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LETTER III. To T. PENNANT, Esq.
The fossil-shells of this district, and sorts of stone, such as have fallen within my observation, must not be passed over in silence. And first I must mention, as a great curiosity, a specimen that was plowed up in the chalky fields, near the side of the Down, and given to me for the singularity of its appearance, which, to an incurious eye, seems like a petrified fish of about four inches long, the cardo passing for a head and mouth. It is in reality a
bivalve of the Linnæan genus of mytilus, and the species of crista galli; called by Lister, restellum ; by Rumphius, ostream plicatum minus; by D'Argenville, auris porci, s. crista galli ; and by those who make collections cock’s comb. Though I applied to several such in London, I never could meet with an entire specimen; nor could I ever find in books any engraving from a perfect one. In the superb museum at Leicester-house, permission was given me to examine for this article; and though I was disappointed as to the fossil, I was highly gratified with the sight of several of the shells themselves in high preservation. This bivalve is only known to inhabit the Indian Ocean, where it fixes itself to a zoophyte, known by the name gorgonia. The curious foldings of the sutures the one into the other, the alternate flutings or grooves, and the curved form of my specimen, being much easier expressed by the pencil than by words, I have caused it to be drawn and engraved.*
• Ostrea eurinata, or keeled oyster of Lamark. The author is however mistaken in the supposition that this identical species is yet in being, it having long since been satisfactorily shown that no species of organism, the remains of which are imbedded in the old limestone formations, exists at the present time; although many recent species (or those which are now living) are very closely allied to some-even of the most ancient-of those which are exclusively fossil. No species whatever is common to even the secondary and tertiary formations (as they are termed),
Cornua ammonis are very common about this village. As we were cutting an inclining path up the Hanger, the labourers found them frequently on that steep, just under the soil, in the chalk, and of a considerable size. In the lane above Well-bead, in the way to Emshot, they abound in the bank, in a darkish sort of inarl, and are usually very small and soft : but in Clay's Pond, a little further on, at the end of the pit, where the soil is dug out for manure, I have occasionally observed them of large dimensions, perhaps fourteen or sixteen inches in diameter. But as these did not consist of firm stone, but were formed of a kind of terra lapidosa, or hardened clay, as soon as they were exposed to the rains and frost they mouldered away. These seemed as if they were a very recent production. In the chalk-pit, at the northwest end of the Hanger, large nuutili are sometimes observed.
In the very thickest strata of our freestone, and at considerable depths, well-diggers often find large scallops or pectines, having both shells deeply striated, and ridged and furrowed alternately. They are highly impregnated with, if not wholly composed of, the stone of the quarry.
LETTER IV. To T. PENNANT, Esq. As in a former letter the freestone of this place has been only mentioned incidentally, I shall here become more particular.
This stone is in great request for hearth-stones, and the beds of ovens: and in lining of lime-kilns it turns to good account ; for the workmen use sandy loam instead of mortar; the sand of which fluxes,* and runs by the intense heat, and so cases over the whole face of the kiln with a strong vitrified coat like glass, that it is well preserved from injuries of weather, and endures thirty or forty years. When chiseled smooth, it makes elegant fronts for houses, equal in colour and grain to the Bath stone; and superior in one respect, that, when seasoned, it does not scale. Decent chimney-pieces are worked from it of much closer and finer grain than Portland ; and rooms are floored with it, but it proves rather too soft for this purpose. It is a freestone, cutting in all directions, yet has something of a grain parallel so that it can hardly be expected that any sort of animal, the exuviæ of which occur in the (secondary) chalk, can be still found in existence at the present time.-ED.
• There may probably be also in the chalk itself that is burnt for lime a proportion of sand, for few chalks are so pure as to have none.
with the horizon, and therefore should not be surbedded, but laid in the same position that it grows in the quarry.* On the ground abroad this fire-stone will not succeed for pavements, because, probably, some degree of saltness prevailing within it, the rain tears the slabs to pieces.f Though this stone is too hard to be acted on by vinegar; yet both the white part, and even the blue rag, ferment strongly in mineral acids. Though the white stone will not bear wet, yet in every quarry at intervals there are thin strata of blue rag, which resist rain and frost; and are excellent for pitching of stables, paths, and courts, and for building of dry walls against banks (a valuable species of fencing, much in use in this village), and for mending of roads. This rag is rugged and stubborn, and will not hew to a smooth face; but is very durable: yet, as these strata are shallow and lie deep, large quantities cannot be procured but at considerable expense. Among the blue rags turn up some blocks tinged with a stain of yellow or rust-colour, which seem to be nearly as lasting as the blue; and every now and then balls of a friable substance, like rust of iron, called rust-balls.
In Wolmer forest I see but one sort of stone, called by the workmen sand, or forest-stone. This is generally of the colour of rusty iron, and might probably be worked as iron ore, is very hard and heavy, and of a firm compact texture, and composed of a small roundish crystalline grit, cemented together by a brown,
easily strike fire with steel. Being often found in broad flat pieces, it makes good pavement for paths about houses, never becoming slippery in frost nor rain, is excellent for dry walls, and is sometimes used in buildings. In many parts of that waste it lies scattered on the surface of the ground, but is dug on Weaver's-down, a vast hill on the eastern verge of that forest, where the pits are shallow, and the stratum thin. This stone is imperishable.
