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Why is it called Devonian Limestone?

5th December 2008

The Devonian Limestone is one of the most important rock types found within our Geopark. It is this limestone which has helped to shape the Bay over millions of years and now forms the impressive headlands at Hope's Nose and Berry Head.

409-363 million years ago Torbay was a very different place: Europe was attached to North America and was positioned over the equator. Sea levels were much higher and the temperature was much warmer resulting in an environment similar to that associated with the tropics today.

The shallow seas were home to an abundance of marine life as the different families that scientists are now familiar with were beginning to establish themselves. Beautiful reef communities were formed from corals and sponges and larger creatures such as trilobites scuttled across the sea floor.

When these marine creatures died, their skeletons and other hard body parts sank to the sea bed and were compressed under high pressure to form limestone rock.

In the early 18th century scientists were working on a system for naming the main periods of geological time. Unfortunately, this was not a simple task and tended to result in disagreements amongst members of the British Geological Society.

It was Roderick Murchison and Adam Sedgwick who originally named the Devonian Period following research they carried out in Devon, and in particular, Torbay. They found some unusual marine fossils in the limestone at Lummaton Quarry and it was this discovery that lead to the time period becoming known globally as the Devonian.

The limestone from Lummaton, and other similar locations in the Bay, was quarried extensively during the Victorian era.
If you look closely at many of the old buildings and sea walls around Torbay, Devonian fossils can still be found embedded in the limestone.

Do you have an interesting fact about the rocks in Torbay?

You can comment on this article!


Posted by jmac on Mon 19 Jan 2009 at 11:07 PM
What about Devonian Old Red Sandstone? reply
In Devonian times Devon and Cornwall were mostly covered by sea, with land to the north and the the shoreline somewhere around North Devon (it moved north and south). The land deposits to the north were mostly laid down by rivers removing material from the Caledonian mountains. These deposits are often sandstones and are often red and were called the Old Red Sandstone. They are of Devonian age (416 - 359 million years). The red rocks around Torbay are much younger and are sometimes called the New Red Sandstone - 'new' is relative! They are of Permian age (i.e. between 299 and 251 million years old). Hope that helps! jmac


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