Cambridge Stone

In my opinion, the best book ever written about Cambridge was Donovan Purcell’s Cambridge Stone (Faber, 1967), in which an architect visits the quarries the stone came from, and mines the language of stone-masons. He notes, for example, the intractable Barnack limestone of my favourite church, St Benet’s (and of Ely Cathedral), and the shift in colour to darker Weldon stone towards the east end of King’s Chapel. The story of transport by keel and wherry from Yorkshire and Lincolnshire along the dykes and wonderfully-named rivers of the Fens like the Lark and the Wissey is a little masterpiece.

For King’s, Purcell tells us, the stone was brought to the hithes, or docks, as in Hythe and Rotherhithe, on what is now the riverfront of the College; access was from Milne Street, which was built over by the chapel but whose ends survive in Trinity Lane leading to the north door of the chapel and in Queens’ Lane which leads from Queens’ College to the south entrance to King’s. 

 In this photograph, the different gradations of stone - and colour - may be seen in the pinnacle on the far right.

In this photograph, the different gradations of stone - and colour - may be seen in the pinnacle on the far right.