The British Geological Survey is responsible for the national strategic geochemical survey of Great Britain. As part of this programme, the Geochemical Surveys of Urban Environments (GSUE) project was initiated in 1992 and to date, 21 cities have been mapped. Urban sampling is based upon the collection of top (0.05 to 0.20 m) and deeper (0.35 to 0.50 m) soil samples on a 500 m grid across the built environment (one sample per 0.25 km2). Samples are analysed for c. 46 total element concentrations by X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, pH and loss on ignition as an indicator of organic matter content. The data provide an overview of the urban geochemical signature and because they are collected as part of a national baseline programme, can be readily compared with soils in the rural hinterland to assess the extent of urban contamination. The data are of direct relevance to current UK land use planning, urban regeneration and contaminated land legislative regimes. An overview of the project and applications of the data to human health risk assessment, water quality protection and contaminant source identification are presented.