SOUTHALL: A Brief History

Palaeontology : the mammoth


The earliest evidence of any inhabitants of Southall is to be found in the bones of a mammoth discovered in 1887. A full description of the find is given in a paper2 read before the Geologists’ Association by J. A. Brown. When digging a deep trench for the main drainage scheme undertaken in 1887 workmen found some bones about 13 feet below the surface of Tentlow Lane (then called Norwood Lane). There were shaped flint implements near the remains, and from this it can be deduced that palaeolithic hunters either killed the mammoth or had found it recently dead and cut it up where it had fallen. These huge beasts were fairly common during the Pleistocene period, and this association with man would put this particular example towards the end of that era – perhaps 25,000 to 50,000 years ago. It is impossible to be more precise. As the weather grew warmer mammoths retreated further north and ultimately became extinct.

In his paper Brown mentions an earlier find of mammoth bones and tusks when Southall Gas Works were first constructed “a few years since” – this could have been 1868 or 1881.

In June 1942 there was a third find: portions of a tooth and bone were discovered in gravel about 20 feet below Kingsley Avenue. These fragments are now in the care of the Central Library. The number and distribution of these finds tends to support Brown’s hypothesis that Southall was on the banks of the pre-historic Thames and early man found it a convenient hunting ground for the mammoth. Marshy ground would favour the hunters but their heavier quarry would be hampered.

An exceptionally deep bore-hole in the grounds of Monsted’s factory in 1911 gave Ernest Proctor , a geologist, an opportunity to examine fossils thus disclosed. His report3 was published by the Geological Society in 1913. Naturally these fossils date from a period vastly more remote than that of the mammoths.