Natural stone balustrading – from history to the present day

November 15, 2018   |   By

natural stone balustrading

Natural stone balustrading has been used in building and landscaping across the world for many centuries. In this article, we look at where the name came from. We also explore some famous examples of natural stone balustrading.


Natural stone balustrading is still very much in evidence in historic buildings throughout the UK. It also regularly features in designs for new stone construction projects, both commercial and residential.

What is a stone balustrade?

Stone balustrading is an ornamental protective wall or railing most commonly found at the edge of balconies, terraces, stairs and bridges. The balustrade is made up of three distinct parts. There is the base (at the bottom), the rail (along the top) and the line of stone pillars in between.


Where does the name ‘balustrade’ come from?

A natural stone balustrade is simply a connected line of ‘balusters’. ‘Balusters’ are the individual pillars which form this architectural feature, giving it such a classic look.

The word ‘baluster’ actually originates from 17th Century France. A ‘balustre’ was the name for a wild pomegranate flower. Early examples of stone balusters resembled the distinctive shape of these exotic flowers. The name just seems to have stuck.

Incidentally, this is also the origin of the English word ‘banister’ for the protective barrier at the edge of a staircase, consisting of a handrail and vertical pillars made of wood or stone.


Famous natural stone balustrading

Romeo & Juliet – or maybe not?

Perhaps one of the most famous stone balconies in classical history is Juliet’s balcony in Verona, Italy.

Stone balustrading graces the balcony of a 13th Century tourist attraction in Verona called ‘Juliet’s House’. Unfortunately, what the guide books don’t highlight is the fact that Shakespeare never visited Italy, and there is no solid proof that Romeo & Juliet ever existed! Oh, and they also gloss over the fact that the balcony is a relatively new addition – it was probably only added in the last 100 years or so.

The Palace of Versailles

The spectacular gardens created in the mid-1600s as the setting for the stunning Palace of Versailles near Paris play host to all manner of natural stone balustrading. They are used to edge balconies and terraces, line grand open air staircases, and divide up different areas of the gardens.

Buckingham Palace – by Royal appointment

One of the most distinctive features of the impressive north east front of Buckingham Palace is the first floor natural stone balustrading which spans the building’s impressive 108 metre width.

At the centre of this is the world famous royal balcony. It has been used for royal appearances on significant public occasions over the last 150 years. Queen Victoria was the first monarch to use the balcony during the opening celebrations for the Great Exhibition in 1851.


Uses of natural stone balustrading today

Stone balustrading is still a very popular choice in building and landscaping design today. It can be used in all the following ways:

– Balconies: creating a robust, safe balcony surround and a striking architectural effect.

– Terraces: an attractive and practical barrier for a raised terrace or patio area to prevent accidents and falls.

Staircases: a solid protective edging for internal and external stone stairways.

– Segregation: use in landscaping to divide up a garden into distinct areas – for example, separating a paved area from the lawn, or marking slight variations in ground levels.

With our own quarries on the famous Lincolnshire Limestone belt, Stamford Stone are specialists in the supply of bespoke natural limestone balustrading for all types of building project and restoration work.

Our team of master stonemasons can carve and install stone balustrades to suit your exact requirements in any design – from classic shapes to cutting-edge modern styles. Contact the experts at Stamford Stone today to discuss your requirements.