Record Details

NHER Number:5643
Type of record:Monument
Name:Palaeolithic handaxes and other worked flint implements, Botany Bay/Broomhill Cottage Pit


This large clay pit was in use during the later 19th century, during the operation of an adjacent brickworks. It lay close to a number of buildings (now demolished) known as Broomhill Cottages and it can therefore be reasonably confidently identified as the probable source of a number of Palaeolithic objects found during the late 19th century at a site described as either the Botany/Botney Bay or Broomhill Cottage Pit.

Finds likely to be from this site (or at least a clay pit nearby) survive in a number of museum collections and include several handaxes. It is also possible that some of the museum pieces with an unspecific "Broomhill" provenance may also be from this site, although it appears that most were probably recovered at the nearby Ballast Pit site (NHER 5642). See NHER 5641 for a full discussion of the unprovenanced Palaeolithic material from the Broomhill area. Given its proximity it is also possible that some of the objects recorded as being found at Grimes Graves (NHER 5640) were in fact recovered at the Botany Bay site. See NHER 5592 for details of the finds associated with only a general "Weeting" provenance.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TL 806 890
Map Sheet:TL88NW

Full description

Various Palaeolithic implements are recorded as being found at the Botany Bay Brickworks during the later 19th century.


This site was one of several at which S. B. J. Skertchly reported he had found Palaeolithic implements in a series of loams, sands and gravels that lay beneath Boulder Clay (S1). According to (S2) W. G. Clarke reported (in the Eastern Daily Press on October 13 1876) that these objects were found at between 16ft [4.9m] and 20ft [6.1m] from the surface in sand and gravel under Boulder Clay. It is noted in (S3) that workmen at these pits claimed the objects were recovered from a band of clayey gravel. Skertchly's claims as to the provenance of these objects were however disputed at the time by Evans (S4), who argued that the Boulder Clay lying above the implementiferous layer was not in its original position. The discoveries at this site were later noted by W. G. Clarke in (S5) and (S6). They are also briefly described in (S16).

There appears to be a degree of uncertainty as to the exact location of this site, although most sources seem to agree that it was probably the large pits that lie close to several (now demolished) buildings known as Bromehill Cottages. These are marked as clay pits on the 1st Edition O.S map and are shown as lying adjacent to a brickworks. The location of these pits would also appear to correspond roughly with the location given in (S7). Wymer (S8) also notes that these features (which are overgrown but still visible) appear to be the only pits in the area deep enough to match the recorded descriptions. The only problem with this identification is that (S9) gives the position of the site as lying "one furlong" to the west of Grimes Graves. As a result, (S10) lists a small pit at TL 812 895 as the possible location of Skertchly's finds, with the Bromehill Cottage pits recorded as a separate site. It is however highly unlikely that this small pit was the source of the Botany Bay finds, as this pit is clearly marked as a gravel pit on the 1st Edition O.S map.


Various museum collections hold Palaeolithic objects recorded as being from Weeting parish and it appears that a number of these finds can be reasonably confidently identified as coming from the Botany Bay brickworks site. It should however be noted that there are many objects in these collections which are simply labelled as 'Broomhill' (or similar), and while these objects are thought to be mostly from the Ballast Pit site (NHER 5642), some could well have come from the brick pits. Similarly it is equally possible that some of the objects recorded simply as coming from 'Weeting' were in fact from this site (see NHER 5592 for a discussion of these finds). See NHER 5641 for further information on the Palaeolithic material with a general "Broomhill" provenance.

Roe (S10) lists 7 handaxes and 2 retouched flakes/flake implements as coming from the "Broomhill Cottage" site; these being held by the British Museum, the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (CUMAA), the Sedgewick Museum in Cambridge, the Geological Museum in London and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology:
This museum hold a collection of 5 handaxes and 2 flakes that are recorded as being from Botany Bay, Brandon (Z 15122.1-4). Several are listed as being from "under B.C [Boulder Clay]". These objects are detailed in (S8) and are presumably the "seven implements (or fragments) of pale ochreous patina" noted in (S16) as being held by the CUMAA.

