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10 HISTOKY UF EASTEKN ENGLAXD.

of tlie accumulations of the " glacial drift," This old land surface near
Cromer is exposed at the sea level, but it extends inland, and has been
met with at considerable depths in the offing. The arboreal vegetation
buried in these beds comprises the Norway spruce, Scotch fir_, yew, oak,
alder, all of them common trees in Europe. The Cromer coast section
demonstrates that by process of change of level of the land and sea, a
forestal condition of the surface had been brought down to the sea
margin, that the trees had died, and that mud deposits had formed partly
under fresh, partly under brackish water lagoons. Subjacent to the
" Forest bed,'^ and covering the surface of the chalk, there is a layer of
chalk flints ; a like accumulation is seen resting in the chalk in numerous
other places, as in the sections at Bramerton below Norwich, Holy Cross,
Thorpe, &c., and are all referable to the same period and agency. The flints
have been dissolved out of the chalk by the action of rain water, and left
in situ. These beds appear to indicate the introduction of the great
glacial period when so many kinds of huge animals perished, and seem to
prove that a reversal of the relative levels of the northern and southern
parts of the Eastern Counties was taking place, so that which was under
water during the crag period became land, and what was land became
covered with the sea. Evidences of the coast line of this northern sea are
found in Sufiblk, near Southwold, in an ancient pebbly beach. There was
a gradual refrigeration of climate from the early Tertiary epoch, and with
these pebbly sands there came a period of ice and snow, as in Greenland.
This was the glacial period, the beds deposited during which have been
divided by Mr. S. Wood into lower, middle, and upper. The lower beds
developed in the coast between Happisburgh and Cromer, sometimes 200
feet thick, are represented by the brick earth at Sprowston, near Norwich,
and are supposed to have been deposited in or near the mouth of some
river, draining the newly-made land to the east ; while to the west and
south-west of Holt they are represented by an immense sheet of chalky
clay, often unstratified, sometimes containing large boulders of rock from
a distance of broken flints, evidently due to a sheet of ice developing what
was then the land, grinding down the solid chalk, and spreading out
the detritus in a similar manner to that of the ice sheet of Greenland. A
little further west lie hills of solid chalk, with the upper parts broken and
shattered, and the flints disturbed and contorted, showing the proofs of
the force which produced the sheet of chalky mud. In Cromer cliff" may
be seen masses of marly clay, which were lifted from their resting places
and dropped into the brick-earth deposit. What carried these boulders
to their resting place in the cliff's, shattered the surface of the chalk, and
spread out the great sheet of chalky clay ? Only one agency at work
upon the earth is competent to bring about such results, and that is ice —



HISTORY OK EASTERN ENGLAND. 17

ice enveloping the surface of the old chalk land, grinding- over it, pushing
out the chalky mud before it ; and ice in the form of icebergs floating out
to sea with masses of chalk and marl frozen to them, which, as they
become detached, sunk down into the muddy bottom. The features of the
middle glacial beds prove that the excessive cold must have received some
amelioration, at least, in the sea waters. The return of comparative
warmth, with doubtless its accompanying vegetation, was succeeded by a
still more severe and long-continued cold, which was sufficiently prolonged
to cover the whole of Europe with the ruins of the destroyed rocks, and
to allow a great part of England to sink below the level of the sea.

The Upper Glacial (or Boulder Clay) extends in an almost unbroken
sheet, often of great thickness, from Norwich to Dereham, southwards as
far as the brow of the Thames Valley, forming the stiff clay lands of
Suffolk and Essex, while in the other direction it stretches to North
Wales and Scotland. The Boulder Clay in Eastern England is invariably
full of fragments of chalk, proving that, like the chalky clay of the Lower
Glacial period, it had its origin in the glaciation or grinding down of the
chalk by ice. The fact of the sands upon which the Boulder Clays were
deposited being undisturbed and perfect, proves a greater depth of sea, a
sea deep enough to allow icebergs to float freely. The angular condition
of the Boulders found in these clays proves that they were not deposited
by water in the clays, but that they had been torn from their parent
rocks by ice, and dropped by melting icebergs into the mud. At this
period, the rocky backbone and mountainous parts of this island were
above the sea ; those portions of the land were then covered with ice and
snow, and when the sea rolled over these countries its bottom was covered
with boulder clay. When the period of submergence was fulfilled, the
land slowly rose from the waves, the awful winter of the glacial period
passed away, then came a fitful spring time, and at last the genial
summer which England now enjoys.

Since the bottom of the glacial ocean began to emerge from the waves,
the principal part of the valleys of Eastern England have been formed.
There is a controversy as to the formation of these valleys, some geologists
asserting that they were very different in former periods to the present,
some believing that they were always the same. Now it is clear that
when the sea bottom rose high enough to be affected by the action of the
tides, those currents would exercise great power in scouring out any
inequalities that previously existed in the sea bottom, and thus give rise
to valleys, which formed the channels for the natural drainage of the
district, and wherein the mud or silt brought down by the drainage would
accumulate. During the post-glacial period, and again at a very late date,
the sea appears to have filled the great valleys of Suffolk and Norfolk,



18 HISTORY OF EASTERN ENGLAND.

such as those of the Orwell and Yare. It is probable that all the low-
lying marshes in the valleys of the Waveney, the Yare^, and the Bure, were
covered with sea water during the Eonian occupation of Eastern England.
Since that time, arms of the sea appear to have receded, leaving only the
present narrow, shallow streams flowing into the sea along the eastern
coast. At some places, as at Dunwich, the sea has made constant
encroachments on the land. There the sea now covers a great part of the
former site of the ancient city.

