North Wales digital agency and expert geologists create online London fossil map

North Wales digital agency Livetech has created an interactive map of fossils embedded in a number of London’s historic buildings – including the Houses of Parliament.

The company, which specialises in website and app design, teamed up with retired geologist David Wallis to build the website called London Pavement Geology.

It’s been able to reveal that the Clipsham livestone used to repair the Palace of Westminster, the home of British politics, since the early 2oth century includes fossils of echinoids or sea urchins more than 160 million years old.

Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey are among other famous buildings featured on the ground-breaking web-based map. It already has over 940 points mapped. 

Each point has information about the type of rock used, interesting details about fossils and where the stones came from, as well as how old they’re estimated to be. 

Livetech is currently developing iOS and Android apps to work in conjunction with the website.

Paul Levy, owner of Livetech, said: “We created a mobile website which allows you to wander round and identify the geographical location of these interesting rocks, so it’s in an easily digestible format for anybody who is interested in having a completely different view of London.

“A lot of work has gone into the project from Dave and Ruth to provide the information that powers the site. This includes photos, making sure it’s accurately located and verifying the information.”

Paul added: “The rise of the British Empire across the globe has resulted in London buildings being made from materials from every corner of the earth. You can go around the world in 80 minutes just by looking at all the different types of rock in these buildings.

“I find the diversity of where the materials have come from incredibly interesting. There are two aspects of it – the geographical location and the section of geological time – so not only are you having a journey round the world but a journey through history, back millions of years. It’s fascinating.”

Dave, a geologist who retired 12 years ago, came up with the idea of documenting the rocks and fossils on London’s buildings way back in 1969.

But the idea – and actual website – only started to come together when he met geologist Dr Ruth Siddall of University College London. Over the years, she’s collected a large amount of personal data on the different rocks and fossils on London’s buildings.

Dave said: “Ruth had a database she used regularly on her accompanied walks, in discussions with colleagues and documented in PDFs.

“She’s researched the architecture of buildings, particularly the facings on the front, and also where the raw materials – the stone – came from.  Ruth even went back to quarries where the materials were worked and was then able to identify the geological contexts .

“If you look at the website, there are pins all over central London where she has identified the materials, researched the details and taken photographs. Anyone can submit information and photographs through the website to be included.

“I wanted to put pins on a map that people could submit information on, enabling them to go and look if they are in London and have the time. We’ve had an explosion of data with almost 1,000 locations already loaded.

“London has probably the best collection of different rocks used on the outside of buildings in the world because the captains of industry during the industrial revolution spared no expense and they sent their architects to wherever they could find the best or most exotic materials.

“There are rocks on the outside of buildings from China, South Africa, India, Brazil, North America, and everywhere in Europe, just to make them look attractive. It’s a great opportunity to look at interesting and unusual stones.

“London is a geologist’s dream, without having to go and climb a cliff, or a mine. You can walk along with a cappuccino and a smartphone and without trying too hard you can see a huge range of rocks types, fossils and minerals.”