This paper reports on the physico-chemical response of two lime stabilised sulfate bearing artificial soils subject to the European Accelerated Volumetric Swell Test (EN13286-49). At various intervals during the test, a specimen was removed and subject to compositional and microstructural analysis. Ettringite was formed by both soils types, but with significant differences in crystal morphology. Ettringite crystals formed from kaolin based soils were very small, colloidal in size and tended to form on the surface of other particles. Conversely, those formed from montmorillonite were relatively large and typically formed away from the surface in the pore solution. It was concluded that the mechanism by which ettringite forms is determined by the hydroxide ion concentration in the pore solution and the fundamental structure of the bulk clay. In the kaolin soil, ettringite forms by a topochemical mechanism and expands by crystal swelling. In the montmorillonite soil, it forms by a through-solution mechanism and crystal growth.