1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Clay-with-Flints

CLAY-WITH-FLINTS, in geology, the name given by W. Whitaker in 1861 to a peculiar deposit of stiff red, brown or yellow clay containing unworn whole flints as well as angular shattered fragments, also with a variable admixture of rounded flint, quartz, quartzite and other pebbles. It occurs “in sheets or patches of various sizes over a large area in the south of England, from Hertfordshire on the north to Sussex on the south, and from Kent on the east to Devon on the west. It almost always lies on the surface of the Upper Chalk, but in Dorset it passes on to the Middle and Lower Chalk, and in Devon it is found on the Chert-Beds of the Selbornian group” (A. J. Jukes-Browne, “The Clay-with-Flints, its Origin and Distribution,” Q.J.G.S., vol. lxii., 1906, p. 132). Many geologists have supposed, and some still hold, that the Clay-with-Flints is the residue left by the slow solution and disintegration of the Chalk by the processes of weathering; on the other hand, it has long been known that the deposit very frequently contains materials foreign to the Chalk, derived either from the Tertiary rocks or from overlying drift. In the paper quoted above, Jukes-Browne ably summarizes the evidence against the view that the deposit is mainly a Chalk residue, and brings forward a good deal of evidence to show that many patches of the Clay-with-Flints lie upon the same plane and may be directly associated with Reading Beds. He concludes “that the material of the Clay-with-Flints has been chiefly and almost entirely derived from Eocene clay, with addition of some flints from the Chalk; that its presence is an indication of the previous existence of Lower Eocene Beds on the same site and nearly at the same relative level, and, consequently, that comparatively little Chalk has been removed from beneath it. Finally, I think that the tracts of Clay-with-Flints have been much more extensive than they are now” (loc. cit. p. 159).

It is noteworthy that the Clay-with-Flints is developed over an area which is just beyond the limits of the ice sheets of the Glacial epoch, and the peculiar conditions of late Pliocene and Pleistocene times; involving heavy rains, snow and frost, may have had much to do with the mingling of the Tertiary and Chalky material. Besides the occurrence in surface patches, Clay-with-Flints is very commonly to be observed descending in “pipes” often to a considerable depth into the Chalk; here, if anywhere, the residual chalk portion of the deposit should be found, and it is surmised that a thin layer of very dark clay with darkly stained flints, which appears in contact with the sides and bottom of the pipe, may represent all there is of insoluble residue.

A somewhat similar deposit, a “conglomérat de silex” or “argue à silex,” occurs at the base of the Eocene on the southern and western borders of the Paris basin, in the neighbourhood of Chartres, Thimerais and Sancerrois.  (J. A. H.)