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Wouldham Cliff (Chalk Cliff), CHAFFORD HUNDRED, Thurrock District, TQ60157890, Notified Local Geological Site
Site category: Chalk sites
Site name: Wouldham Cliff (Chalk Cliff)
Grid reference: TQ 6015 7890
Brief description of site:
Impressive chalk cliff that is the edge of a former giant chalk quarry. Site of geological interest with potential for promoting geology. Part of Chafford Gorges Nature Park. The highest part of the chalk cliff extends from TQ 6003 7885 to TQ 6025 7897.
Summary of geological interest
The chalk cliff to the east of Clockhouse Lane and south of Warren Lane is the edge of a giant chalk quarry formerly known as Wouldham Cement Works. The cliffs provide an excellent exposure of Upper Chalk which is about 85 million years old and forms the upper part of the Micraster coranguinum zone. A conspicuous flint band (‘Whitaker’s Three Inch Band’) occurs about two thirds of the way up the 25 metre (80 foot) high cliff. This band can be traced around the most of southern England and is conspicuous in the Chalk cliffs of the Kent coast.
In 1900 the Wouldham Cement Company took over the adjacent quarry to the west that was originally operated by the Lion Cement Company (see separate site entry for Lion Gorge). The two quarries are linked by a gap in the chalk cliff. In 1912 the company became part of what even-tually became known as Blue Circle Industries and it finally closed in 1976.
The Wouldham Cement Quarry has produced many spectacular fossils over the course of its long working life. Reports of two visits by the Geologists’ Association as far apart as 1915 and 1959 describe many of the fossils found which not only consisted of the numerous shellfish that occupied the tropical chalk sea but also the teeth of several species of shark. The most famous fossil from the Wouldham Cement Quarry is a set of 32 beautifully preserved teeth of the shark Ptychodus, the ma-jority of which were embedded in three flint nodules. These were discovered about the time of the First World War and described and illustrated in the Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association in 1918.
Much of the quarry floor is now occupied by housing and an oil storage depot. The quarry is connected to the adjacent Lion Pit (see above) by a gap in the cliff. To the north the cliff decreases in height and the topmost chalk and gravel shows extensive deformation (see separate site record for Merlin Close Involutions).
All the cliffs now form part of Chafford Gorges Nature Park which is managed by the Essex Wildlife Trust.
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Reference: Christy 1907 (p.492 & 493), Dibley 1918 (p. 89-90 and plate 8), Dibley and Kennard 1916, Hart 1960. Powell 1983 (p. 66), Lucy 2009.
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