The Barking Mammoth
Mr. B.J. Graffy of 2 Harrow Cottages, Barking, applied to Barking Urban District Council in the autumn of 1906 for planning permission (No. 1,027) to build five cottages in Sparsholt Road. His application was approved at a Council Meeting on 27th November 1906.
Sparsholt Road, Barking
Preliminary ground works apparently started on the site before permission was granted, because on 3rd November 1906 a large bone, about two feet long, was unearthed. The Essex Museum of Natural History (Passmore Edwards Museum) in Romford Road, Stratford, was informed by telephone on 5th November and arrangements were made by them at once to secure the specimen. Mr. Graffy generously donated the find to the museum and the next day they brought the bone, which was very fragile and in fragments, to the museum for conservation. The following entry was made in the museum’s accessions register (Vol. 2 p.140 entry 11315):
Elephas sp. Probably E. primigenius.
Location: Kennedy Estate Barking Level.
Date of Capture: 3 rd November 1906.
Donor: B.J. Graffy – 2 Harrow Cottages, Barking
Donated: 6 th November 1906
Part of Pelvis in shingle below brickearth 4 feet down. Very friable.
The actual find spot was described as a pit on the Barking Level, about 300 yards [actually nearer 500 yards] south west of Eastbury House. The bone was identified as the greater part of the right innominate of the pelvis of a species of Elephas. The bone was lying in an excavation at about 45 inches from the surface (see photograph – note foot rule measure).
The geological section was roughly as follows:
Surface soil 15 inches
Somewhat clays soil, like brickearth 15-
Very sandy shingle, "sharp" 14 inches
As the pelvis was lying in a porous gravel, percolating water had dissolved out much of the mineral content of the bone making it very fragile and saturated with moisture. The bone fragments were treated with glue. The museum conservator, Mr. Whitehead, embedded the restored pelvis into a slab of plaster.
Mr. Edwin Tulley Newton (1840-
This bone is still safely stored in the collection of the Essex Field Club. The bone came from the Floodplain Terrace, formed by the Mucking Gravel. This used to be known as the Taplow Terrace. Similar deposits are known from Ilford. The fossil bone is probably about 210,000 years old.
The find spot is commemorated by a small artificial stone plaque with the words "MAMMOTH COTTAGES" which may be seen on the end of terrace cottage at 20, Sparsholt Road, Barking.
In the original publication, the wrong scale was put on the photograph caption. This implied the pelvis was only about 2 inches long instead of the actual 2 feet or so. A correction appeared on the journal cover.
Cottage at 20 Sparsholt Road, Barking
Site of Mammoth Bone Find in 1906
I wish to express my appreciation to Mr. Jones who is the current owner of the cottage. His father moved into the house in 1937. Mr. Jones, who has sympathetically restored the plaque, very kindly allowed me to photograph his house. Incidentally the house, which Mr. Jones has been carefully restoring for several years, was sadly struck by lightening in a recent storm. A chimney pot and several slates were dislodged and replaced only a few days before the house and plaque were photographed for this article on 22nd July 2009.
Cole, W. 1907. Report of 251st Ordinary Meeting. Saturday 24th November 1906. Pelvis of Mammoth. Essex Naturalist Vol. 14(8) p. 272.
Cole, W. 1907. Museum Notes, No. V. IX.-
George, W.H. 2007. Some Essex Elephants. Essex Field Club Newsletter No. 52. January 2007 pp. 8-
Lucy, G. 2007. London Borough of Barking: Mammoth Cottages, TQ4521383667. Article from Geological Gazetteer on Essex Field Club website.
Sumbler, M.G. 1996. British Regional Geology. London and the Thames Valley. 4th Edition. ISBN 0 11 884522 5. 173 pages.