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Friars Park (former brick pits), NORTH SHOEBURY, Southend District, TQ938861, Historical site only
Site category: Periglacial deposits and features
Site name: Friars Park (historical site only)
Grid reference: TQ 938 861
Brief description of site:
Friars Park is an area of former brick pits which is virtually the only visible sign remaining of the Shoebury brick industry, a source of Ice Age fossils that are now in Southend Museum.
Summary of geological interest
The lakes in the wildlife area known as Friars Park are former brick pits and are virtually the only visible sign remaining of the Shoebury brick industry. The Shoebury area is situated on the extensive Barling Terrace of the Thames which consists of Barling Gravel laid down by the Thames-Medway river and currently excavated in the gravel pits at Barling in the adjoining district of Rochford. Across this whole area the terrace gravel is blanketed with a fine yellow brown silt, known as brickearth, or loess, which originated as a wind-blown dust deposited during the most recent glaciation of Britain, the Devensian, some 20,000 years ago (see Great Wakering in Rochford District) and it was this material that was extensively worked here for brick making for over a century.
The brickfields flourished in the last half of the 19th century employing, at one stage, over 400 men (Ryan 1999). The excavations produced fossils of Ice Age mammals together with numerous archaeological remains, largely because the calcareous nature of the brickearth preserved a wide range of bones and shells (Wymer & Brown 1995). Fossils from Shoebury in Southend Central Museum include the bones of mammoth, elephant, aurochs, bison, giant deer and brown bear together with vari-ous flint hand-axes indicating human occupa-tion of the area at the same time (Wymer 1985). Many fossils were obtained from labourers in the brickfields by local historian Philip Benton in the 19th century. Others were collected by Captain H.D. Sparrow and donated to the museum in the 1930s. Archaeological and geological discoveries were then frequent as the brickearth was excavated by hand on a fairly large scale.
Brickearth extraction continued at North Shoebury until 1976 and since then much of the land has been occupied by housing and retail development. There are no geological exposures remaining at Friars Park but the site is a reminder of this industry. The park is situated almost at the centre of the old Shoebury brickfields, the total excavated area of which eventually extended over about two square kilometres.
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Reference: Wymer 1985 (p. 327), Wymer & Brown 1995 (p.1-6).
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