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british museum

Bloomsbury in Focus Photograph Trail

This is a brief look at the buildings in the Bloomsbury area showing the characteristic uses of building stones.

This trail is inspired by "London: Illustrated Geological Walks" by E. Robinson.

The tour starts at the north entrance of the British Museum, in Montague Place.

The British Museum is a massive Portland Stone structure. The building shows the varied weathering of the stone in London. Another Portland Stone building is the University of London's Senate House, clearly visible from the British Museum. If you walk down Malet Street you will come across the entrance.
senate house
granite and travertine
Senate House make use of other stones than Portland Stone. Of note is the internal floor of Italian Travertine and a base layer of granite.

If you walk past the corner of the British Museum you will discover Bedford Square.

No. 39 Bedford Square has spectacular columns of Peterhead Granite.

bedford sq.
devonian marble

From Bedford Square the tour progresses to Tottenham Court Road.

No.247 Tottenham Court Road has wall surfaces of Devonian Torquay Marble.

Further along Tottenham Court Road, Centre Cross straddles Gresse Street.

The supporting pillars are faced with "Baltic Brown" Granite.

otta schist

If you walk a little way down Windmill Street you will come across a panel of grey veined stone.

This stone is Otta Schist, a beautiful panel on the sidewall of Metropolis House.

On the corner of this road is the Rising Sun pub.

Although the pub has recently been redecorated, at ground level a course of Norwegian syenite, a type of larvikite, is visible behind the pub tables.

norwegian syenite
virgo granite

Further up the road on the same side is No's 64-7 Tottenham Court Road.

This used to be one shop "Catesby's", it is now divided into four shop units. The old facing, the startlingly red Swedish Virgo Granite, can still be seen in the surrounds of the shop units at floor level.

If you turn off Tottenham Court Road onto Chenies Street you will see in front of you a building faced with a stone which reflects like a mirror on a sunny day.

This striking building is Whittington House. It is faced entirely with Rustenburg Bon Accord Gabbro from the Bushveld Complex in Pretoria.

bon accord gabbro
If you retrace your steps back onto Tottenham Court Road and continue walking towards Euston Road you will come across Heals.
The building has some interesting features, the most striking of which is the glass skylights set in the pavement. These include inlayed tablets of green Connemara Marble. connemara marble
hopton wood stone
The pillars supporting Heal's are faced with Hopton Wood Stone, a limestone composed of small shell fragments. This is one of the best native stones because it takes and retains a marble like polish.

Further up Tottenham Court Road is a Barclays Bank on the Corner of Torrington Street. This has a striking wall of serpentine.

At one time several panels were replaced and these have been badly colour matched seen aside.

swedish gren marble
Further up Tottenham Court Road, on the other side of the road, is a Lloyds Bank. Alongside this is No. 90 Tottenham Court Road.

The Bank is faced with Swedish Green Marble, which can be seen on the left of the photograph, in contrast to the cream coloured Nabresina Marble which faces the entrance to No. 90.

Further up Tottenham Court Road, on the same side, is Multi York.

This is faced on one side with a wall of “Ebony Black” granite.

ebony black granite
barge quartzite On the opposite side of the road is The Mortimer Arms.

This is faced with Italian Barge Quartzite like other pubs in the Truman Brewery chain.

On the same side of the road is No. 170 Tottenham Court Road.

This building is faced with the red Dakota Mahogany Granite at ground level.

dakota mahogany granite
penryn granite and carboniferous limestone On the opposite side of the road is a National Westminster Bank.

This building has a good contrast of Penryn Granite and Carboniferous Limestone.

Across Maple Street, on the corner of Tottenham Court Road, is The Court.

Although it has recently been redecorated, the facing of Swedish Balmoral Granite is still visible between the tables.

swedish balmoral granite
riviere a pierre granite

On the other side of Tottenham Court Road, further up the road, is Maples.

This is faced with Riviere a Pierre Granite from Quebec.

Back on the other side of the road is McDonalds, opposite Warren Street tube station.

McDonalds has a uniform facing for its buildings, in the same way as it has a uniform for its staff. This is comprised of St John’s Travertine and Rustenburg Bon Accord Gabbro.

st. john travertine and rustenburg bon accord gabbro
lake district green slate

Turning back on yourself, and across the road again, head down Grafton Way. Here you will find two University College London Hospital buildings.

On the left hand side, the greyer of the two buildings is faced with Lake District Green Slate from ground to first floor level.

If you turn right at the end of Grafton Way you will come across the University College London main building. This is another massive Portland Stone structure.
portland stone
Heading past this building and further down Gower Street you will come to the Darwin Building.

The walls and stone railings outside this building show the weathering suffered by Portland Stone.

If you turn left in Torrington Place and walk along to Byling Place you will come across the Church of Christ the King.

This is built from Bath Stone, distinctive for its orange-brown colour.

bath stone
lake district green slate

Turning left at the church you come into Gordon Square. If you follow this side of the square to the top you will see the University College London Institute of Archaeology on the right had side.

This is faced with Lake District Green Slate between ground and first floor level.

Continuing up Gordon Street you will reach Euston Station. This has two massive towers in front of the actual station building.

These are faced with Rustenburg Bon Accord Gabbro and have an internal flooring of Italian Perlato Marble.

This is the end of the tour.
rustenburg bon accord gabbro
Did you know it takes 4,500 common bricks and 7,000 facing stones to build a three bedroom detached house? These bricks laid end to end measures to 155 miles. This is the distance from London to Cardiff (Wales).
From the collection

cement column
Cement column


facing stones
Samples of facing stones

For more samples of building stones and more information on this topic please visit our exhibition.


E. Robinson’s “London: Illustrated Geological Walks”

Additional Resources:

For Schools

UCL main page

University College London

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