Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-5959bf8d4d-xqm7d Total loading time: 0.272 Render date: 2022-12-08T03:08:35.305Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Variscan sourcing of Westphalian (Pennsylvanian) sandstones in the Canonbie Coalfield, UK

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 February 2010

HM Research Associates, 2 Clive Road, Balsall Common, West Midlands CV7 7DW, UK CASP, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, 181a Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB3 0DH, UK
Research School of Earth Sciences, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia
British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingham NG12 5GG, UK
*Author for correspondence:


The zircon age spectrum in a sample from the Canonbie Bridge Sandstone Formation (Asturian) of southern Scotland contains two main peaks. One is Early Carboniferous in age (348–318 Ma), and corresponds to the age of igneous activity during the Variscan Orogeny. The other is of late Neoproterozoic to early Cambrian age (693–523 Ma), corresponding to the Cadomian. Together, these two groups comprise 70 % of the zircon population. The presence of these two peaks shows unequivocally that a significant proportion of the sediment was derived from the Variscides of western or central Europe. The zircon population also contains a range of older Proterozoic zircons and a small Devonian component. These could have been derived from the Variscides, but it is possible that some were locally derived through recycling of northerly derived sandstones of Devonian–Carboniferous age. The zircon age data confirm previous suggestions of Variscide sourcing to the Canonbie area, made on the basis of petrographical, heavy mineral and palaeocurrent evidence, and extend the known northward distribution of Variscan-derived Westphalian sediment in the UK.

Original Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Present address: Saudi Aramco, P.O. Box 2001, Dhahran 31311, Saudi Arabia


