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Wrabness Brickearth Cliffs and Foreshore, WRABNESS, Tendring District, TM163319, Notified Local Geological Site

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Site category: Interglacial deposit

Site name: Wrabness Brickearth Cliffs and Foreshore

Grid reference: TM 163319

Brief description of site:

Cliffs of brickearth on the River stour at Wrabness have yielded bones of mammoth and elephant since at least the beginning of the eighteenth century.


Site description

Brickearth dating from an interglacial stage of the Ice Age is exposed in the cliff and foreshore eastwards from Wrabness sluice to beyond Wrabness Point. The brickearth has yielded bones of elephant and mammoth and has produced fossils since at least the beginning of the eighteenth century. Fossils are, however, very rare and are often in a very friable condition requiring great skill to extract and conserve them.

The earliest record is from 1701 when the Reverend Robert Rich, rector of Wrabness, found at Wrabness "diverse bones of an extraordinary bigness" and concluded that they were probably bones of elephants brought over by Emperor Claudius for use in his wars with the Britons. Bones of mammoth and straight-tusked elephant were also found here following a cliff fall in 1906.

The brickearth was originally thought to have dated from the Ipswichian interglacial stage (120,000 years ago), but is now thought to belong to the preceding interglacial stage which corresponds with Marine Isotope Stage 7 (approximately 200,000 years ago). The brickearth contains lenses of gravel and fine sand. Some of the brickearth on the foreshore near Wrabness sluice was reported to contain fossil shells.

Also along this section of the coast are terrace gravels from the River Stour which contain rocks derived from the Kesgrave Sands and Gravels (early Thames gravels). On the beach are occasional fossils derived from the Red Crag, which presumably originate from a former capping of basal Red Crag gravel at the top of the London Clay cliffs to the east.

Low cliff of brickearth at Wrabness dating from about 200,000 years ago. Photo © G. Lucy.


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Reference: George 1997c., George & Collins 2019

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