The Parish of Hatfield Peverel

 

 

LOCAL GEOGRAPHY

Hatfield Peverel is located between Chelmsford, 7 miles to the west and Witham, 2 miles to the east and some 4.5 miles to the northwest of Maldon. The parish covers approximately seven square miles (1912 Ha) and is unevenly bisected by the A12 and the railway line, which runs through its northern part from the southwest to the northeast. Access to the countryside for walkers is provided by a well-established network of footpaths. The majority of the land area is located to the south of the A12 in an area bounded by the Chelmer valley to the south and the Blackwater valley to the east. There are two centres of population, the village of Hatfield Peverel itself and approximately 3/4 of a mile to the south, Nounsley.

Two rivers flow through the parish, the Ter, a small tributary, flows roughly north to south to join the Chelmer at Rushes Lock, the Chelmer forming part of the parish’s southern boundary. The landscape is one of gently undulating agricultural land interspersed with small areas of woodland, with a few substantial woods.

 


  HATFIELD PEVEREL FACING SOUTH

 

 aerial shot

 

The highest point of the parish is recorded as 157 feet above mean sea level and the lowest about 50 feet above mean sea level. Whilst there are no dramatic geographical features within the parish, a number of locations are designated as being Special Landscape Areas in order to protect the traditional qualities of the landscape. The local geology includes beds of sands and gravels which are of glacial origin and which have been actively extracted. These activities, mostly to the eastern side of the parish, have resulted in several lakes being established, some of which are used for recreational fishing.

 

  NOUNSLEY (FACING NORTH EAST)

 

 nounsley

 


COMMUNICATION LINKS

The most significant communication links are provided by the A12, which actually divides the village in two, and by the London-Ipswich railway line which has a village station. These links give direct access to Chelmsford and on towards London in one direction and towards Colchester and Ipswich in the other. The access in particular towards London has been a significant feature in the development of the village. This change has been from a self-contained rural economy in the past, to one that is more of a rural dormitory for workers who commute to their place of employment. Bus routes serve the village with links to Chelmsford in the west, Witham and Colchester in the east and Maldon in the south-west.

Communication links in a north/south direction are less well developed and have been the focus of much discussion and debate. The decline of the coastal fishing and transport activities, post WW II, had a negative impact on Maldon’s economy, as did the closure of the Maldon to Witham rail link. Over the past decades the regeneration of economic activity in Maldon, combined with the expansion of Witham as a centre for light industry has increased the volume of traffic flowing between these two areas and from further afield. There is no easy and direct road link between Witham or the A12 and Maldon. This has resulted in an increase in both volume of traffic and size of vehicle, which need to move through Hatfield Peverel.


HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT

The current A12 follows a similar, if less direct route to the old Roman road which linked Colchester (the Roman capital of Britain) to London. The old A12 and Roman road passes directly through the village as The Street. The exact origins of the village are uncertain, but it could date back to Roman times originating at the point where the Roman road forded the Ter. Records point to the establishment of a community at Hatfield Peverel shortly after the Norman Conquest in 1066 when a manor was established by Ranulf de Peverel.

Old Hat Pev

 

 The above information and maps have been supplied by Mike Renow

 

Old picture of The Street taken sometime in the 1900's

 

The Street

 

Clarkes, the general store on the left is where the post office stands today. Looks like the young chap has missed the school jalopy!

 

 

The following article is provided by a local resident, Kevin Dale

 

The Geology of the Hatfield Peverel Area                  

(Key information source: British Geological Survey Memoir & Map 241 1985)

 

Ancient Past

Regional boreholes (for example in the Harwich and Canvey area) suggest that deep under our Parish lie ancient buried “hills” of Paleozoic Era rocks around 400 million years old. The area saw little or no sedimentary deposition during the following Triassic and Jurassic periods, at this time the Hatfield Peverel area was likely to have been inhabited by dinosaurs.

 

Subsequently, during the late Cretaceous (about 100 million years ago) there was a period of global-warming when the polar ice caps melted and a subtropical shallow sea covered the whole area. The result is a thick layer of white Chalk … a continuation of the same layers that form ‘White Cliffs of Dover’. This Chalk layer is around 200m thick and has been proven by boreholes drilled in the area in Witham, Kelvedon, Wickham Bishops. In 1900 a borehole was drilled closer to home, at Hatfield Place it penetrated thick Chalk with flints about 100m underground (see Bigden 1979, Hatfield Peverel Library Reference section).

 

Shark Infested Sub-tropical Seas

The subsequent geological period (The Tertiary) saw layers of sand and mud deposited across the region in a layer up to about 100m thick. Sharks teeth, occasional vertebrae bones and other fossils found suggest to us that a warm sea covered the area about 50 million years ago. The main clay layer is called the London Clay, this clay underpins the soils of our predominantly agricultural Parish, providing valuable food crops. There have been three boreholes drilled into these layers that are recorded by the British Geological Society; at Crabs Hill, Hatfield Place and Brakeys (Crix Lane). During late Tertiary times the region became land again. The UK climate was cooling, due in part to the continent drifting to the north, heralding the next chapter in Hatfield Peverel’s geologic history, the great Ice Age.

