Geology Site Account
Copford Brick Pits (site of), COPFORD, Colchester District, TL926242, Historical site only
Site name: Copford Brick Pits (site of)
Grid reference: TL 926 242
Brief description of site:
The famous brick pits at Copford yielded numerous Ice Age fossils in the mid 19th century, including bones of bear, ox, bison, red deer, beaver, hippopotamus and mammoth. The famous Essex geologist John Brown of Stanway described the site and collected many of the fossils. The deposits are of Hoxnian interglacial age (about 400,000 years old).
The old brick pits at Copford were a classic locality of nineteenth century palaeontologists, yielding fossil molluscs and vertebrates. They were described in the 1840s and 1850s by the amateur geologist John Brown (1780-1859) who stated that the fossils found included the bones of bear, ox, bison, red deer, beaver, hippopotamus and mammoth. It was later reported by visitors to Brown’s home in Stanway that a mammoth tusk from Copford took pride of place in his collection.
Sixty nine species of freshwater and terrestrial molluscs were collected by Brown which indicated a shallow lake environment. Pollen in the deposits was later found to be characteristic of the Hoxnian interglacial (about 400,000 years old) and the lake must have occupied the same basin as the famous lake deposits of Marks Tey, to the west, which are of similar age. The identification of mammoth and hippo bones is therefore suspect as these animals are unknown in all other deposits of Hoxnian age (Brown’s mammoth tusk was almost certainly the tusk of a straight-tusked elephant).
The same fossiliferous deposits were found in 1972 during the construction of the A12 which passes to the north of the old pits. The brickworks, which is shown on the 1876 Ordnance Survey map, was still operating in 1899 but had closed by 1920.
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Reference: Brown 1852, Dalton 1880 (p.4-6), Wire 1890, Wymer 1985 (p.252-253)
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