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Geology Site Account

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Gun Hill Gravel Pit, West Tilbury (also known as Broom Hill), , Thurrock District, TQ65617803, Potential Local Geological Site

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Site category: Thames (post-diversion)

Site name: Gun Hill Gravel Pit, West Tilbury (also known as Broom Hill)

Grid reference: TQ 6561 7803

Brief description of site:

Disused sand and gravel pit with exposures of the oldest gravels of the modern Thames. The height of these gravels above sea level demonstrates the erosion that has taken place since they were deposited.


Site description

The ridge of high ground between West Tilbury and Chadwell St. Mary is a high terrace of the present Thames and to the south the land falls steeply down to the Tilbury Marshes. On this ridge, at the high point known as Gun Hill (also known as Broom Hill) is a disused gravel pit with exposures of Orsett Heath Gravel, the oldest and highest of the Thames terraces.

The layers of sand and gravel were laid down by the River Thames some 380,000 years ago in the middle of the Ice Age. Close examination of the gravel reveals much about the ancient Thames and past climates. Up to 2 metres of sand and gravel is visible in the sections in various places, some showing current bedding. Some layers of pebbles show an 'imbricate' structure with the pebbles leaning in the direction of the current. Some pebbles show signs of 'frost-pitting', which indicates burial near the surface in exceptional cold, glacial conditions.

The gravel is now some 25 metres above the level of the present Thames, an excellent ex-ample of the erosion that has taken place over this period of time. This is demonstrated by the fine view that can be had from here across the Tilbury Marshes to the modern river. The site is, in effect, a fossil cliff line and is well placed to explain the loop of the Thames around Tilbury.

Four Palaeolithic hand-axes have been found on Gun Hill but it is not clear whether they came from the Orsett Heath Gravel.

The pit is part of Broom Hill Local Wildlife Site.

Gun Hill gravel pit. Photo: G.Lucy


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Reference: Gibbard 1994 (p.31), Payne & Harvey 1996, Wymer 1985 (p.306), Drury & Rodwell 1973.

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