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The Natural Stone Database for Northern Ireland

The Natural Stone Database for Northern Ireland Stone is the ultimate elemental building material, used for millennia but remaining in the vanguard of innovative design and construction – representing quality, longevity and commitment to future posterity. By its very nature stone is intensely local – reflecting the geological foundation of a place. But stone is also an extremely complex material and failure to treat properly can be catastrophic and costly for all those who have a responsibility for the care of stone buildings and monuments.

This interactive database provides key information and images on building stone used on listed buildings and monuments throughout Northern Ireland and the quarries (active and inactive) from which the stone was extracted. The database is the outcome of an Industry-Research Partnership of the architectural practice – Consarc Design Group (Dawson Stelfox MBE) and Queen’s University Belfast (Prof. Bernard Smith) supported by Environment and Heritage Service (EU Building Sustainable Prosperity Programme).


In Northern Ireland stone has been used for generations because of its strength, longevity and aesthetics. It can be worked, dressed and carved to express the intent and inspiration of architect, sculptor and mason. Crucial to the understanding of a stone building is knowledge of how it is constructed, how the components are crafted together and how this intricate combination of the parts contributes to the final aesthetic and artistic qualities.

Exemplary stone repair requires specialist knowledge of materials and methods. This project provides some practical information for Northern Ireland to the custodians of our heritage and those that work to restore and conserve them. However, it has been widely recognised that there is a lack of information for stone conservation and any information that does exist is not available in one place.

The Natural Stone Database Project is a first step in addressing some of the lack of information for stone conservation in Northern Ireland. The project is a unique partnership between industry and research in Northern Ireland that combines the research knowledge of the Stone Weathering Research Group at Queen’s (Professor Bernard Smith) with the extensive practical experience of Consarc Design Group (Dawson Stelfox MBE).

The project comprised an extensive two and a half year programme of surveying, stone sampling and analysis which was used to produce an interactive, database of listed buildings, monuments and stone quarries ‘The Natural Stone Database’ and ‘Guidance Notes’ for the Environment and Heritage Service of Northern Ireland.


Stone Identification

Recording Stone Decay Stone Condition Assessment

Project Team

Consarc Design Group

– Dawson Stelfox Project Director
– Joanne Curran Project Manager
– John Savage Technical Support
– Mark Francis Surveyor

Queen’s University Belfast

– Prof Bernard Smith Project Director
– Dr Patricia Warke Academic Support
– Catherine Adamson Technician

The Geological Survey

also provided support to the project:
– Dr Ian Mitchell Academic Support
– Alex Donald Technical Support

Functionality of the website

Stone Types

Information is provided for the main building stones used throughout Northern Ireland These are categorised under the following main categories:

  • Buff-Pink Sandstone

  • Red Sandstone

  • Conglomerate

  • Limestone

  • Greywacke

  • Basalt

  • Granite

  • Schist

  • Slate

  • Marble

Each ‘Stone Type’ provides information on that building stone and examples of local and imported varieties.

Click Here for more information on Stone Identification


The stone database project surveyed 1800 listed stone buildings and 260 monuments throughout Northern Ireland.
The Buildings sub-categories of navigation are:

  • County Antrim

  • County Armagh

  • County Down

  • County Fermanagh

  • County Londonderry

  • County Tyrone

  • Belfast City

Each ‘Buildings’ page provides:

  • Main Photo and Architectural Description

  • Other Images of the Building

  • Architectural Information Panel

  • Building Stone Information Panel

  • Map Function: shows location of building on Google Map

  • Other Buildings constructed with this Stone Type for comparison

The ‘Building Stone Information Panel’ of each page provides

  • Primary Stone Type:
    identifies the building stone used for the majority of the stonework
  • Secondary Stone Type:
    identifies the building stone used for dressings, window surrounds carved detail etc.
  • Other Stone Type:
    lists any other stone types used
  • Replacement Stone:
    indicates if replacement stone has been used and when possible this is identified
  • Stonework Construction:
    a brief description of how the stonework was built
  • Stonework Condition:
    a brief description of the condition of the stonework overall
  • Condition Assessment (QUB):
    The extent of stone weathering is listed between Stages 1 to 4

Condition Assessment (QUB)

The condition survey of each building and monument follows the protocols set out in the ‘Staging System’ method for stone assessment developed by Dr. Patricia Warke at Queen’s University. This common assessment method of stone facades provides a base-line record of the stonework condition against which to monitor further progress and provide an early warning of the need for any future remedial action. For more information please see (‘RECORDING STONE DECAY’ PDF).

A survey provides an indication of the overall Condition Assessment of the stonework of each building is listed from: Stage 1 (best condition) to Stage 4 (poorest condition). Stages 1 to 4 are described in the table below. Each elevation of the façade is surveyed according to the ‘Staging System’ which records and assesses the type, nature and extent of weathering of the stonework (full survey sheets are located in EHS). The extent of stone weathering is classified according to a ‘Stage’ – 1, 2, 3 or 4 (Stage 1 best condition to Stage 4 poorest condition) as described in the Table below. The stage for each elevation is then averaged for the building or monument to give an overall score.

Stage 1

A façade in this condition will only require localised remedial treatment concentrating on individual blocks. Stage 1 classification may also indicate that no intervention is needed with only periodic re-assessment of the façade is recommended.

Stage 2

Section specific remedial action is required but the extent of intervention should be limited because of the lack of distant involvement within façade boundaries.

Stage 3

Significant intervention is required with up to 50% of the total façade surface showing evidence of deterioration. Appropriate intervention should prolong the life expectancy of the structure.

Stage 4

Serious deterioration affecting more than 50% of the total façade. A stage 4 classification indicates that widespread remedial treatment will be required to stabilise stonework.

Search ‘Buildings’ Facility

Users have the facility to search for buildings using the following mechanisms

  • Keyword
  • Location (County, City)
  • Stone type
  • Name
  • Map (County Search)

Search results will return a list of buildings which match the criteria (Building Name, Thumbnail Image and Brief Description). When the building is selected full details will be displayed.


Quarries will be accessible via the main navigation and segmented by County (predetermined within the database) and alphabetically within each county.
The sub-categories of navigation are:

  • County Antrim

  • County Armagh

  • County Down

  • County Fermanagh

  • County Londonderry

  • County Tyrone

  • Belfast City

Each ‘Quarry’ Page provides:

  • Name and Address of Quarry

  • Quarry Reference: each Quarry is referenced (e.g. Q12). This refers to sample collection for the quarries (hand specimens and thin sections) that are stored by the Project Team.

  • Main Photo of Quarry and other images
  • Map Function: shows location of quarry on Google Map
  • Status (if quarry is active or inactive)
  • Stone Type
  • Rock Formation (geological formation identified as identified from Solid Geology Maps)
  • Open Porosity and Apparent Density as described in the British Standard BS EN 1936 ‘ Natural Stone Test Methods – Determination of real density and apparent density, and of total and open porosity’.
  • Surface Permeability (in millidarcy mD). This provides a measure the rate of gas flow through stone pores as a proxy for fluid flow. Granite and basalts have a very low permeability in general, ranging from ~10 to 100 mD for local varieties. Sandstones (and limestones) vary significantly in their permeability due to the nature of the connected pore structure of the fabric of the stone. Local sandstones range in permeability from ~50 up to 1000 mD. It is important to take into account the surface permeability of all stone types when specifying replacement stone, associated materials (mortars and renders), stone cleaning and treatment regimes.