We have no mines of lead; nor can I well suspect where
we should find any: but not far off in Glocestershire,
at Sodbury, there is. Capt. Ralph Greatorex,
the mathematical instrument maker, sayes that it is
good lead, and that it was a Roman lead-worke.
Tis some satisfaction to know where a minerall is not. Iron or coale is not to be look’t for in a chalky country. As yet we have not discovered any coale in this county; but are supplied with it from Glocestershire adjoyning, where the forest of Kingswood (near Bristowe) aboundeth most with coale of any place in the west of England: all that tract under ground full of this fossill. It is very observable that here are the most holly trees of any place in the west. It seemes to me that the holly tree delights in the effluvium of this fossil, which may serve as a guide to find it. I was curious to be satisfied whether holly trees were also common about the collieries at Newcastle, and Dr.. .. . , Deane of Durham, affirmes they are. These indications induce me to thinke it probable that coale may be found in Dracot Parke. The Earledomes, near Downton, (woods so called belonging to the Earledome of Pembroke,) for the same reason, not unlike ground for coale.
They have tryed for coale at Alderbery Common, but was baffled in it. (I have heard it credibly reported that coale has been found in Urchfont parish, about fifty or sixty yeares since; but upon account of the scarcity of workmen, depth of the coale, and the then plenty of firing out of ye great wood called Crookwood, it did not quit the cost, and so the mines were stop’d up. There hath been great talk several times of searching after coale here again. Crookwood, once full of sturdy oakes, is now destroyed, and all sort of fuel very dear in all the circumjacent country. It lies very commodious, being situate about the middle of the whole county; three miles from the populous town of the Devises, two miles from Lavington, &c.-Bishop tanner.)
[Several abortive attempts have been made at different periods to find coal on Malmesbury Common.-J. B.]
I will begin with freestone (lapis arenarius), as the best kind of stone that this country doth afford.
The quarre at Haselbury [near Box] was most eminent
for freestone in the western parts, before the discovery
of the Portland quarrie, which was but about anno
1600. The church of Portland, which stands by
the sea side upon the quarrie, (which lies not very
deep, sc. ten foot), is of Cane stone, from Normandie.
Malmesbury Abbey and the other Wiltshire religious
houses are of Haselbury stone. The old tradition
is that St. Adelm, Abbot of Malmesbury, riding over
the ground at Haselbury, did throw down his glove,
and bad them dig there, and they should find great
treasure, meaning the quarre.