From a notion of rendering their work the more elegant, and giving it a finish, masons chip this stone into small fragments about the size of the head of a large nail, and then stick the pieces into the wet inortar along the joints of their freestone
* To surbed stone is to set it edgewise, contrary to the posture it had in the quarry, says Dr. Plot, Oxfordsh. p. 77. But surbedding does not succeed in our dry walls ; neither do we use it so in ovens, though he says it is best for Teynton stone.
+ “ Firestone is full of salts, and has no sulphur: must be close grained, and have no interstices. Nothing supports fire like salts. saltstone perishes Exposed to wet and frost." Plot's Staff. p. 152.
walls. This embellishment carries an odd appearance, and has occasioned strangers sometimes to ask us pleasantly, “Whether we fastened our walls together with tenpenny nails.
LETTER V. TOT. PENNANT, Esq.
Among the singularities of this place, the two rocky hollow lanes, the one to Alton, and the other to the forest, deserve our attention. These roads, running through the malm lands, are, by the traffick of ages, and the fretting of water, worn down through the first stratum of our freestone, and partly through the second, so that they look more like water-courses than roads, and are bedded with naked rag for furlongs together. In many places they are reduced sixteen or eighteen feet beneath the level of the fields, and after floods, and in frosts, exhibit very grotesque and wild appearances, from the tangled roots that are twisted among the strata, and from the torrents rushing down their broken sides, and especially when those cascades are frozen into icicles hanging in all the fanciful shapes of frost-work. These rugged gloomy scenes affright the ladies when they peep down into them from the paths above, and make timid horsemen shudder while they ride along them; but delight the naturalist with their various botany, and particularly with their curious filices with which they abound.
The manor of Selborne, were it strictly looked after, with all its kindly aspects, and all its sloping coverts, would swarm with game. Even now hares, partridges, and pheasants abound; and in old days woodcocks were as plentiful. There are few quails,
Quail. because they more affect open fields than enclosures; after har. vest some few land-rails are seen.*
The meadow-crake, or “land-rail” (crex pratensis), is much rarer in the south of England then it. the northern and middle districts of our island A very few pass the winter in the
The parish of Selborne, by taking in so much of the forest, is a vast district. Those who tread the bounds are employed part of three days in the business, and are of opinion that the outline, in all its curves and indentings, does not comprise less than thirty miles.
The village stands in a sheltered spot, secured by the Hanger from the strong westerly winds. The air is soft, but rather moist from the effluvia of so many trees; yet perfectly healthy and free from agues.
The quantity of rain that falls on it is very considerable, as may be supposed in so woody and mountainous a district. As my experience in measuring the water is but of short date, I am not qualified to give the mean quantity.* I only know that
From May 1, 1779, to the end of the year there fell 28 37! From Jan. 1, 1780, to Jan. 1, 1781
32 From Jan. 1, 1781, to Jan. 1, 1782 From Jan. 1, 1782, to Jan. 1, 1783 From Jan. 1, 1783, to Jan. 1, 1784 From Jan. 1, 1784, to Jan. 1, 1785 From Jan. 1, 1785, to Jan. 1, 1786 - - - 31 55 From Jan. 1, 1786, to Jan. 1, 1787 - - - 39 57
The village of Selborne, and large hamlet of Oakhanger, with the single farms, and many scattered houses along the verge of the forest, contain upwards of six hundred and seventy inhabitants.t We abound with poor ; many of whom are sober and
south-eastern counties. I have known one to have been shot in Surrey, in January, and also an allied species, the speckled water-crake (crer-zapornia porzana), in the following month. A few quails (coturnir vulgaris), also, remain throughout the winter in this country, although by far the greater number migrate. This last-mentioned species is by no means upcommon in sumnier upon the Surrey hills.-- ED.
• A very intelligent gentleman assures me (and he speaks from upwards of forty years' experience) that the mean rain of any place cannot he ascertained till a person has measured it for a very long period. “If I had only measured the rain," says he, "for the first four years, from 1740 to 1743, I should have said the mean rain at Lyndon was sixteen inches and a half for the year; if from 1740 to 1750, eighteen inches and a half. The mean rain before 1763 was twenty inches and a quarter, from 1763 and since twenty-five inches and a half, from 1770 to 1780 twenty-six inches. If only 1773, 1774, and 1775, had been measured, Lyndon mean rain would have been called thirty-two inches." + A STATE OF THE PARISH OF SELBORNE, TAKEN OCTOBER 4, 1783.
The number of tenements or families 136. The number of inhabitants fu the street is 313 Total 676; nearly five inhabitants to each In the rest of the parish .
tenement. In the time of the Rev. Gilbert White, vicar, who died in 1727-8, the number of inhabitants was computed , about 500.