Barrett, B. H. & Richey, J. E. 1945. Economic geology of Canonbie Coalfield (Dumfriesshire and Cumberland). Geological Survey of Great Britain Wartime Pamphlet 42, 51 pp.Google Scholar
Besly, B. M. 1988. Palaeogeographic implications of late Westphalian to early Permian red-beds, Central England. In Sedimentation in a synorogenic Basin Complex: the Upper Carboniferous of Northwest Europe (eds Besly, B. M. & Kelling, G.), pp. 200–21. Glasgow: Blackie.Google Scholar
Besly, B. M. & Cleal, C. J. 1997. Upper Carboniferous stratigraphy of the West Midlands (UK) revised in the light of borehole geophysical logs and detrital compositional suites. Geological Journal 32, 85118.3.0.CO;2-O>CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bishop, A. C., Roach, R. A. & Adams, C. J. D. 1975. Precambrian rocks within the Hercynides. In A correlation of Precambrian rocks in the British Isles (eds Harris, A. L., Shackleton, R. M., Watson, J., Downie, C., Harland, W. B. & Moorbath, S.), pp. 102–7. Geological Society of London, Special Report no. 6.Google Scholar
Black, L. P., Kamo, S. L., Allen, C. M., Aleinikoff, J. N., Davis, D. W., Korsch, R. J. & Foudoulis, C. 2003. TEMORA 1: a new zircon standard for Phanerozoic U–Pb geochronology. Chemical Geology 200, 155–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
British Geological Survey. 1999. Coal Resources Map of Britain (coodinator G. R. Chapman). NERC and the Coal Authority.Google Scholar
Brown, M. & Dallmeyer, R. D. 1996. Rapid Variscan exhumation and the role of magma in core complex formation: southern Brittany metamorphic belt, France. Journal of Metamorphic Geology 14, 361–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bruguier, O., Becq-Giraudon, J. F., Bosch, D. & Lancelot, J. R. 1998. Late Visean hidden basins in the internal zones of the Variscan belt: U–Pb zircon evidence from the French Massif Central. Geology 26, 627–30.2.3.CO;2>CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Calvez, J. Y. & Vidal, P. 1978. Two billion year old relicts in the Hercynian Belt of western Europe. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology 65, 395–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cope, J. C. W., Guion, P. D., Sevastopulo, G. D. & Swan, A. R. H. 1992. Carboniferous. In Atlas of Palaeogeography and Lithofacies (eds Cope, J. C. W., Ingham, J. K. & Rawson, P. F.), pp. 6786. Geological Society of London, Memoir no. 13.Google Scholar
Day, J. B. W. 1970. Geology of the country around Bewcastle. Memoirs of the Geological Survey of Great Britain England and Wales. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 357 pp.Google Scholar
Gerdes, A. & Zeh, A. 2006. Combined U–Pb and Hf isotope LA-(MC-) ICP-MS analyses of detrital zircons: comparison with SHRIMP and new constraints for the provenance and age of an Armorican metasediment in Central Germany. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 249, 4762.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gradstein, F. M., Ogg, J. G. & Smith, A. G. 2004. A Geologic Time Scale 2004. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 589 pp.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Guerrot, C. & Peucat, J. J. 1990. U–Pb geochronology of the Upper Proterozoic Cadomian orogeny in the northern Armorican Massif, France. In The Cadomian orogeny (eds D'Lemos, R. S., Strachan, R. A. & Topley, C. G.), pp. 1326. Geological Society of London, Special Publication no. 51.Google Scholar
Hallsworth, C. R., Morton, A. C., Claoué-Long, J. & Fanning, C. M. 2000. Carboniferous sand provenance in the Pennine Basin, UK: constraints from heavy mineral and detrital zircon age data. Sedimentary Geology 137, 147–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Heckel, P. H. & Clayton, G. 2006. The Carboniferous System. Use of the new official names for the subsystems, series, and stages. Geologica Acta 4, 403–7.Google Scholar
Jones, N. S., Holliday, D. W. & McKervey, J. A. 2010. Warwickshire Group (Pennsylvanian) red-beds of the Canonbie Coalfield, England–Scotland border, and their regional palaeogeographical implications. Geological Magazine, in press.Google Scholar
Linnemann, U., Pereira, F., Jeffries, T. E., Drost, K. & Gerdes, A. 2008. The Cadomian Orogeny and the opening of the Rheic Ocean: the diachrony of geotectonic processes constrained by LA-ICP-MS U–Pb zircon dating (Ossa-Morena and Saxo-Thuringian Zones, Iberian and Bohemian Massifs). Tectonophysics 461, 2143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ludwig, K. R. 2001. SQUID 1.02, A User's Manual. Berkeley Geochronology Center Special Publication no. 2.Google Scholar
Ludwig, K. R. 2003. Isoplot/Ex version 3.0: A geochronological toolkit for Microsoft Excel. Berkeley Geochronology Center Special Publication no. 4.Google Scholar
Lumsden, G. I., Tulloch, W., Howells, M. F. & Davies, A. 1967. The geology of the neighbourhood of Langholm. Memoir of the Geological Survey of Great Britain, 255 pp.Google Scholar
Matte, P. 1986. Tectonics and plate tectonics model for the Variscan belt of Europe. Tectonophysics 126, 329–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Morton, A. C., Hallsworth, C. R. & Claoué-Long, J. C. 2001. Zircon age and heavy mineral constraints on provenance of North Sea Carboniferous sandstones. Marine and Petroleum Geology 18, 319–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Morton, A. C., Hallsworth, C. R. & Moscariello, A. 2005. Interplay between northern and southern sediment sources during Westphalian deposition in the Silverpit Basin, southern North Sea. In Carboniferous hydrocarbon geology: the southern North Sea and surrounding onshore areas (eds Collinson, J. D., Evans, D. J., Holliday, D. S. & Jones, N. S.), pp. 135–46. Yorkshire Geological Society Occasional Publication no. 7.Google Scholar
