Brown Clee

Brown Clee is one of the two Clee Hills (the other being Titterstone Clee).  There are two summits, Clee Burf and Abdon Burf (the highest point in Shropshire at 546 metres above sea level).

These hills are therefore very prominent in the landscape and are made more so by the radio masts that are on both summits.

Brown Clee is one of the best exposures of a type of rock called “Old Red Sandstone”. This purple/red rock comes from a time when Shropshire was on the border of a giant continent, criss-crossed by rivers. There were few land plants to bind the soil together, so the land was being eroded very quickly, and thick layers of sediment were deposited very quickly.

The area was later submerged completely by a clear warm, tropical sea resulting in the deposition of limestones. The sea later rose slightly and because this area was now on the edge of the land the environment fluctuated between dry land that was being eroded and wet deltas where forests of tree ferns grew and died to form coal. This happened in the Carboniferous Period and before earth movements caused the whole area to rise up into a landscape that would be familiar today.

Brown Clee was the site of the highest coalfield in Britain.  But coal is not the only rock to have been taken from this area. Limestone and the igneous dolerite (locally known as Dhustone) have both been quarried here; all these activities have resulted in a wealth of industrial archaeology on the hills.

Brown Clee


The hills rise gently from the surrounding landscape because although they are predominantly made of soft sandstones and limestone they have been protected by a cap of much harder basalt. There is a small gap in the basalt cap which has allowed the elements to erode this area much faster giving rise to the ‘twin peaks’ of Abdon Burf and Clee Burf.


Brown Clee – FOSSILS

Early fish are one of the most notable fossil types to be found in this area.  They can be found in both the sandstone and limestone that form the slopes of Brown Clee.  Whilst it is very unlikley that whole fish will be found it is quite possible to find the individual scales or plates which covered the fish.



Brown Clee – INDUSTRY

Several rock types have been quarried on Brown Clee. These include the Dhustone quarried from about 1906 until about 1936. There are still several signs of this activity including parts of a crushing plant (left).

Limestone was also quarried and small excavations can be found in and around the hill fort at Nordy Bank.

The coal measures have been worked for a long time with some of the earliest excavations taking the form of bell pits which are seen today throughout this area as slight depressions on the slopes. 

Crushing plant

This picture of a model of a bell-pit shows how they were worked. Men in the pit dug away at the coal as much as they could before the pit collapsed. They would then start another, and so on until the whole area was dotted with these pits. It is the depressions caused by the collapsed pits that we see today

Bell pit

As well as coal they also extracted tar from the hillside. This came from the same sort of level as the coal but was sticky rather than being a solid.

This picture shows the top of a tar pit on Brown Clee.

Tar pit