not open to the public.

Department of Earth Sciences, Downing Street, CB2 3EQ

1. Obituary—James Watson. https://www.cambridge.org/core...

The John Watson Building Stones Collection housed in the former Museum of Economic Geology in the Department of Earth Sciences.

Photo: The John Watson Building Stones Collection housed in the former Museum of Economic Geology in the Department of Earth Sciences.

The John Watson Building Stones Collection: approximately 2,500 traditional building stones, roofing slates, road stones, flagstones and decorative and ornamental stones that were in extensive use throughout Britain and it's colonies during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Photo: The John Watson Building Stones Collection: approximately 2,500 traditional building stones, roofing slates, road stones, flagstones and decorative and ornamental stones that were in extensive use throughout Britain and it's colonies during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Dr Nigel Woodcock and a CPS member explore specimens from the Watson Building Stones Collection, Department of Earth Sciences.

Photo: Dr Nigel Woodcock and a CPS member explore specimens from the Watson Building Stones Collection, Department of Earth Sciences.

Share this article:

Themes

Publications

Discover our Journals & Books

From Darwin’s paper on evolution to the development of stem cell research, publications from the Society continue to shape the scientific landscape.

Membership

Join the Cambridge Philosophical Society

Become a Fellow of the Society and enjoy the benefits that membership brings. Membership costs £20 per year.

Join today

Upcoming Events

Show All

11

11

Pain: Why does it exist, how does it work and how can we more effectively treat it?

Professor Ewan St. John Smith

  • 18:00 - 19:00 Bristol-Myers Squibb Lecture Theatre

A V Hill Lecture

View Details