A Geological Treasure Hunt

I would like to describe briefly, an intriguing and surprising geology trip suitable for all the family, young and old.

Cemeteries, along with many buildings, provide valuable examples of local and distant stones and Rochdale Cemetery on Bury Road is no exception. However, amongst the many interesting tombstones and monuments is to be found a deliberately planned geological trail devised by two local geologists, James Horsfall and Robert Law, dating back to Victorian times.

Using as my guide the article by Chris Darmon in the December 2007 edition of “Down to Earth,” I followed this remarkable trail along the main route that separates the Church of England burial places from the Roman Catholic and Nonconformist ones. Here can be found at least thirty different geological specimens laid out in such a way as to reveal geology “through the ages.” Some specimens are roughly hewn pieces and others carved pillars approximately 1 – 1.5m high bearing inscriptions. Unfortunately, the starting stone, with a lengthy inscription “In the beginning God created the Heaven...” is to be found in a steep, wet ditch near the boundary wall and looks like being lost under garden refuse fairly soon.

Rochdale Cemetery

Some of the limestones show signs of weathering and unfortunately the gypsum and Kentish Rag cannot be found and have probably weathered away completely. Other rock types include Basalt from the Giant’s Causeway, Cannal Coal from Wigan, Dinorwic Slate, Carrara Marble from Italy and Portland Stone from Dorset.

Rochdale Cemetery

This geological treasure hunt is an enjoyable day out for geologist and non-geologist alike, as the finding of each specimen is pleasing and worthwhile.

If you would like a more detailed description of this trail please refer to the December 2007 edition of “Down to Earth.”


Baldwin, A. and Anderson, D.M. 1996
“A remarkable survivor: a nineteenth century geological trail in Rochdale, England.”
The Geological Curator 6 pp 227-232

Rochdale Cemetery is located on the Bury Road is open during daylight hours and is accessible by public transport.

Marjorie E. Mosley, Secretary, GMRIGS Group