Hull Geological Society Chalk Project North of the River Humber

[by F Whitham ca. 1987]

The extensive land mass of chalk which forms the Yorkshire Wolds and the bold headland at Flamborough, outcropping along North and West facing escarpments and disappearing beneath the thick deposits of drift cover to the East in Holderness is part of a larger less well known Northern Province which extends Eastwards under the North Sea and Southwards through Lincolnshire across the Wash into Northern Norfolk.

Beneath the drift cover in Holderness it is known from borehole evidence the maximum thickness of chalk reaches five hundred metres. This was confirmed by drilling operations which were undertaken to establish underground caverns for North Sea Gas storage.

In the publication of The White Chalk of the English Coast part 4 Yorkshire (Proc Geol Assoc Vol. 18 p.193) by Dr. A. W. Rowe in 1903 his description and zoning of the Yorkshire laid down the foundations for the future study of the Northern Chalk. Over a period of many years this work was undertaken by members of The Hull Geological Society and systematic investigations were carried out by Mr. W. C. Ennis and Mr. D. W. Toyne both of Hull. Other work was carried out and collections of fossils were assembled by Mr. J. W. Stather and Dr. Walton along with a very fine collection by Mr. J. R. Mortimer of Driffield and presented to the Hull Museum in Albion Street. Unfortunately most of them along with the museum were destroyed by enemy action during a bombing raid on Hull during the last war.

Two brothers C.W. and E.V. Wright were bright young members of the society in the nineteen thirties and they set about the task of working the Wold pits over a period of some ten years and zoned over one hundred exposures. At the outbreak of the war their work was hurriedly prepared for permanent record and published in the Proceedings of the Geologists Association Vol. 53 pp-112-127 entitled The Chalk of the Yorkshire Wolds. Their paper has remained an outstanding contribution to our knowledge of Yorkshire Chalk and more recently they were awarded Honorary Doctorate Degrees of Science by the University of Hull in recognition of their contribution to Geology and Archaeology.

After the war past and present members of the Society have continued researching the chalk and in 1977 it was decided to start a research Chalk Project which would include a revision of earlier work and re-establish the Hull Museums lost collection of fossils. The late Mr. Percy Gravett generously reprinted the Wright Brothers 1942 paper and issued it free to members of the Society. Unfortunately interest in the project waned but it was kept alive by a member who continued with collecting, measuring, and drawing up stratigraphical & biostratigraphical sections of the chalk. In 1984 the centenary of the Society due in 1988 was considered and the project was reborn using as a basis the work which had already been started with a view to completing the work in time for the centenary celebrations.

The objectives of the current Chalk Project are to measure and record all known exposures in the chalk North of the River Humber including the coastal sections from High Stacks Flamborough to Sewerby Steps but excluding the North side of Flamborough Head and Speeton (representatives of these sections are present at inland exposures) and produce a measured lithostratigraphical and biostratigraphical column.

Following upon earlier work by members of the Society pre-War it became apparent that a number of chalk exposures could be correlated by the use of measured logs with carefully recorded flint bands, marl bands, and fossil horizons, some flints and marls proving to be major marker horizons detectable over wide areas. This work was greatly enhanced by the British Geological Survey's mapping of the chalk in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. Parts of the lithostratigraphical succession were published in the Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society in 1978 by C.J. Wood and E.G. Smith. Due to the lack of suitable exposures in the higher formations of the chalk some parts of the succession were incomplete and details of the uppermost chalk that of the Flamborough were not included in their paper. It is intended the present project will include these omissions. The names given to formations and major marker flints and marls in the Wood and Smith 1978 paper are adopted in the society's project to avoid multiplicity of titles.

Over the last three years a great amount of field work has been undertaken by some members of the society and most of the chalk exposures North of the Humber have been measured and recorded. A complete lithostratigraphical unit with biostratigraphical horizons is proposed for the whole of the Northern Chalk made up from over twenty sections including the coastal cliff exposures from High Stacks Flamborough Head to Sewerby Steps, covering the Flamborough Formation and a number of major inland sections.

The total thickness of the exposed land based chalk is 420 to 430 metres. Higher parts of the Flamborough Formation are known to exist beneath the drift of Holderness. There are still several gaps in the upper part of our succession and we are hopeful of locating further exposures which will complete the Yorkshire Chalk stratigraphy.


1. Over 500 metres of chalk exposures measured and logged in the course of field work.

2. 420 metres correlated stratigraphically and recorded on twenty drawn sections in continuous succession depicting flint bands, marl bands, and fossil horizons.

3. Major fossils collected from known horizons and assembled in stratigraphical order.

4. Samples collected from over 200 marl bands (Research on micro faunas in progress)

5. 25 Drawn sections and tables completed. Summary and 9 supporting texts completed.

6. Project leaders and authors Felix Whitham and Mike Home. Helpers in the field include the late Ken Fenton, Dave Finer, Tony Gear (photographer), Mavis May, Richard Myerscough, Stephen Potts, Tom Scott, and Roy Thackeray, not forgetting Lynn Emery and Don Beveridge.

[scanned and edited MH 8/9/2010]

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