Monument record 0473500000 - PITSTONE QUARRY NO 3 (MARSWORTH) Fossil Promemtory


Fossilised animal bones dating from about 170,000 years ago excavated in chalk quarry.

Protected Status/Designation

  • Planning Notification Area: Remains of Pleistocene deposits found in chalk quarrying


Type and Period (2)

  • BURIED LAND SURFACE (Pleistocene - 2000000 BC to 10001 BC)
  • PALAEOCHANNEL (Pleistocene - 2000000 BC to 10001 BC)


Quantity of pleistocene bone collected from quarry after topsoil stripping by Mrs J Davis (Pitstone Local History Society) & Mr A Currant (British Museum) who cut a section to elucidate local stratigraphy (further details filed) (B1).
Site preserved by agreement of quarry works and county council (B3).
Fossilised deposits in channel fills within Pitstone No3 (Marsworth) Quary have been the focus of scientific study since they were excavated in 1980-81. A lower channel some 35m wide has yielded over 11,000 mammal bones including mammoth, horse, brown bear, wolf, lion and northern vole as well as evidence of beetles, molluscs and pollen within an organic mud horizon. This suggests a spring-fed marshy grassland environment. An age of 140-170,000 years was obtained by uranium dating of the lower channel deposits. Hence, the remains may represent the earliest occurrence of wooly mammoth in the UK. The upper channel has proved to contain many examples of the remains of hippopotamus, rhinoceros and giant deer, and suggests a temperate woodland environment. The inventory for the site archive and collection at Buckinghamshire County Museum includes 274 bones and teeth of wooly mammoth; 52 bones and teeth ascribed to elephant; 8 teeth of straight tusked elephant; 130 bones of ox or bovid species; 3 bison bones; 40 bones and teeth of lion; 61 of wolf; 5 of fox; 37 bear; and 340 bones and teeth of horse (B4).
The SSSI notifcation describes the importance of the site as being that a number of channels have been cut in the slope desposits and then filled with water-lain sediments. Three channels yielding significant faunal and/or floral assemblages have been recognised the oldest representing a new interglacial period between the established Hoxnian and Ispwichian interglacial. The site is thought to be one of the most important for the British Pleistocene. The area notified as SSSI lies along the railway line on the eastern side of the site and under the line of the conveyor (B5).
Two completely-infilled chalk-streams which came to light during topsoil stripping prior to chalk quarrying in 1976 were investigated between 1976-1986. The significance of these nationally-important deposits, is that unlike most of the other deposits recorded here, their presence could not easily have been predicted as they were distant from any existing watercourse. The Marsworth finds have received the most comprehensive cross-disciplinary investigation of any Pleistocene deposit containing faunal remains in Buckinghamshire (Green et al 1984, Murton et al 2001 and summarised in Silva 2010). The upper of the two channels, which like Hartwell [CAS 07519] contained hippopotamus (Murton 2001), has been confidently dated to the climatic optimum of the last interglacial (the Ipswichian); the infill of the preceding lower channel, which also contains temperate species, is likely to belong to a warm phase of the preceding glaciation. It contained what may be the earliest evidence in the UK for woolly mammoth (B6).

Sources (6)

  • <1>SBC11506 Bibliographic reference: PARISH D A & FARLEY M E 1978-1980 (SEE NOTES ETC FILED).
  • <2>SBC11507 Bibliographic reference: PARISH D A MARCH 1980 (SEE NOTE FILED).
  • <3>SBC19508 Unpublished document: Various. 1984. Pers comm various re College Farm quarry Marsworth.
  • <4>SBC19868 Unpublished document: Simon Timberlake. 1999. Statement on the significance and current state of the fossil collection from Pitstone Quarry No 3.
  • <5>SBC19878 Scheduling record: English Nature. 1988. SSSI citation for Pitstone Quarry No 2 (Marsworth).
  • <6>SBC24233 Article in serial: Michael Farley. 2012. 'Discoveries of Ice Age Mammals and other Pleistocene Deposits in Central and North Buckinghamshire', in Recs of Bucks 52 pp1-23. Vol 52. p10.


Grid reference Centred SP 9331 1445 (600m by 660m)
Civil Parish MARSWORTH, Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire

Finds (1)

  • MAMMAL REMAINS (Pleistocene - 2000000 BC to 10001 BC)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (2)

  • Event - Intervention: (EBC10225)
  • Event - Intervention: Excavation of fossilised deposits at Pitstone No 3 (Marsworth) quarry (EBC16183)

Record last edited

Dec 3 2023 7:54PM

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