Letter: Not granite, but a fine sandstone city

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The Independent Online
Sir: While not wishing to detract in any way from the sentiments expressed by Jonathan Glancey in his article about modern developments ('Edinburgh's invasion of the sugar castles', 13 January), I should like to correct the impression that Edinburgh is a granite city. That title belongs rightly to Aberdeen.

With a few exceptions, Edinburgh is a city of sandstones built on sedimentary rocks that yielded much of the sandstone from which the city is built. The most famous of these local sandstones is Craigleith, a durable, fine-grained, light grey stone used to build the National Monument, which is illustrated in the photograph accompanying the article. A feature of this stone was the large size of fracture-free blocks extracted, enabling the columns of the monument to be spanned by single blocks of stone. The hill on which the monument sits is, like other similar craggy hills around the city, of volcanic origin.

The building shown in the photograph below the National Monument was formerly the Royal High School; it is now a potential seat for a Scottish parliament. It is also of Craigleith sandstone.

St Andrew's House, close by but not shown, is constructed of Darney sandstone, a fine, light yellowish grey stone from Northumbria. The end of the 19th century saw increasing amounts of similar stone brought in by rail from the north-east of England and red sandstones from the south-west of Scotland. These stones complement the local sandstones and contribute to the character of the city. On the other hand, the use of granite has been limited to architectural features, base courses and decorative cladding, exemplified in the construction of the new Waverley Market.

Yours sincerely,

JOHN FAIRHURST

Edinburgh

13 January

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