Identifying Reigate Stone

Mineralogy and physical characteristics

Owing to its unique formation and broad mineralogical spectrum, Reigate Stone cannot technically be classified as a sandstone or a limestone. It can however be helpful to think of it as a very fine-grained calcareous or glauconitic sandstone. Typical features of Reigate Stone include:​

  • a pale grey or greenish grey colour, ​
  • a very fine-grained surface with specks of mica that glisten under light (e.g. when raking torchlight across the surface),
  • a low density, making it light to pick up,
  • and poor cementation, making it powdery to touch.

However, a wide variety of stones were used in building and absence of any or all of these features does not mean a particular specimen is not Reigate Stone. Petrographic features should be considered alongside the architectural and historical context, as well as common decay patterns, when identifying Reigate Stone.

History and architectural context ​

Reigate Stone was used extensively in London and South East England from the 11th to the 16th century. It has also been found at Roman and Anglo-Saxon sites and it was used selectively in later centuries, mostly in internal spaces. During the second half of the 19th century there was a brief revival. This was mainly linked to construction in suburban Reigate and Redhill, but stone also entered the historic fabric as repair material. With the exception of individual, localised repairs, Reigate Stone use for building ceased in the 20th century. 

Reigate Stone was favoured for carved masonry, such as ashlar and moulding, but it was also used as rubble. Its lack of distinct bedding planes made it easy to work as a freestone and it could be used in large blocks. Prior to the 16th century, when stones such as Portland and Bath Stone became more widely available, repairs were often made in Reigate Stone; therefore, medieval Reigate Stone may not represent primary masonry.

During the medieval period, a variety of different sources supplied Reigate Stone. Material from this period displays a wide range of physical and mineralogical characteristics. Stone used outside of the medieval period probably came from a smaller range of sources and was more homogenous.



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Reigate Stone Tower of London

Remnants of Reigate Stone masonry are often surrounded by more recent replacement stones, but may themselves also be replacements of primary Reigate Stone.

The west facing elevation of the Bell Tower, Tower of London

The Bell Tower has different typologies of Reigate Stone, displaying different decay patterns and dating to different construction and repair phases, although it certainly includes primary 12th century Reigate masonry.

Reigate Stone in the outer curtain wall, Tower of London

Reigate Stone was used in every build period at the Tower of London, including in the 13th and 14th century outer curtain walls.