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XX. Account of a moving Hill.
MR. URBAN, GIVE me leave, by your means, to communicate to the public what seems highly to deserve their notice, and what you may depend on the truth of, having been myself an eye witness.
At a place called Toys Hill, about three miles from Westerham in Kent, about two acres and a half of ground (part ploughed and part turnips) has since Christmas last undergone a great and surprising alteration. The situation is on the side of a hill, inclining to the south, and the land has been continually moving in that direction, imperceptibly indeed at the lime, but now the effect is very apparent. The upper or northern side, now planted with turnips, is sunk two or three feet, and is full of clefts or chasms, some of them a foot deep, and many of them filled with water. Two or three are as large as ponds, being six or eigbt feet deep, and ten or twelve square. Part of a hedge, which divided the fields, is moved about three roods to the southward, so as to form an angle with the two ends which it was upon a line with before. Another hedge is broken asunder, and there is now a gap of eight feet where before it was contiguous. Between the fields is a large coppice, which is also full of cracks and
pits of water, and a large oak therein is apparently falling. The southern part, which has been ploughed this winter, and was then on a level with the rest of the field, now overhangs it like a precipice about the height of twelve feet, and is rendered quite useless for the purpose of sowing, as is all the rest for pasture or tillage. That land on each side which has not moved, is covered by the rest, which folds over it at the height of six or seven feet.
Numbers of people daily resort to see it, and where it will end nobody knows, as in two or three days time, especially after great rains or snows, fresh alterations are still perceived. The History of England makes mention of a similar case happening at Westerham in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
As the best verbal description must be inadequate, if this imperfect one should induce some of your ingenious correspondents to visit the place, and take a sketch of it in its present form (and I assure him the strangeness of the sight
will highly reward his trouble) it might further contribute
SIR, Though a physical solution of the appearance at Toy's Hill, as described by you in last Magazine, might come more plausibly from one that had had an opportunity of inspecting it, and that something perhaps might be gathered from the nature of the stratum in the part described; yet I shall venture to offer you a hint concerning the cause of the ambulation of this portion of solid earth, not only not inadequate to the fact, but also confirmed, as I think, by experience. I suppose then there must be an even and smooth layer of some kind, probably of clay, underneath this floating field, to the North at the depth of three feet, and to the South at the depth of twelve, with a small vein of water upon its surface, just enough to moisten it. Now as the last summer was remarkably wet, and the winter rather so than otherwise, and the declivity of the hill would give a propensity to slide, a very small matter, it is apprehended, in such circumstances, might serve to put the mass in motion; and when I consider, that an earthquake was felt in the South of England, on the 1st of November last, I incline to believe, that the concussion of this island, though so slight, might be sufficient to set this ground in motion. This is my conception of the matter, and I think it greatly supported by an incident at Pillingmoss, in Lancashire, and the reason commonly assigned for that; 'In February 1745, on the East side of Corlew Hill, a part of Pillingmoss floated down Danson's, or Wild Boars Dales, and drove before it a vast quantity of mud, loose turfs, and black water, and covered with that kind of matter near 50 acres of ground (almost 20 of which was improved ground) to a great thickness; and sliding on, it reached as far as Dr. Danson's house, and pressed it down.' This account I have from a pamphlet, published on the occasion, where it is observed there had happened two such slips of the same moss before, one that the author had seen about the year 1708 or 1709, and another which he had heard of from old people. The fluxion of the moss was very slow, on account of the thickness of the matter, though the said matter was in a liquid
state; but the matter floating at Toy's Hill, being more fixed, one has reason to expect it would be still slower, as we find it was, to wit, imperceptible.
There was a declivity in both cases, and in both much rain had fallen to facilitate the defluxion; for as to the cause of the motion at Pillingmoss, it is entirely attributed to the abundance of rain and snow that had fallen, and had softened it; upon which it was very natural for the liquified matter to descend and slide, upon the clay underneath, from a higher to a lower place; I see no difference in the two cases, only that here the sliding matter was liquid, whereas at Toy's Hill it is fixed; but this will make no alteration in any other respect, but in the beginning of the motion; the moss would slide in its own nature, as a fluid, but the field at Toy's Hill would require a first mover, and this, as was mentioned, I take te have been the earthquake.
