Headington history: The quarries

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Rock Edge (Crossroads or Windmill Quarry)

Rock EdgeThe clay layer has eroded back, so the limestone layer above juts out

Rock Edge a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSI), and is situated at the south-east end of Windmill Road (map).

It was formerly known as the Crossroads Pit, as it stood at the important junction where Old Road (the main route to London until the late eighteenth century) crossed the road leading between the villages of Cowley and Old Headington. It was also sometimes called the Windmill Quarry, as it was just to the south of Headington's main windmill. This is probably the quarry on Magdalen land near the windmill (see first map below) which Wolsey used for his college (now Christ Church) in the 1520s.

The two maps below show how the land around the quarry was built up between 1876 and 1939.

     Rock Edge
Rock Edge     



The “New Headington and Headington Stone Quarry” belonging to Messrs. George and John Snow that was advertised for sale by auction in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 21 June 1856 is likely to be this pit, as no other quarries were in the New Headington area.

Geology of Rock Edge

The cliff of the pit at Rock Edge has exposures of Upper Jurassic limestone, laid down about 160 million years ago. This pit is thought to have been a former boundary between a coral reef and the surrounding shallow sea, and there are many fragments of coral and fossils including sea urchins.

South end of the exposure (closer Old Road): The limestone here is Coral Rag, made up of coarse fragments that broke off the reef: it is very rubbly and contains many coral and shell fossils.

North end of the exposure (closest to York Road): The limestone here is Wheatley limestone, made up of material that washed off the reef, and the fossils are smaller and more fragmented.

Two pictures of the Rock Edge pit taken by the British Geological Survey in 1915:
P252731 and P252732

Coral head

Right A fine coral head at Rock Edge. Coral heads consist of accumulations of individual animals called polyps, arranged in diverse shapes. The coral reef at Headington would have been a patch reef, which is comparatively small reef outcrop

Below: Isastraea coral at Rock Edge


Other corals to be found at Rock Edge include Thamnastria, Thecosmilia, and pecten shells (scallops).

Friends of Lye Valley and the conservation of Rock Edge

The Friends of Lye Valley work with Oxford City Council in the management of Rock Edge, and run joint conservation work parties and family fossil events in conjunction with the Oxfordshire Geology Trust:

Friends of Lye Valley at work

Rock Edge page on Friends of Lye Valley website

Back to list of the quarries of Headington

© Stephanie Jenkins

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