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Lakeside, West Thurrock, , Thurrock District, TQ585780, General geological site
Site name: Lakeside, West Thurrock
Grid reference: TQ 585 780
Brief description of site:
The Lakeside shopping complex sits in the former Tunnel Cement Works Quarry and is surrounded by cliffs of Upper Chalk. The quarry was also the source of fossils from the 'Grays brickearth'. The site has potential for geological education.
Currently the best and most accessible chalk face is on the south side, off Motherwell Way (behind IKEA). Access is best through the Cliffside Trading Park, open to the public during office hours, where the face can be seen between Units 6 & 7 (TQ 585 780)
In 1874 the Tunnel Portland Cement Company commenced quarrying chalk to the east of what became the Dartford Tunnel approach road (the A282 Canterbury Way). The Tunnel Cement Works Quarry, also known as the Motherwell Way Quarry, provided chalk to the giant Tunnel Cement Works and became one of the largest chalk quarries in Britain. From 1927 a pipeline carried liquid London Clay from the clay pits at Aveley. By 1968 the Tunnel Cement Works was the largest in Western Europe with 1,200 employees. Production ceased in 1976 and the site is now occupied by the Lakeside shopping complex and adjoining retail and commercial properties.
The Geologists’ Association visited the quarry on a few occasions during its working life. The report for one such visit in 1965 described a 60 foot high face at the east end of the quarry at TQ 587 786 which consisted of chalk that was soft, clean and easily worked, containing regular bands of nodular and tabular flints parallel to the bedding, and having dendritic manganese on joint planes. The chalk was typical of the Micraster coranguinum zone and contained numerous fossils.
Steep and vertical faces of chalk are still visible today around the edges of the old quarry with clear bands of flint nodules. However, several faces are covered in geotextiles to prevent falling rock and most are fenced off or otherwise inaccessible. Currently the best and most accessible chalk face is on the south side, off Motherwell Way (behind IKEA). Access is best through the Cliffside Trading Park, open to the public during office hours, where the face can be seen between Units 6 & 7 (TQ 585 780) (Clements 2010).
The stratigraphy of the Chalk here, and elsewhere in the area, has been described in detail in Mortimore et al 2011.
Fossils from the Grays Brickearth:
The Tunnel Cement Works Quarry is also known for producing a magnificent suite of Ice Age fossils from the famous ‘Grays brickearth’. In 1890 a report by W.J. Lewis Abbott described brickearth banked against a buried Chalk river cliff of the Thames at the southern end of the quarry which contained Palaeolithic flint implements and the bones of elephant, mammoth, woolly rhinoceros and many other mammals together with beds of mollusc shells. Abbott also claimed to have found “a mass of elephant tusks”. Although lost for over 80 years, most of these fossils were rediscovered, with the original labels, in the collection of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, London in 1974 and were re-examined by J.N. Carreck (Carreck 1976). It appears that the Welcome Institute had purchased Abbott’s collection in 1929-30. The fossils have now been passed to the Natural History Museum.
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Reference: Blezard 1966, Carreck 1976, Powell 1983, Abbott 1890, Clements 2010 (p. 74), Mortimore et al. 2011.
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