No stone left unturned

9 May 2014

The buildings of Cambridge are world famous, both for their architectural splendour and for their historical record of university and town development over 800 years.

Walking amongst the city-centre colleges, it is easy to imagine their mellow stone buildings as they were in the Middle Ages, and to visualise the human history that they witnessed. Yet this same stone records another, much longer, history. The common building materials in Cambridge originated in the geological Middle Ages, the Mesozoic Era of one or two hundred million years ago. Older, Late Palaeozoic, rocks are not uncommon, particularly as facing and paving materials. Even older slates from the Early Palaeozoic, four or five hundred million years old, roof many Cambridge buildings.

Viewed with some basic geological knowledge, all these rocks can reveal the natural events that formed them, provide snapshots in the long geological history of Britain, and enrich a purely architectural view of the fine buildings they form.

Led by Dr Nigel Woodcock from the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, this walking tour takes in a wide variety of buildings and rock types in a compact area of the city centre. The route involves about a mile and a half of walking.

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