Posted by: lensweb | May 16, 2014

Nottingham Rock Cemetery

Nottingham Rock Cemetery. This is a RIGS (Regionally Important Geological Site) with old sand mines and caves and numerous ornate and interesting gravestones.

Start at main gates at junction of Mansfield Rd & Forest Rd East.  Grid ref SK 570 412

Leader Tim Colman

‘I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls
With vassals and serfs at my side,
And of all who assembled within those walls
That I was the hope and the pride.
I had riches all too great to count
And a high ancestral name’

Alfred Bunn

On a sunny morning, such that we couldn’t believe our luck, we met Tim at the iron gates of the Rock Cemetery which is also known as the Church Cemetery: The English Heritage listing states:

‘A good example of a High Victorian (1856) commercial cemetery. * The site combines elements of the garden cemetery with the picturesque taste to create a most unusual design and layout. * The dramatic landscape, exploiting rocky caves, chasms and outcrops, survives intact and in good condition. * The cemetery contains a good collection of funerary monuments which reflect the development of Nottingham during the late 19th and early 20th century.’


Tomb of Edwin Patchitt who designed the Church Rock Cemetery which opened in 1856Photo credit Marion Bryce 10 May 2014


A natural rock arch and cast iron railings at Nottingham Rock Cemetery

Photo credit Marion Bryce 10 May 2014

Tim had his hand lens out and was talking geology as a multitude of gravestones and monuments of different colours, types of rock and shapes vying in splendiferousness dazed our senses. The information stream drifted through our consciousness:

Granites can be predominantly white, pink, or gray in color, depending on their mineralogy. By definition, a granite is an igneous rock consisting of an aluminosilicate framework with at least 20% quartz and up to 65% alkali feldspar by volume. A light coloured granular matrix of feldspar, quartz and mica is peppered with scattered darker minerals. Granitic rock with large phenocrysts are called porphyry. It is hard and tough and takes a good polish.

Basalt has less than 20% quartz and is usually grey to black in colour but rapidly weathers to brown or rust-red. It is a common igneous rock formed from the rapid cooling of lava exposed at or very near the surface. Less dense, it moves underneath the continental shelves as it is formed.

Gabbro is dense, greenish or dark-colored, coarse grained. The vast majority of the Earth’s surface is underlain by gabbro but coarse graining may cause uneven weathering.

Dolerites are fine grained gabbro usually black, dark-grey or green but may be mottled black.

Slate, frequently grey in colour, is a fine-grained, foliated, homogeneous metamorphic rock.  Originating locally or from Wales it flakes so is not in popular use.

These are some modern memorial stones, although the cemetery is closed, family plots are still in use.

Larvikite is a variety of monzonite feldspar, with less than 5% quarz  by weight, notable for the presence of handsome, thumbnail-sized crystals of bright blue feldspar. The gold lettering is painted on.


A granite funerary monument at Nottingham Rock CemeteryPhoto credit Marion Bryce 10 May 2014

Feldspars crystallise to form white veins or crystals in both igneous and sedimentary rock

Quartz (silicon oxide) is the second most abundant mineral in the Earth’s continental crust, after feldspar. The crystal is a six-sided prism with six-sided pyramids at each end.

Limestone, much used for memorial stones is a sedimentary rock composed largely of calcium carbonate as crystals of calcite and aragonite from skeletal fragments of marine organisms. Pure white marble is the result of metamorphism of a very pure limestone or dolomite. The characteristic swirls and veins of many colored marble varieties are usually due to various mineral impurities such as clay or iron oxides which were present in the original limestone. Geologists use the term “marble” to refer to metamorphosed limestone but stonemasons use the term for all limestone. The surface of these had dulled with weathering, limestone reacts with acid.


A marble angel by the Bulwell stone wall at Nottingham Rock CemeteryPhoto credit Marion Bryce 10 May 2014

Dolomite used for the retaining wall of Bulwell stone is a sedimentary carbonate rock containing the pink mineral calcium magnesium carbonate.

The minerals for memorial stones came from Cornwall, Scotland, Italy, Norway and other  countries. You know mused Tim, when eons of years have passed and this cemetery is being excavated beneath layers of rock, the Martian archeologists are going to have a very difficult time assigning the origin.

We paused to examine a Triassic sandstone exposure. Rocks of Triassic (248-205 million years old) age form the solid geology throughout the bulk of the central portion of Nottinghamshire. At the base, large pebbles showed waterborne sand layers, the finer layers of sand above may have been windborne when Nottingham was covered by a desert plain. ‘You know’ mused Tim, ‘when I tell my wife that something is recent, she always checks if I mean this year, or a million years ago.’ Tim is a professional geologist.

Mysteriously the famous large classic sandstone arch had disappeared, but you can see we were enjoying ourselves.


LENS at Nottingham Rock Cemetery Tim Colman is back right of photographPhoto credit Marion Bryce 10 May 2014


Old sand mines at Nottingham Rock Cemetery Photo credit Marion Bryce 10 May 2014

The sand mines were fenced off. We could see that numerous underground passages led off beneath the city.  A large tunnel had been excavated to give ease of passage to a horse drawn bier to access the cemetery extension but we had to walk over the hill. There was a good view down into the St Ann’s Valley which was open by arrangement with the cemetery keeper. This is a natural hollow with Gothic arches set into the exposed bed rock. The exposed bedrock of the Valley supports buttressed Gothic arches.


St Ann’s Valley at Nottingham Rock Cemetery Photo credit Marion Bryce 10 May 2014

This was a green and tranquil hollow with cherry trees and birdsong. Lines of flat stones had the names of men and women who died in the early 20th century, these were the pauper’s graves, a stark contrast to the fading monumental memorials above. The stones were well ordered, and well kept, not a bad investment for a guinea. We were also surprised this was a Commonwealth War Cemetery which contains 79 scattered burials of the First World War and 20 from the Second World War. Images of crossed machine guns and tanks were incised into neat white Portland limestone headstones. The RIG exposure here was an outstanding clean example of sedimentary layers of Triassic sandstone with cross bedding.


Mike Barrett examines the Regionally Important Geological Exposure at Nottingham Rock Cemetery Photo credit Marion Bryce 10 May 2014

Green woodpeckers drummed as we made our way up through the shimmering stones and floriferous grassland back to the gates.

Marion Bryce 16 May 2014


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