Nance, R. D., Murphy, J. B., Strachan, R. A., Keppie, J. D., Gutierrez-Alonso, G., Fernandez-Suarez, J., Quesada, C., Linnemann, U., D'Lemos, R. & Pisarevsky, S. A. 2008. Neoproterozoic–early Palaeozoic tectonostratigraphy and palaeogeography of the peri-Gondwanan terranes: Amazonian v. West African connections. In The boundaries of the West African Craton (eds Ennih, N. & Liégeois, J.-P.), pp. 345–83. Geological Society of London, Special Publication no. 297.Google Scholar
Peach, B. N. & Horne, J. 1903. The Canonbie Coalfield: its geological structure and relations to the Carboniferous rocks of northern England and central Scotland. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 40, 835–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Picken, G. S. 1988. The concealed coalfield at Canonbie: an interpretation based on boreholes and seismic surveys. Scottish Journal of Geology 24, 6171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Powell, J. H., Chisholm, J. I., Bridge, D. McC., Rees, J. G., Glover, B. W. & Besly, B. M. 2000. Stratigraphical framework for Westphalian to Early Permian red-bed successions of the Pennine Basin. British Geological Survey Research Report RR/00/01.Google Scholar
Ramsbottom, W. H. C., Calver, M. A., Eager, R. M. C., Hodson, F., Holliday, D. W., Stubblefield, C. J. & Wilson, R. B. 1978. A correlation of Silesian rocks in the British Isles. Geological Society of London, Special Report no. 10, 81 pp.Google Scholar
Roach, R. A., Lees, G. J. & Shufflebotham, M. M. 1990. Brioverian volcanism and Cadomian tectonics, Baie de St Brieuc, Brittany: stages in the evolution of a late Precambrian ensialic basin. In The Cadomian orogeny (eds D'Lemos, R. S., Strachan, R. A. & Topley, C. G.), pp. 4167. Geological Society of London, Special Publication no. 51.Google Scholar
Sherlock, S. C., Jones, K. A. & Jones, J. A. 2000. A central European Variscide source for Upper Carboniferous sediments in SW England: 40Ar/39Ar detrital white mica ages from the Forest of Dean. Journal of the Geological Society, London 157, 905–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Simpson, J. B. & Richey, J. E. 1936. The geology of the Sanquhar Coalfield. Memoirs of the Geological Survey of Scotland, 97 pp.Google Scholar
Sircombe, K. N. 2004. Age Display: an excel workbook to evaluate and display univariate geochronological data using binned frequency histograms and probability density distributions. Computers and Geosciences 30, 2131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Strachan, R. A., D'Lemos, R. S. & Dallmeyer, R. D. 1996. Neoproterozoic evolution of an active margin: North Armorican Massif, France. In Avalonian and Related Perigondwanan Terranes of the Circum-North Atlantic (eds Nance, R. D. & Thompson, M. D.), pp. 319–32. Geological Society of America, Special Paper no. 304.Google Scholar
Tera, F. & Wasserburg, G. 1972. U–Th–Pb systematics in three Apollo 14 basalts and the problem of initial Pb in lunar rocks. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 14, 281304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tischendorf, G., Förster, H.-J., Frischbutter, A., Kramer, W., Schmidt, W. & Werner, C. D. 1995. Igneous activity. In Pre-Permian Geology of Central and Eastern Europe (eds Dallmeyer, R. D., Franke, W. & Weber, K.), pp. 249–59. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Trotter, F. M. 1953. Reddened beds of Carboniferous age in North-West England and their origin. Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society 29, 120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Trueman, A. E. & Weir, J. 1946–58. A monograph on British Carboniferous non-marine Lamellibranchia. Palaeontographical Society Monograph, 449 pp.Google Scholar
Waters, C. N., Browne, M. A. E., Dean, M. T. & Powell, J. H. 2007. Lithostratigraphical framework for Carboniferous successions of Great Britain (onshore). British Geological Survey Research Report RR/07/01.Google Scholar
Williams, I. S. 1998. U–Th–Pb geochronology by ion microprobe. In Applications of microanalytical techniques to understanding mineralizing processes (eds McKibben, M. A., Shanks III, W. C. & Ridley, W. I.), pp. 1–35. Reviews in Economic Geology 7.Google Scholar
Zeh, A., Brätz, H., Miller, I. L. & Williams, I. S. 2001. A combined zircon SHRIMP and Sm–Nd isotope study of high-grade paragneisses from the Mid-German Crystalline Rise: evidence for northern Gondwanan and Grenvillian provenance. Journal of the Geological Society, London 158, 983–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Supplementary material: File

Morton supplementary material


Download Morton supplementary material(File)
File 331 KB
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Variscan sourcing of Westphalian (Pennsylvanian) sandstones in the Canonbie Coalfield, UK
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Variscan sourcing of Westphalian (Pennsylvanian) sandstones in the Canonbie Coalfield, UK
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Variscan sourcing of Westphalian (Pennsylvanian) sandstones in the Canonbie Coalfield, UK
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *