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Department of Earth Sciences

Tectonics and sedimentation
Fault rocks
Building stone history


Nigel Woodcock is an Emeritus Reader in Structural Geology in the Earth Sciences Department at Cambridge University, where he has taught since 1973. He did his B.Sc. at Manchester University in 1967-70 and his Ph.D. at Imperial College London in 1970-73.

His research has mostly involved field based studies of the deformation of low-grade rocks and the tectonic controls on their sedimentation, with diversions into orientation data analysis and environmental geology. He formerly worked around the Eastern Mediterranean but has most extensively studied the Palaeozoic geology of the UK. He has published about 170 scientific papers and two books: on the environmental geology of the UK and, edited with Rob Strachan, on the Geological History of Britain and Ireland. For this work he has received the Coke and Dewey Medals of the Geological Society of London and the Sorby Medal of the Yorkshire Geological Society

During his time in Cambridge, Nigel Woodcock has taught extensively in structural geology, sedimentology, field geology and the geological history of Britain, and was awarded a Pilkington Prize for this teaching, He was the Director of Teaching in the Earth Sciences Department for 25 years. He has also supervised generations of students in Geology and Earth Sciences, mainly for Trinity and Clare Colleges. He is a Fellow of Clare College, where he is also President of Clare Boat Club. He coaches rowing for Clare and for Champion of the Thames Rowing Club.


Palaeozoic geological history of the UK

My more recent papers are in the following fields:

  • Progressive revisions of the terrane map of Britain and Ireland.
  • Geomagnetic polarity studies through the late Ordovician and early Silurian in the UK.
  • Zircon dating of the Shap and other Trans-suture granites in relation to the age of the Acadian deformation event.
  • The formation of convolute lamination; examples in mud-rich Silurian turbidites in Mid Wales.
  • Fault breccia classification and interpretation, mostly based on examples in UK Carboniferous limestones.

History of building stone use in Cambridge and region.

Since my retirement from teaching in 2019, I have developed my long-standing interest in the history of building stone use in Cambridge; a heritage city with exceptional variety and longevity of its stone record. Every building with significant stone components has been examined, their stone identified and their use dated as far as possible. A first paper deriving from these results has been published, addressing the question of why each stone type was used when it was; was the reason function, fashion or finance?

The Cambridge study has been broadened out, and work is underway to look at all medieval churches in South Cambridgeshire. So far, about 130 churches have been examined.  The emerging results are fascinating, and throw new light on the widespread medieval transport of stone from the Lincolnshire Limestone belt to Cambridge through the tortuous network of waterways across the Fens.


Key publications: 


Woodcock, N. H. 1977. Specification of fabric shapes using an eigenvalue method. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 88, 1231-1236.

Woodcock, N. H. 1979. The use of slump structures as palaeoslope orientation estimators. Sedimentology, 26, 83-99.

Woodcock, N. H. & Naylor, M. A. 1983. Randomness testing in three-dimensional orientation data. Journal of Structural Geology, 5, 539-548.

Woodcock, N. H. & Fischer, M. W. 1986. Strike-slip duplexes. Journal of Structural Geology, 8, 725-735.

Woodcock, N. H. 1986. The role of strike-slip fault systems at plate boundaries. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, A317, 13-29.

Soper, N. J. & Woodcock, N. H. 1990. Silurian collision and sediment dispersal patterns in southern Britain. Geological Magazine, 127, 527-542.

Woodcock, N. H. 1994. Geology and environment in Britain and Ireland. UCL Press, London.

Woodcock, N. H. & Rickards, R. B. 2003. Transpressive duplex and flower structure: Dent Fault System, NW England. Journal of Structural Geology, 25, 1981-1992.

Woodcock, N. H., Soper, N. J. & Strachan, R. A. 2007. A Rheic cause for the Acadian deformation in Europe. Journal of the Geological Society, London, 164, 1023-1036.

Woodcock, N. H. & Mort, K. 2008. Classification of fault breccias and related fault rocks. Geological Magazine, 145, 435-440.

Nance, R. D., Gutiérrez-Alonso, G., Keppie, J. D., Linnemann, U., Murphy, J. B., Quesada, C., Strachan, R. A. & Woodcock, N. H. 2012. A brief history of the Rheic Ocean. Geoscience Frontiers, 3, 125-135.

Woodcock, N. H. & Strachan, R. A. 2012. Geological history of Britain and Ireland (2nd edn). Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, 442 pp.

