Whitman’s Hill Geodiversity Discovery Site

This is a private site owned by the Madresfield Estate which is managed by Herefordshire and Worcestershire Earth Heritage Trust for educational purposes.

Whitman’s Hill Geodiversity Discovery Site has no public access except by prior arrangement with Herefordshire and Worcestershire Earth Heritage Trust.

To arrange a guided visit to the site or to report any unauthorised activity, please contact:

Herefordshire and Worcestershire Earth Heritage Trust, Geological records Centre, University of Worcester, Henwick Grove, Worcester. WR2 6AJ

01905 855184


Conservation Status: Local Geological Site

Whitman’s Hill Quarry is located within a complex of faulted Silurian rocks just north of the Malvern Hills.

There are two rock formations present in the quarry: 12m of the Coalbrookdale Formation which forms the basal units, and 25m of the Much Wenlock Limestone Formation which sits above. The boundary between the two units represents a rapid decrease in sea levels in the area.

The Coalbrookdale is characterised by olive grey to dark blue-grey silty mudstones with some calcareous siltstones and contain calcareous nodules and impersistent nodular calcareous beds. These beds are highly fossiliferous and contain a wide range of marine fauna, including brachiopods, trilobites, corals, calcareous algae, bivalves, orthocone nautiloids, crinoids and bryozoa. In the eastern rock face at the bottom of the quarry are examples of spheroidal (‘onion skin’) weathering in the siltstones of the Coalbrookdale Formation. This weathering process has a produced ball-like structures ranging in size from 100mm to just over 2m.

The overlying Much Wenlock Formation is characterised by pale grey nodular to thinly bedded limestones. Some of the more nodular beds are known locally as the ‘Storridge Porridge’. The Much Wenlock Formation also contains small reef structures known as bioherms and one of these structures is found in the centre of the northern rock face

Within these two formations nine bentonite layers can be identified. These 2-3cm layers of fine clay are volcanic ash layers, formed when a volcano erupts and the ash is deposited on the surface of the sea. The ash sinks through the water column, killing much of the sea life. These soft bentonite layers are easily identified within the rock face as they have weathered preferentially in comparison with the harder limestones. Radiometric dating of uranium and lead in the bentonites yielded ages of around 425 million years for the deposition of these ash layers and demonstrates that the Coalbrookdale and Much Wenlock Formations were deposited around this time.

The nodular Much Wenlock Limestone (425 million years) was primarily quarried for aggregates and for use in Lime Kilns. Eventually the underlying silty Coalbrookdale Formation (427 million years) was reached and quarry operations ceased as the Coalbrookdale Formation is not a good aggregate material.

This site is part of the Community Earth Heritage Champions Project – Earth Heritage Trust and the Protecting Geosites – Earth Heritage Trust


Fault: A line of weakness within the Earth’s crust along which movement and displacement occurs

Exposed Units 

Much Wenlock Limestone Formation, Coalbrookdale Formation

Whitman’s Hill Geodiversity Discovery Venture – The History of the Project

Whitman’s Hill Quarry, near Malvern, was originally the subject of a Geodiversity Discovery Venture, funded by English Nature (now Natural England) through DEFRA’s Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund Grant Scheme. Until 1988, the quarry was the site of limestone extraction, for use as local aggregate.

In 1999, the site was designated a RIGS – a Regionally Important Geological Site – for its educational value, interesting rock formations and abundance of fossils. The limestones and mudstones at Whitman’s Hill are Silurian (Wenlock) in age – about 425 million years old – and were formed at a time when this area was about 15 degrees south of the equator and the environment was more like the Seychelles or the Bahamas. The future of this fascinating fossilised sub-tropical reef system was threatened by landfill and off road vehicle activities.

In 2005, a ten year agreement was made with Herefordshire and Worcestershire Earth Heritage Trust and, following the completion of extensive safety and face clearance works, the site became used as an educational and research resource. The site also sits within the Abberley and Malvern Hills European Geopark.

A collecting area was created at the quarry, as well as leaflets for visitors, outlining the geology and wildlife of the site and its quarrying history.

A comprehensive study of the rocks and fossils at Whitman’s Hill was undertaken and volunteers from the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club recorded the plants and animals of the quarry and the surrounding woodland. Cradley Heritage Group researched the history of the quarry and recorded memories of quarrying at Whitman’s Hill from local community members.


Much Wenlock Limestone Formation overlying the Coalbrookdale Formation (Facing SE).

Bioherm (reef mass) in Much Wenlock Limestone Formation on east face of the quarry.

South East corner of the quarry. From top of picture: Wenlock Limestone Formation with bentonite layer, then bentonite layer, then the base of the Much Wenlock Limestone Formation (with bentonite layers) above Coalbrookdale.

Ball of spheroidal weathering (onion skin) in Coalbrookdale Formation unit.

Quarrying at Whitman’s Hill during Summer 1977










Barclay, W.J., Ambrose, K., Chadwick, R.A., and Pharao, T.C., (1997), Geology of the country around Worcester, Memoirs of the British Gelogical Society; HMSO, London

Brenchley, P.J. and Rawson, P.F., 2006,The Geology of England and Wales, The Geological Society, The Geological Society Publishing House, Bath.

Fleischer, M. and Altschuler, Z.S., 1986, The lanthanides and yttrium in minerals of the apatite group – an analysis of the available data. Neues Jahrbuch Mineralogische Monatschefte, vol. 10, pp. 467-480.

Jackson, J., 1997,Glossary of Geology, Fourth Edition. American Geological Institute.

Penn, J.S.W., 1969, ‘The Silurian rocks to the west of the Malvern Hills from Clencher’s Mill to Knightsford Bridge’. Thesis, PhD, University of London, pp. 145.

Penn, J.S.W., 1971, ‘Bioherms in the Wenlock Limestoneof the Malvern area (Herefordshire, England)’. Mémoires du Bureau de Recherche Géologique et Minières, vol. 73, pp. 129-137.

Reeve, F.A.E., 1953, ‘The structure of the Silurian rocks of the Malvern and Abberley Hills, Worcestershire’. Thesis, PhD, University of Birmingham, pp. 286.

Rosenbaum, M., 2009,Balls in the Bank, Earth Matters, vo. 6, pp10.

White, D.E., 1991, ‘Additional palaeontological and biostratigraphical contributions to the 1:50000 sheet 199 (Worcester) memoir’. Report of the British Geological Survey, WH/91/147R, pp. 4.

Woodcock, N. and Strachan, R., 2000,Geological History of Britain and Ireland. Blackwell Scientific Publications.


For further information on the Geopark Way, please click on the links below

Long Distance Walking Trail

The trail offers varied walking alongside rivers, through forests, along ridges and across valley floors; all with majestic views to match.

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The Geopark Way Trail Guide

Each trail section within the guide is headed by a map detailing the route and sites of interest..

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Geopark Way Circular Trails

The three trail routes were devised to incorporate a section of the Geopark Way long distance walking trail, with each trail visiting former aggregate site/s that are located off the main trail.

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Exploring Aggregates along the Geopark Way

This booklet takes a look at the aggregates industry as a whole, before exploring the aggregates industry within the Abberley and Malvern Hills Geopark

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