Nottingham castle sandstone
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Nottingham castle sandstone

Most of the city of Nottingham lies on a thick layer of pebbly sandstone, the Nottingham castle sandstone.  This rock layer extends well beyond Nottingham where it is called the Sherwood sandstone. Click here.

It was laid down in Triassic times, about 250 million years ago, by a large river delta intermittently flooding a sandy desert plain.  At that time what is now Britain lay in the northern tropics as part of a giant ancient continent, which was moving slowly northward.  

The climate was hot and mostly dry.  Sand dunes formed and shifted and occasional heavy rains brought down larger stones from nearby mountains.   This explains the cross-bedding of the sandstone layers and the mixture of relatively fine-grained sandstone with pebbles. Animals left occasional tracks in the sand but no fossils formed.   Eventually the sea level rose and covered the sand in deep layers of mud, which compressed it into sandstone.

Some geological maps call the layer the “pebble beds” or the Bunter pebble beds.   It is slightly younger than the Buddleigh Salterton pebble beds from which the stones of Chesil beach arise. 

The rock is very soft which makes it good for carving out caves, but not much use for building.  Instead, it is used in crushed form as sand or aggregates.   It is also porous and millions of years of rainwater slowly soaking into it has formed a huge fresh water reservoir - a valuable resource today. 

The most famous outcrop occurs beneath Nottingham castle itself

castle rock2.jpg (417162 bytes)      castle rock4.jpg (393416 bytes)  castle rock5.jpg (441093 bytes)  castle rock6.jpg (427417 bytes) 

At Brewhouse Yard

castle rock8.jpg (317825 bytes)   castle rock9.jpg (293220 bytes)

and behind the Olde Trip to Jerusalem Inn

jerusalemoldtripto.JPG (314458 bytes)  jerusalemoldtripto2.JPG (303561 bytes)


It also outcrops further east, beyond the Broadmarsh Centre, along Cliff Road.

cliffstreet1.JPG (241612 bytes)   cliffstreet2.JPG (230050 bytes)   cliffstreet3.JPG (290811 bytes)  cliffstreet4.JPG (304451 bytes)  cliffstreet5.JPG (262988 bytes)   cliffstreet6.jpg (249904 bytes)

And behind the petrol station at the junction of Canal Street and London Road

below lace market1.JPG (359668 bytes)  below lace market2.JPG (218119 bytes)  below lace market3.JPG (152663 bytes)    below lace market4.JPG (211566 bytes)

The layer continues east until it dips under the first layer of mudstone, the Sneinton Formation at, you guessed it, Sneinton.  I am not aware of any more exposures in this direction.  

24 Dec 2005 update.  Whoops!  I've just discovered two exposures further east.  Both are on Sneinton Hermitage near the junction with Manvers street.  The cliff has been almost completely encased in brick but the exposures are clearly Nottingham Castle sandstone. 

castlesandstonesneinton1.JPG (318135 bytes)   castlesandstonesneinton3.JPG (159660 bytes)   castlesandstonesneinton4.JPG (223021 bytes)   castlesandstonesneinton5.JPG (201591 bytes)   


To the west, along Castle Boulevard, a series of further exposures lie behind a row of modern flats. 

castleboulevard.JPG (713751 bytes)  castleboulevard2.JPG (291903 bytes)  castleboulevard3.JPG (244748 bytes)  castleboulevard5.JPG (269924 bytes)  

Caves and dovecotes have been carved.  

 castleboulevard4.JPG (231470 bytes)   castleboulevarddovecotes.JPG (147942 bytes)   castleboulevardcave1.JPG (207295 bytes)   

Here are some close up views

castleboulevard7close up.JPG (306326 bytes)   castle rockcloseup.jpg (216569 bytes)    castle rockcloseup2.jpg (171817 bytes)  

The final exposures going west on Castle Boulevard are behind the MFI car park.

mfi1.JPG (184116 bytes)   mfi2.JPG (255692 bytes)   mfi3.JPG (338772 bytes)   mfi4.JPG (199842 bytes)

Westward of this the ridge of sandstone has been eroded by the river Leen, albeit a sad little culvert these days.   Here it is passing to the east of the Queens Medical Centre.  

leen1.JPG (432978 bytes)   leen2.JPG (219372 bytes)   

Continuing west there is an exposure on the northern bank of the lake in the Nottingham university grounds.  

trentbldg.JPG (185692 bytes)   castlesandstoneunilake.JPG (247888 bytes)   castlesandstoneunilake1.JPG (212362 bytes)  castlesandstoneunilake2.JPG (202781 bytes)   castlesandstoneunilake3.JPG (217661 bytes) castlesandstoneunilake4.JPG (177545 bytes)   

All these exposures are probably more or less natural.  As the river Trent cut through the soft sandstone at the end of the last ice age it formed  a wide flood plain.  Castle Rock and the low cliffs along Castle Boulevard formed the northern border of that original flood pain.   Until man covered it in tarmac, The Meadows were just that - marshy meadows criss-crossed by the constantly moving channels of the rivers Trent and Leen.     

Over most of the rest of Nottingham, the Castle sandstone is invisible under your feet, but the odd exposure occurs.  There is one on Hucknall road next to Nottingham Prison, just south of the junction with Valley Road.

hucknall road1.JPG (390890 bytes)   hucknall road2.jpg (438472 bytes)   hucknall road5.jpg (354208 bytes)  

Some close ups.  

hucknall road4.jpg (256220 bytes)  hucknall road3.jpg (244297 bytes)


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Last modified: November 12, 2006