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A road paved with setts, often confused with cobbles
Laying setts in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2013

A sett, usually referred to in the plural and known in some places as a Belgian block[1] or sampietrino, is a broadly rectangular quarried stone used for paving roads.[2] Formerly in widespread use, particularly on steeper streets because setts provided horses' hooves with better grip than a smooth surface, they are now encountered rather as decorative stone paving in landscape architecture.[3][4] Setts are often referred to as "cobbles", although a sett is distinct from a cobblestone in that it is quarried or worked to a regular shape, whereas the latter is generally a small, naturally-rounded rock. Setts are usually made of granite.



Places paved with setts include many streets in Rome and elsewhere in Italy (where blocks are called sampietrini or bolognini), since the technique was first used by Romans, in Aberdeen (Scotland), much of Edinburgh's Old Town and New Town, and Red Square in Moscow.

The setts at the junction of Eden Street and Criffel Street in Silloth on Solway, Cumbria UK

Silloth on Solway, the seaside town in Cumbria, still has the setts (originally laid in the 19th century) on Eden St and the seafront Criffel Street. Streets paved with setts feature in cycling competitions including the "Tour of Britain" which visited Silloth on Solway in 2015.

In Bruges, Belgium, most roads are in Belgian block in the center, but in the recent years, a lot of them have been replaced by asphalt to reduce noise.

In New York City, the West Village (including the Meatpacking District) and SoHo neighborhoods retain such streets. Older sections of Brooklyn such as DUMBO and surrounding neighborhoods also have streets bearing Belgian blocks.

Germantown Avenue in Philadelphia, in particular its upper reaches through Germantown, Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill, is notable for being paved with Belgian blocks; repaving projects on this thoroughfare have retained or reintroduced setts to give additional historic character to these neighborhoods. Part of this character includes the tracks of the 23 trolley, though the modern tracks are encased in concrete slabs rather than setts, and the trolley line itself is currently operated by buses.

In Richmond, Virginia, Belgian block streets are particularly common, most notably in Shockoe Slip. Street cars traveled through the street on tracks that are still visible though the system has been replaced by buses.

The Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore also has Belgian block streets.

In many cities besides Richmond and Philadelphia setts have often been used for pavement around street-running trolley or tram lines in the same manner as brickwork.

Portland, Oregon, used Belgian block paving extensively in the 19th century, starting near the Willamette River, to stop the streets from washing away in floods. Many streets in older parts of the city are underlain by these blocks, and a few streets in the Pearl District still feature this kind of pavement. The City of Portland stockpiles these blocks when they are dug up for street or utility repairs or renovation. They have been used between the rails in some of TriMet's MAX light rail lines to warn automobile drivers that they are driving on light rail right of way. The romantic claim that old Portland "cobbles" were imported as ship's ballast is incorrect; they are local basalt, quarried near St. Helens in Oregon.[citation needed]


Streets paved with setts (French: pavé) are highlights in several cycling competitions such as the final Champs-Élysées stage of the Tour de France and the Paris–Roubaix road race. Riding upon sett is more technically challenging than riding on asphalt concrete.


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  1. ^ Potter, Chris (October 14, 2004). "Were Pittsburgh's original finished roads and streets paved with cobblestone, Belgian block or some other type of brick?". Pittsburgh City Paper. Retrieved 2009-09-23.
  2. ^ Oliver, David. "A Walking Tour of The Royal Burgh of Wick". Retrieved 2009-03-04. At the first building after the end of the bridge, turn left into East High street which has not been widened and still has old stone setts.
  3. ^ "Secret garden is a joy to behold". This Is South Wales. 2009-02-25. Retrieved 2009-03-04. This is a garden of variation rather than variety. Hedges in subtly different colours and heights, paths sticking to the same small palette of materials, old timber from Swansea docks, granite setts, stone and brick but varying in pattern to suit the moment and the rhythm of the space, a small number of boldly used containers, lipped with jagged zinc, contain strong effects, from cloud-pruned box to a flat plane of granite setts.
  4. ^ Guinness, Bunny (2009-02-23). "Framing a garden view". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2009-03-04. You can pull the pattern work through to the paving too, echoing the style with bands of setts, pebbles or slabs.

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