The east coast, from the Thames to the estuary of the Wash, has under-
gone many changes. Southwold was a large tidal estuary, with two arms
of the sea covering the present marshes long before they were enclosed,
and the deterioration of the port is attributed to the enclosure.

Lowestoft Ness has grown out subsequent to the erection of the church
in the fifteenth century. There has been at this point a great extension
of trade, due to the formation of the harbour and the admirable natural
roadstead formed by the outlying sands, the extension of which south-
wards is remarkable. This parallel extension southwards of the sands,
coincident with that of the littoral deposits, cannot, however, be attributed
to the same cause, but a parallel one, for the main course of the great
Atlantic tidal wave from north to south towards the Thames produces
this effect on the sands, and the wind waves similarly affect the littoral
deposit. The combined roadsteads formed by these sands are well known
to mariners.

The great changes at Yarmouth are remarkable ; founded on a sea sand
opposite the mouth of what was an estuary when the Romans occupied
these islands, with stations at Caister north and Burgh south. The sands,
five miles in length and 1000 acres in area, have been subject to great
vicissitudes. The harbour at one period had two entrances, sometimes
entirely blocked up, with different entrances at various periods. The mo-
tion of the sands is progressively in a south direction, and at one' time,
before the formation of Lowestoft Ness, the outfall was as low down the
coast as Gorton, or four miles south of the existing outfall. This was at
last confined by the present works, first commenced in the reign of
Elizabeth, and the harbour is now one of the most important on the coast,
with ten feet depth at low water.

For sixteen miles north-west of Yarmouth the peculiarity of the coast
is a continuous belt of " Marrams,^' or sand hills, forming a fluctuating
defence to the various valleys and marsh land, situated between the out-
crops of the tertiary downs. At Caister these sand hills have been very
much wasted by the sea, the hillocks represented entire in the ordnance
survey being now cut in half. There have been abrasions of the
" Marrams " at Winterton Ness, at Waxham, and at Eccles. At Happis-



HISTORY OF EASTERN ENGLAND. 19

burgh tlie tertiary cliffs have been wasted at the rate of two-and-a-
quarter yards in depth yearly during the last sixty years.

At Triminghamj more northward^ the cliff, 200 feet high, forms a
continuous avalanche of sand. At Sidestrand the undercliffs and chasms
increase,, and past Overstrand the same enormous slips are met with.
Cromer has suffered much, standing on the north-east salient angle of
Norfolk. The portion of town now remaining is dependent on sea walls,
forming a projecting point, as the cliffs rapidly wasted east and west of it.
At East Runton and Beeston, where the chalk crops out in more defined
masses, the diminution amounts to two-and-a-half yards per annum over
the last quarter of a century. At Sherringham commences a line of
beaches travelling westwards towards the Wash, forming the beaches at
Weybourn, Salthouse, Oley, and Blakeney, which beaches are the outworks
to natural harbours at those places. Between Blakeney and Wells, an
thence westward to Brancaster, a range of " Marrams " forms an outer
barrier at high water parallel to the high land, enclosing tidal estuaries
of considerable area, the low water channels from which have formed
harbours from the earliest historic periods.

Sherringham Cliff is a very high steep shore. It looks on one side full
on the sea, and on the other over a varied country, presenting undulating
ground, many hills scattered widely about, and numerous highly cultivated
inclosures.

The Rev. John Gunn, M.A., F.G.S., contributed the following
interesting paper on the Relative Position of the Forest-Bed and the
Chillesford Clay in Norfolk and Suffolk, and on the Real Position of the
Forest-Bed : —

At a meeting of the Geological Society, held May 20th, 1868, 1 stated, in opposition to the view
entertained by Mr. Prestwich of the Forest-bed being placed above the Chillesford Clay, that I had
seen it at Easton Bavent, in Suffolk, upon the beach, at a lower level than the Chillesford Clay in
the cliff, and also that I had seen it at Kessingland and Pakefield, on the beach and at the foot of
the cliff, underlying the Chillesford Clay.

I have visited these places several times since ; and a fall of the cliffs and the partial clearing
away of the beach at Kesshigland have exposed the strata in the following ascendmg order : — The
Forest-bed on the beach ; the fi-eshwater Unio-bed, similar to those at Mundesley and Runton ; the
Fluvio-marine bed ; the Marine (including the Chillesford Clay, both the blue-laminated below and
the brown-laminated above) ; the sands and gi-avels which contain the Tellina balthica crag at
Wroxham "VVeybourue ; and the Glacial series, which, as it does not enter into the present inquiry,
I have not particularized.

The Forest-bed at Kessingland and the adjoining parish of Pakefield is one of the richest depots
of Elephantine and Cervme remains, and also of the Rhinoceros etruscus* ; and, judging from its
position on the same horizon, and from its mineral and fossil contents, it can scarcely be doubted
that it is an extension or continuation of the Bacton and Mimdesley Forest -bed.

The Chillesford Clay here and in a gorge between Kessingland and Pakefield, a few yards inland,
is well developed. As Mr. Prestwich admits the presence of the Chillesford Clay at Kessingland,
and the Forest-bed is to be seen there on the beach beneath it, it is umiecessary for me to add
more in support of my statement ; but I am desirous to submit to the Geological Society some
observations and suggestions with respect to the real position of the Forest-bed.

In order to ascertain the true position of the Forest-bed, it is requisite to have an insight into its

* A specimen described by Mr. Boyd Dawkins (Proceedings of the Geological Society, January 8th, 1868)
was obtained at Pakefield,



20 HISTORY OF EASTERN ENGLAND.

very c«ni))lex nature. The soil of the Forest -bed appears to consist of an argillaceous sand and



Online LibraryA. D BayneRoyal illustrated history of eastern England, civil, military, political, and ecclesiastical .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 3 of 70)