When compared with theoretical subsidence curves calculated from the uniform stretching model, water-loaded subsidence data from the ‘triple-junction’ region of the North Sea suggest that the Jurassic–Cretaceous rifting event caused lithospheric thinning by a factor of c. 2.0. Although somewhat larger than the stretching factors found elsewhere in the North Sea, this amount of thinning is anticipated from the overall geometry of the three-graben system and is consistent with the observed volume and elemental and isotopic composition of the Jurassic Forties volcanic province. Apart from in the southern North Sea, Permo-Triassic extension is thought to have been relatively minor in comparison to the later Jurassic-Cretaceous phase. The anomalously small amount of Late Jurassic syn-rift subsidence in those wells where local fault-controlled effects are minimal, supports the well-known idea of localized relative uplift or ‘doming’ in the triple-junction area (c. 104 km2) prior to and during the early stages of the Jurassic–Cretaceous rift phase. A time-dependent differential stretching model, in which the lithospheric mantle is initially stretched by a greater amount than the crust is stretched might provide an explanation. Such a model would require the total amount of stretching integrated over space and time to be the same for the lithospheric mantle and for the crust in order to avoid space problems. Alternatively, the same data could be explained by invoking a small transient thermal anomaly in the asthenosphere.