The Geology of Oxford Gravestones

About the exhibition

In Oxford, the oldest gravestones are made from local stones, often dug from quarries just a few miles away.

With the growth of the canal network and the coming of the railways, gravestones made using rocks from Cornwall, Scotland and Northern Ireland began to adorn Oxford cemeteries. Improved transportation links and the Victorian taste for more elaborate gravestones led to a flourishing of the funeral and monumental masonry trades.

These days transporting stone is so cheap and easy that beautiful gravestones to commemorate the dead are made using rocks from around the world.

Visit a cemetery with a hand lens or magnifying glass to hand and you’ll be amazed at what you can see. You’ll never look at cemeteries in the same way again.

Find out more about gravestone geology.

Lead image: St Sepulchre’s, Jericho by Mike Tomlinson


This display was curated by geologists Nina Morgan and Philip Powell, Honorary Associates at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.


Photographs by Mike Tomlinson.

With thanks to our lenders Oxford University Museum of Natural History and St Michael’s Church, Cumnor.