Sign 19 - Borrow Pit Bay

Borrow Pit Bay

The development of Little Holland necessitated the need for building materials and as far as sand was concerned, in the making of mortar and concrete, there appeared a ready supply on the beaches; the only requirement was to ensure any salt was removed to prevent sweating and weakness in the mix.  However, it was soon realised that the removal of beach material was actually helping to speed-up the erosion of the cliffs as, at the time, there were no real sea defences, so a stop was put to this activity.  Previously some shingle had been taken off the beach to try and stabilise the unmade roads of Holland that resembled dirt tracks; pitted and rutted in the summer months but a real quagmire after heavy downpours.  Delivery lorries, primarily carrying building materials, would churn-up these roads still further, and when they too started to sink up to their axles and needed assistance to be freed, the suppliers began to refuse to deliver other than on made roads.

Builders went in search of other sources of sand and found the answer under their feet.  The land that made-up Little Holland consisted of layers of sand and clay, which also explained why cliff collapses weren’t all as a result of wave erosion.  Heavy rain would soak through any topsoil and sand, and once it hit a layer of clay would force its way along a downward path until it could find an opening; normally the cliff face.  This resulted in the sand becoming unstable and down would slide a piece of land; any clay deposited on the beach would be dissolved, over a period of time, and the remaining sand would actually act as a form of crude sea defence, helping to depower the sea before it hit the cliffs. 

Holland Haven was chosen as a site to excavate the sand from the ground as it sat in such close proximity to the village layout and, as part of the works, a small railway line with trucks was installed to help transport the sand.  Horses were used to pull these trucks and some very basic lorries, that were literally just open wagons with a small cab topped with a piece of canvas mounted on a chassis with solid wheels.  The men working on site, in their dungarees and brimmed hats, depicted a scene that could have come straight from the Australian outback rather than a small East Coast village.  The area became known as Borrow Pit although there had never been any intention of returning the excavated material.

As development of Holland on Sea ended at the Queens Cliff Estate and sand excavation ceased, so the area was turned into public open space that ran up to Holland Brook, although the National River Authority built two semi-detached houses for their employees who, amongst other things, managed the sluice gates at the Haven.  The system for coastal protection has always been the local authority where the land concerned is above flood level, and in areas where it is below flood level it falls to the relevant government agency – for many years the River Authority but now the Environment Agency.  The area just to the east of the cottages would always be a base for materials to help protect the sea wall between the Haven and the Walings at Frinton   In close proximity a large sewerage plant was built to serve both Holland on Sea and East Clacton, and this was extensively developed in 1999 to become far more of a treatment station, ensuring what is pumped out to sea has been purified.  In 1991 Tendring District Council acquired the grazing land between Holland Brook and the western edge of Frinton Golf Course and, following appropriate environmental works, opened the area as Holland Haven Country Park.

The Port of London Authority, recognising the Haven was at the eastern edge of the Thames Estuary, in the 1960’s placed a modest mast up at the Haven with equipment to help monitor ships navigating the mouth of the river, but in 1992 this was replaced with a very tall structure, complete with radar and several aerials, as a further aid in the monitoring of traffic in and out of the Thames.  Immediately beneath this is the Clubhouse of the Gunfleet Boating Club, the members building their premises in 1977, having previously used the thatched pavilion on the corner of York Road and Kings Parade.

Last updated on: 03/09/2021 - 13:05