Sedgwick Museum:
Various objects in this museum are described by Wymer on (S12) and (S8). These include:
1 massive broken handaxe and 1 tip of very rolled handaxe. Both marked "Brandon, Norfolk".
1 ovate handaxe, marked "in brick-earth Bromehill brickpit Brandon".
1 elegant side scraper. From "interglacial beds Brandon Norfolk 1880. This implement is also described in (S13).

According to (S12) and (S8) this museum also holds casts and notes relating to 6 handaxes and 2 flakes recovered by Skertchley; mainly from "The Brandon Beds at Botany Bay". The casts of are 3 handaxes and 1 primary flakes. The originals are now said to be in the Queensland Museum, Brisbane.

British Museum:
The British Museum Sturge Collection holds a pointed handaxe from "Botney Bay". This implement is described and figured in (S16) and is also described on (S12) and (S8). It appears that this handaxe has been accessioned with another from "Bodney" (2011,8109.728). Although the handaxe from Bodney (NHER 5011) is listed separately in (S16) it is noted in (S8) that its provenance is somewhat suspect as it is marked "Bodney, Weeting". It is therefore possible that both objects were from the Weeting brickworks pit.

The British Museum also holds an object listed as a handaxe that was previously in the collections of the Geological Museum (1989,0301.1233). Notes made by Wymer in 1996 (S12) confirm that this is a handaxe that had originally been in the possession of Skertchly. This is probably the same implements as one described on (S2) as a "flake-handaxe (Ach), 1878" that was in the Geological Museum. It is also likely to be the "flake" in the Geological Museum described by Wymer in (S8) as "found by Skertchly in 1878 'in loam beneath C. B. Clay'".

According to E. Rose (NLA) the British Museum also holds a number of Palaeolithic flakes labelled as being "from the brick pit" (S13). These finds were initially recorded under NHER 5592.

Ashmolean Museum:
It is noted in (S8) that the Ashmolean holds two objects marked "Botany Bay Brickfield, Brandon"; 1 handaxe and 1 cleaver. These could not be identified in the museum's current records, although it does hold a number of Palaeolithic implements that are recorded as being from Brandon.

Norwich Castle Museum:
As noted on (S12) the NCM holds a small handaxe that is marked "…said to have been found near Grimes Graves ?Botany Bay". This handaxe is described on (S12) and in (S8).

There is also a handaxe in the H. H. Halls Collection (NWHCM : 1924.83) that although only recorded as being from Weeting is also marked "In Boulder Clay, J. W. K. Aug. 4. 1887". As noted by Wymer (S8) this provenance suggests that it is most likely from the Botany Bay site.

Wymer describes both of these objects under the heading "Grimes Graves" where he suggests that they may be from a large clay pit shown close to Grimes Grave on (S7). It is again unclear why this pit was not seen as potentially the Botany Bay site. It is notable that the description of the deposits at this pit quoted from (S7) by Wymer is almost identical to a description on (S2), suggesting that the NCM felt this clay pit was indeed the Botany Bay brickworks pit.

Pitt Rivers Museum:
Wymer notes in (S6) that the large clay pit figured in (S7) may also be the source of a cordate handaxe in the Pitt Rivers Museum (1916.33.3). The handaxe itself is described on (S12) and is listed in the museum's records as having been recovered by H. Balfour in 1916, "from a clay-pit near Grimes Graves". As with the handaxes in the NCM it is unclear why Wymer did not regard this provenance as being the Botany Bay pit.

Thetford Museum:
The Thetford Museum also hold a small collection of 4 handaxes, probably found in the 1920s (THEHM : 1977.160). One is described as having brickearth adhering and is therefore potentially a find from either the Botany Bay site or another brick pit in the vicinity. These finds are discussed under NHER 5641.

Passmore Edwards Museum:
The Passmore Edwards Museum collection includes an unregistered flint or stone tool marked "Weeting/Brandon: taken out of chalky boulder clay". This object is presumably Palaeolithic and the provenance information makes it reasonably likely that it came from the Botany Bay site or a nearby clay pit (being very similar to that given for the objects described above).
Information from (S15).
The Passmore Edwards Museum was in Stratford and held the extensive collections of the Essex Field Club. It closed in 1994 and its collections were put into storage by Essex County Council.
This find was previously recorded under NHER 21675.

