A history of Halesworth, Suffolk, UK, through the ages.


Volume 1

early east anglia

Pre - History

Long before man had penetrated the wilds of East Anglia, the geological formation of the area had taken place. The arrival of the Ice Age brought glaciers covering large areas of the county of Suffolk as we now know it. Glaciers which advanced and retreated several times over a period of a million years created the form of land surface we have. They broke up the underlying materials, and with the alternate freezing and warming process, left us with mixed sands, loams and clays distributed all over the area.

About 400,000 BC the Anglian Ice Advance appeared and it covered most of East Anglia with a layer of ice over 100 metres thick in places, filling the river valleys. As it melted and ran away, new rivers and valleys, such as the Blyth and Waveney were formed, and with the rising of the sea levels, East Anglia took on its familiar rounded shape. The residue or deposit of boulder clay which had been carried along by the melting ice was left, covering parts of Halesworth as it went. Within the clay were fragments of rock and fossils of the Cretaceous and the Jurassic periods.

The millions of years of evolution left this residue of fossil remains, which are readily recognisable when they are turned up by the plough, rise to the surface of fields, or appear in eroded cliffs. The most common fossils which have been found in the Halesworth district include the sea urchin echinoidea. or 'fairy loaf' as it was called in Suffolk. It was often polished and placed on the mantelpiece as a charm to aid the weekly batch of bread being baked. The fossilised sponge, the gryphaea incurva, known as the 'devil's toenails', being in fact a fossilised oyster-shell. Then there is the belemnite fossil, which is a pointed flint cylinder from two to six inches in length, also called the 'devil's fingers', which was the fossilised guard of an extinct cuttle-fish, which was often carried in the pocket for good luck. A larger fossil, which can look like a coiled snake is the ammonite cephalopod also known as 'snake-stones', while occasionally the delicate tracery of shells or of insects comes to light when flint nodules are split.

Halesworth itself lies between the 10 metre and 20 metre contours, the lower slopes of a ridge, and to the east of the town is the Blyth Valley with its coastal strip of sand and gravel. The Norwich Road (to the north) inclines upwards to a plateau of clay at the 40 metre contour, while to the south and west is clay, peat and silt.

At the Holton quarry evidence has been found of round pebbles, which with the brightly coloured sands, called 'kesgrave sands', were possibly left behind by an early river which flowed into a large delta at Lowestoft. The Thames and the Rhine were probably tributaries of a larger river and the Thames had a number of channels, one of which flowed in this direction. Until something like 8,000 BC, Britain still physically formed part of the continent of Europe, enabling people to walk in their migratory journeys across what is now the bed of the North Sea, which was probably fenland, similar to parts of East Anglia today.


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