Woodcock, N.H. and Furness, E.N. 2021. Quantifying the history of building-stone use in a heritage city; Cambridge, UK, 1040-2020. Geoheritage, 13, 12.


Other publications: 

Treagus, J.E., Treagus, S.H. & Woodcock, N. H. 2013. The significance of the boundary between the Rhoscolyn and New Harbour formations on Holy Island, North Wales, to the deformation history of Anglesey. Geological Magazine, 150, 519-535.

Treagus, J.E., Treagus, S.H. & Woodcock, N. H. 2013. Discussion on 'The structural interpretation of domainal trace lineation: an example from the Mona Complex, Anglesey' Journal of the Geological Society, London, 170, 627-630.

Frenzel, M. & Woodcock, N.H. 2014. Cockade breccia: product of mineralisation along dilational faults. Journal of Structural Geology, 68, 194-206.

Woodcock, N.H., Miller, A.V.M. & Woodhouse, C.D. 2014 Chaotic breccia zones on the Pembroke Peninsula, South Wales: evidence for collapse into voids along dilational faults. Journal of Structural Geology. 69, 91-107.

Thomas, C. W. & Woodcock, N. H. 2015 The kinematic linkage of the Dent, Craven and related faults of Northern England. Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society. 60, 258-274.

Miles, A.J., Woodcock, N.H. & Hawkesworth, C.J. 2016. Tectonic controls on post-subduction granite genesis and emplacement: the late Caledonian suite of Britain and Ireland. .Gondwana Research 39, 250-260

Ault, A.K., Frenzel, M., Reiners, P.W., Woodcock, N.H. & Thomson, S.N.2016. Hematite (U-Th)/He and apatite fission-track dating record paleofluid circulation in faults: an example from Gower Peninsula fissure fills, Wales. Lithosphere 8, 379-385.

Copley, A.C. & Woodcock, N.H. 2016. Estimates of fault rheology from the Variscan foreland of the northern UK. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 451, 108-113.

Gladstone, C., McClelland, H.L.O., Woodcock, N.H., Pritchard, D. & Hunt, J. 2018. The formation of convolute lamination in mud-rich turbidites. Sedimentology, 65, 1800–1825,

Miles, A.J. & Woodcock, N.H. 2018. A combined geochronological approach to investigating long lived granite magmatism: the Shap granite, UK. Lithos, 304–307, 254–257.

Woodcock, N.H., Soper, N.J. & Miles, A.J. 2018. Age of the Acadian deformation and Devonian granites in northern England reviewed. Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society.62, 238-253

Woodcock, N.H. 2019. The geological shaping of Wales. Proceedings of the Open University Geological Society, 5, 65–72.

Hounslow, M.W., Harris, S., Wójcik, K., Nawrocki, J., Ratcliffe, K., Woodcock, N.H., Channell, J.E.T., Montgomery, P. 2021. A geomagnetic polarity stratigraphy for the Middle and Upper Ordovician. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology,

Hounslow, M.W., Harris, S., Wójcik, K., Nawrocki, J., Woodcock, N.H., Ratcliffe, K. and Montgomery, P. 2021. Geomagnetic polarity during the Early Silurian: the first magnetostratigraphy of the Llandovery. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.

Strachan, R.A. and Woodcock, N.H. 2021. The tectonic pattern of Britain and Ireland. in Alderton, D. and Elias, S. A. (eds). Encyclopedia of Geology, 4, 328–337.

Woodcock, N.H. and Furness, E.N. 2021. Quantifying the history of building-stone use in a heritage city; Cambridge, UK, 1040-2020. Geoheritage, 13, 12.

Hounslow, M.W., Ratcliffe, K., Harris, S., Nawrocki, J., Wójcik, K., Montgomery, P. and Woodcock, N.H. 2021. The Telychian (early Silurian) oxygenation event in northern Europe: A geochemical and magnetic perspective. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology,

Woodcock, N.H. 2022. History lessons. Cambridge Architecture, 84, 13.

All Publications by Dr Nigel Woodcock

Other Professional Activities

I give regular talks on building stone history to interested local groups in the Cambridge area or just interested in it. To augment these talks, and to provide material for self-guided tours to look at Cambridge stone, two booklets are available to download:

Emeritus Reader, Department of Earth Sciences
Emeritus Fellow, Clare College
Nigel Woodcock portrait

Contact Details

Email address: 
+44 (0) 1223 333430