The Natural History of Wiltshire eBook

John Aubrey
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 207 pages of information about The Natural History of Wiltshire.

The soile of Malmesbury hundred, which is stone-brash and clay, and the earth vitriolish, produces excellent okes, which seem to delight in a vitriolate soile, and where iron oare is.  The clay and stones doe hinder the water from sinking down, whereby the surface of the earth becomes dropsicall, and beares mosse and herbs naturall to such moist ground.  In the ploughed fields is plenty of yarrow; in the pasture grounds plenty of wood wax; and in many grounds plenty of centaury, wood sorrell, ladies’ bed-straw, &c., sowre herbes.

I never saw in England so much blew clay as in the northern part of this county, and it continues from the west part to Oxfordshire.  Under the planke-stones is often found blew marle, which is the best.
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In Vernknoll, a ground belonging to Fowles-wick, adjoyning to the lands of Easton-Pierse, neer the brooke and in it, I bored clay as blew as ultra-marine, and incomparably fine, without anything of sand, &c., which perhaps might be proper for Mr. Dwight for his making of porcilaine.  It is also at other places hereabout, but ’tis rare.

[It is not very clear that “blew clay,” however fine, could be “proper for the making of porcilane,” the chief characteristic of which is its transparent whiteness.  Apart from this however, Aubrey’s remark is curious; as it intimates that the manufacture of it was attempted in this country at an earlier period than is generally believed.  The famous porcelain works at Chelsea were not established till long afterwards; and according to Dr. Plott, whose “Natural History of Staffordshire” was published in 1686, the only kinds of pottery then made in this country were the coarse yellow, red, black, and mottled wares; and of those the chief sale was to “poor crate-men, who carried them on their backs all over the country”, I have not found any account of the Mr. Dwight mentioned by Aubrey, or of his attempts to improve the art of pottery.- J. B.]
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Clay abounds, particularly about Malmesbury, Kington St. Michael, Allington, Easton Piers (as also a hungry marle), Dracott-Cerne, Yatton-Keynell, Minty, and Bradon-forest.

At Minty, and at a place called Woburn, in the parish of Hankerton, is very good fullers’-earth.  The fullers’-earth at Minty-common, at the place called the Gogges, when I tooke it up, was as black as black polished marble; but, having carryed it in my pocket five or six dayes, it became gray.

At Hedington, at the foot of the hill, is a kind of white fullers’- earth which the cloth-workers doe use; and on the north side of the river at Broad Chalke, by a poole where are fine springs (where the hermitage is), is a kind of fullers’-earth which the weavers doe use for their chaines:  ’tis good Tripoly, or “lac lunæ”.  Lac lunæ is the mother of silver, and is a cosmetick.

In Boudon-parke, fifteen foot deep under the barren sand, is a great plenty of blew marle, with which George Johnson, Esq., councellor-at-law, hath much improved his estate there.  The soile of the parke was so exceedingly barren, that it did beare a gray mosse, like that of an old park pale, which skreeks as one walkes on it, and putts ones teeth on edge.  Furzes did peep a little above the ground, but were dwarfes and did not thrive.

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The Natural History of Wiltshire from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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