The various finds from this site are also listed in (S17) and (S10), although little additional information is given.

P. Watkins (HES), 20 May 2013.


21 June 1979. Field Visit.
Old Botany Bay pit located by J. J. Wymer. Now covered by nature trees: limes, beech and oak. An eroding section, c. 1m wide may be Sieveking (British Museum) exploration cutting (located at approximately TL 8057 8912). The top 2m was still exposed and showed a very sandy near stoneless silt. Information from (S14), which also includes a sketch plan of the site drawn during this visit.
P. Watkins (HES), 20 May 2013


In 1865 a "sand mound" and a possible Neolithic flint mine were excavated somewhere in the Broomhill area. Although on (S15) this information was recorded under the record for the Botany Bay discoveries there appears to be no evidence that this work took place at this site.
These features are now recorded under NHER 58827.
P. Watkins (HES), 20 May 2013

Monument Types

  • FINDSPOT (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 1000000 BC to 40001 BC)

Associated Finds

  • CLEAVER (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • FLAKE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • FLAKE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • FLAKE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE? (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • LITHIC IMPLEMENT (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC? to 40001 BC?)
  • SIDE SCRAPER (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

---Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TL 88 NW 42.
<S1>Article in Serial: Skertchly, S. B. J. 1879. On the manufacture of gun-flints, the method of excavating for flint, the age of Palaeolithic Man and the connexion between Neolithic art and the gun-flint trade. Memoirs of the British Geological Survey of England and Wales.
<S2>Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Palaeolithic.
<S3>Article in Serial: Hughes, T. McKenny. 1878. The question of the antiquity of Man. On the evidence afforded by the gravels and brick-earth. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. Vol VII pp 162-165.
<S4>Publication: Evans, J. 1897. The Ancient Stone Implements, Weapons and Ornaments of Great Britain. 2nd Edition. p 568.
<S5>Article in Serial: Clarke, W. G. 1907. The Distribution of Flint and Bronze Implements in Norfolk. Transactions of the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists' Society. Vol VIII Pt III (for 1906-1907) pp 393-409. p 396.
<S6>Publication: Clarke, W. G. 1925. In Breckland Wilds. First Edition.
<S7>Monograph: Whitaker, W., Skertchly, S. B. J. and Jukes-Brown, A. J. 1893. The Geology of south-western Norfolk and northern Cambridgeshire. Memoirs of the British Geological Survey of England and Wales.
<S8>Publication: Wymer, J. J. 1985. Palaeolithic Sites of East Anglia. pp 104-106.
<S9>Article in Serial: Fisher, O. 1880. On the implement-bearing loams in Suffolk. Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. Vol III pp 285-289.
<S10>Website: TERPS online database. Site 22772.
<S11>Monograph: Roe, D. A. 1968. A Gazetteer of British Lower and Middle Palaeolithic Sites. CBA Research Report. No 8. p 241.
<S12>Record Card: Wymer, J. J. Wymer Index Card - Palaeolithic. Weeting (Grimes Graves; Broom Hill Cottage; Botany Bay).
<S13>Article in Serial: Marr, J. E. 1926. The Pleistocene deposits of Lower Part of the Great Ouse Basin. With appendix by A. S. Kennard and B. B. Woodward on the non-marine mollusca. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society. Vol 82 pp 101-143.
<S14>Unpublished Document: Wymer, J. J. Journal. No 7. p 29.
<S15>Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card. NHERs 5643 and 21675.
<S16>Publication: Smith, R. A. 1931. The Sturge Collection: an illustrated selection of flints from Britain bequeathed in 1919 by William Allen Sturge. pp 42, 44-45.
<S17>Unpublished Contractor Report: 1996. The English Rivers Palaeolithic Project. Regions 9 (Great Ouse) and 12 (Yorkshire and the Lincolnshire Wolds). Wessex Archaeology. LLO-3, No.10.

Related records - none

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