Yours, &c. 1756, April
XXI. History of Northern Lights in England,
Armorum sonitum toto Germania cælo
Virg. Georg. i. 474. MR. URBAN, IT is a vulgar opinion, that the Aurora Borealis, or the northern lights, were never seen in England till the 6th of March, 1715. Indeed the lights that appeared then were very extraordinary, and happened at a very critical time, which occasioned their being much taken notice of, as also their being mentioned by our historians, * to which I may well add, that none so copious or remarkable had probably happened for many years before. It is not my present business to inquire into the cause of this phenomenon, which may be learned from other authors;t but for the rectifying this mistaken notion of their first appearance, which can - tend to nothing but superstition, as generally all philosophical
* Salıpon's Chronolog. Historian. Whiston's Memoirs, p. 608. &c.
+ Dr. Halley, in Phil. Trans. Dr. Gawin Knight, on Attraction and Repuka sion
errors do, I shall recite a few examples of their being observed in this nation long before the date abovementioned, even before the Norman Conquest, to which period I shall at this time confine myself.
The first example I meet with is A. D. 555, when as Matth. of Westminster relates it, quasi species lancearum in aëre visæ sunt a Septentrione usque ad Occidentem,' that is, certain appearances of lances were seen in the air from the north to the west.* Whereupon you will please to observe, that these coruscations were in the northern parts of the world, I presume, chiefly in the north-west, and that the people called the streamers lances, as they did in the year 1715.
The same author tells us, that in 567, 'Hastæ igneæ in aëre visæ sunt, portendentes irruptionem Longobardorum in Italiam,' that is, that fiery spears were seen in the air, portending the incursion of the Lombards into Italy. The notion of arms still prevails, the radiations being here called spears, and moreover they are supposed to be predictive of a grand future event, as on other occasions these lights are generally supposed to be; which calls to my mind that line in the first Georgic of Virgil, which I have chosen for the motto of this paper, where the poet, enumerating the several prodigies that preceded and betokened the death of Julius Cæsar, mentions a sound of arms in the sky,
Armorum sonitum toto Germania celo
which noise or clashing of arms was heard, you observe, nog in Italy, but in the more northern regions of Europe.
Matth. of Westm. remarks again on the year 743, Visi sunt in aëre ictus ignei, quales nunquam mortales illius ævi viderunt, Kal. Jan. that on the first of January, certain fiery streamers were seen in the air, such as the men then living had never beheld before:t and then he immediately subjoins, that the same year Wilfred, Archbishop of York, died, as if he intended it to be understood, that these lights then portended his death.
In the year 776, Matthew writes, “Visa sunt in cælo rus bra signa, post occasum solis, et horrenda,' that in the evening red signs, and horrible to behold, were seen in the
* Ibid. p. 143.
* Matth. Westm. p. 101.
keavens ;* and it is well known, that these lights are often so strong as to be of a deep red.
In the 10th year of the reign of Brightrick, King of Wessex, which corresponds with the year of our Lord 794, another appearance of this kind was seen, of which I shall here exhibit Mr. Speed's account: “In the daies of this Brightrick many prodigies appeared, and more perhaps than will be believed, for it is reported, that in his 3d yeare a shower of bloud rained from heaven, and bloudy crosses fell on men's garments as they walked abroad. And in his tenth yeare were seen fiery dragons flying in the ayre; which wonders some sook to be presages of the miseries following, both by the invasion of the Pagan Danes, that in these times were first seene to arrive in this island, and the extreme famine that afterwards happened.'+ They were reckoned, you see, among the prodigies of the times, as anciently they always were, and also to be predictive, as all prodigies were then thought to be, of some disastrous event. The like conception the common people now have of the lights in 1715.
Florence of Worcester informs us, that Ă. D. 926, “Ignei per totam Angliam visi sunt radii in Septentrionali plaga cæli, nec multo post Northanhinbrorum rex Sihtricus vita decessit;' fiery streamers in the north were seen all over England, soon after which Sihtric, king of Northumberland, dieds. These evidently were streamers, and in the common quarter, and in this author's opinion they presaged the death of the then king of Northumberland.
Matthew of Westminster and Florence of Worcester, both testify of the lights A. D. 979; the former relates, that soon after the prophecy of St. Dunstan, (who at the coronation of Ethelred the 2nd, had foretold the grievous evils that should befal this land from the Danes, on account of the murther of his brother, St. Edward) “ Nubes per totam Angliam, nunc sanguinea, nunc ignea, visa est, dehinc in radios diversos, et varios mutata colores,|| circa auroram disparuit;' that a cloud, sometimes red, and sometimes of the colour of fire, was seen all over England, which afterwards being parted into several rays of various colours, disappeared towards morning. The account Florence gives is verbatim
Matth. West. p. 141. to Speed's History, p. 5000.
Mariana's History of Spain, p. 21, 22, and the passage above cited for the Georgic of Virgil. $ Flor. Vig. p. 602. An Ilemistich. Matth. West, p. 194.