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Geology Site Account

A-Z Geological Site Index

Friars Farm Boundary Stone, BLACK NOTLEY, Braintree District, TL74271970, Potential Local Geological Site

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Site name: Friars Farm Boundary Stone

Grid reference: TL 7427 1970

Brief description of site:

A large sarsen stone that is described by English Heritage as a rare survival of a named and dated boundary stone dating back to the 17th century. However it may have been a direction marker. Sarsen stones used for specific purposes in historical times are rare and this is a splendid example. The stone can be seen on Google Earth.

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Summary of geological interest

On a triangle of land at the junction of Dagnets Lane and Friars Farm track is a large sarsen stone incised with the words 'Whit Notly' on the north side and 'Black Notly' on the south side with the date '1679' between. The stone is on the English Heritage Sites and Monuments Register.

A letter in the Essex Countryside magazine of December 1959 states that the stone was found in the adjacent pond by the farmer and placed in this spot in the Summer of 1959 which was, no doubt, its original position.

The date of 1679 is interesting, if it is a contemporary date, because, if so, it must have been familiar to the famous naturalist John Ray, who lived nearby. It is not shown on large scale Victorian Ordnance Survey maps and so the stone may have resided in the pond for a very long time.

Sarsen formation

Sarsens are extremely hard boulders of sandstone formed around 55 million years ago when the climate of Britain was hot and a layer of sand beneath the surface of the ground became cemented with quartz. They are thus very resistant to erosion and have survived the rigours of the Ice Age. They originated on the chalk downland north and west of Essex and were carried here by rivers and glaciers. After retreat of the ice they became concentrated in river valleys.

The formation of silcretes (which includes sarsens and puddingstones) has been the subject of recent scientific debate. Research has compared the conditions under which sarsens and puddingstones may have been formed with the present day climate in the Kalahari Desert and parts of Australia.



Friars Farm Boundary Stone in 2020 (Photo: WH George)

 

Essex Countryside Magazine - 1959 photo of Friars Farm stone
Essex Countryside Magazine - 1959 photo of Friars Farm stone
Essex Countryside Magazine - 1959 letter re Friars Farm stone
Essex Countryside Magazine - 1959 letter re Friars Farm stone
Inscription on the Friars Farm Boundary Stone -2
Inscription on the Friars Farm Boundary Stone -2
Inscription on the Friars Farm Boundary Stone -1
Inscription on the Friars Farm Boundary Stone -1

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Reference: Mansell 1959

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