 

The Restless Earth

Plate tectonic movements have very gently folded the Chalk and overlying Tertiary layers. There is a deep subterranean “Chalk hill” underlying the north of the Parish which is elongate WSW-ENE. Underground boreholes reveal geological faults in the Witham and Wickham Bishops area. These faults lie in the north and the south of the Parish respectively, and run WSW-ENE (sub-parallel to the A12). Faults closely related to these moved in 1884 causing the famous “Colchester Earthquake” which caused more destruction than any other earthquake ever recorded in Britain.

 

The Great Ice Age

The cherished landscapes of today’s gently rolling countryside (which deservedly has special recognition under Braintree District’s planning policies) somewhat surprisingly have the most harsh and inhospitable of origins. During the Pleistocene Period ice age, a glacial ice sheet lay across much of Britain and Scandinavia. Geologists can discern that the Hatfield Peverel area was right at the edge of the glacial ice sheet. Information is from boreholes, small quarries and pits and cuttings (for the railway, A12 road by-pass and the North Sea gas pipeline).

 

Rushing melt-waters from the glaciers deposited the sands and gravels that have been commercially quarried in the region for decades. For example Dannetts Quarry, now being designated our Country Park. While the pebbles found are predominantly flint, chert and quartz; frequently exotic pebbles can be found. The glaciers flowing from the far north have transported igneous rocks like basalts and metamorphic rocks (sometimes with garnets, though unfortunately not gemstone grade!). Other deposits of glacial clays allow geologists to detect sub-glacial “tunnel-valleys” and melt-water lakes. During this period, the freezing stresses in the deep frozen permafrost caused the underlying layers to bend, buckle and distort in quite amazing ways.

 

Today the porous and permeable sands and gravels lie on top of the London Clay making for an underground water bearing aquifer. Where water seeps out at the surface, fresh-water springs occur. This has helped previous generations in the Parish with a local water supply, via wells and water pumps. But it can also make for unstable land and landslips, as recorded by the British Geological Survey. Bigden 1979 records that when the A12 road by-pass was dug, “tons of concrete was poured in to stop up the flow of some of the underground springs”. Conversely, our lack of water (believe it or not we have one of the driest climates in England!) leads to desiccating and cracking clay soils, leading to the opposite type of soil instabilities challenging the construction industry and other land users.

 

Bricks from Nounsley

During the ice ages the frozen tundra must have seen periods of bitterly cold dry winds which have transported silty clay particles into drifts and pockets (“loess”). The even grain size and lack of pebbles make this ideal silty and sandy clay for brick and tile making. A number of commercial brick pits sprung up in our region in the 19th Century, notably in Boreham and Nounsley. The traditional craft bricks are termed “Boreham Reds” and “Suffolk Whites” reflecting the colour of the clay used.

 

When the one kilometre thick ice sheet finally melted, particles previously suspended and entrained by the ice were deposited in a layer of glacial “Boulder Clay” across most of the Parish. The Boulder Clay is several meters thick with distinctive mixed sized pebbles within it. White Chalk pebbles can be common, but there are also pebbles and fragments of many other rock types brought down from the far north. Jurassic and Cretaceous microfossils and also larger fossil shells have been found in the district (although they are very rare some lucky fossil hunters have found beautiful coiled Ammonites!).

 

 Ulting on Thames 

A series of alluvial river terrace deposits across the district suggest that when the weather warmed again an ancient pre-cursor to the River Thames flowed across the far south of the Parish. This gives us the beautiful Chelmer Valley between Little Baddow and Nounsley. The fact that drainage patterns have changed since the ice receded is beyond doubt. The path of the River Blackwater makes very sharp turns at Coggeshall, Kelvedon and Smallands Hall, on its route from Braintree to arrive in our Parish … this is a product of “river capture” as the drainage pattern evolved over recent times.

 

 The last 10,000 years

At or near the surface there are rare peat deposits and occasionally calcium deposits associated with springs. Here and there we find pale calcium-rich clays, in the past these were extracted and used by farmers to improve their clay soils leaving occasional lime-pits (for example at Rivenhall End). Elsewhere there are pockets of mud, former lake deposits with fossils indicating warmer climates. Hippopotamus, elephant and rhinoceros bones were found in these type of deposits at Moulsham in Chelmsford. There is evidence of much higher sea levels during these warmer times, former submarine estuary muds and fossil shell banks are now exposed to form the mudflats, saltings and marshes on the Essex coast.

 

                                                                                                                Kevin Dale, Nounsley 2015

 

Kevin studied geology at both the University of Wales and Imperial College London. Although geological research, studies and field trips have enabled travel to almost every continent, he has lived in the Parish most of his adult life.

 

Close up of the refurbished village sign (courtesy of Steve Miller)