Geology Site Account
Great Yeldham Brickworks (site of), GREAT YELDHAM , Braintree District, TL757379, General geological site
Great Yeldham Brickworks (site of)
In the late nineteenth century workmen at a brickworks about 200 metres west of the former Great Yeldham railway station reported finding fossils of ice age mammals from the brickearth which included the bones of brown bear, rhinoceros and elephant. This discovery makes Great Yeldham one of the most interesting fossil localities in north Essex but, as the brickworks closed in 1920, very little is known about the geology of site, or the possible age of the fossils.
In 1896 a report in the journal Essex Naturalist described a visit to the works and to the nearby home of a ‘Mr. Wade of Spayne’s Hall’ who had formed a large collection of fossils from the brick pit. There were fragments of red deer antlers, bones of roe deer, teeth of brown bear, jaw bones of narrow-nosed rhinoceros, teeth of straight-tusked elephant, and teeth and bones of wild ox. Many of the fossils were subsequently donated to the Geological Museum in London (now part of the Natural History Museum). William Whitaker in the Geological Survey Memoir of 1878 describes an earlier visit and remarks that some bones ‘had been split open (?for the sake of their marrow)’ but there is no record of flint tools or any other evidence of human occupation at this site during the time these animal were alive.
The age of the fossils is difficult to determine but from the fauna present it is thought that they most probably date from the “Purfleet’ interglacial period (Marine Isotope Stage 9) which makes them about 300,000 years old.
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Reference: Whitaker 1878 (p.68), Holmes 1896 (p.115-118), Wymer 1985 (p.202), Ryan 1999 (p.115)
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