Memoranda (1875)

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Author(s): Pengelly. William; Year published: 1875; Origin: DA Transactions; Pages: 197-202
Topic(s): miscellanea; Location(s): Exminster, Sidmouth, and Teigngrace

Edited by W. Pengelly, F.R.S., F.G.S., etc.

Part I. (Read at Torrington, July, 1875.)

[¹ In his “Archaeological Memoranda”, read last year,² Mr. Heineken suggested “that a few pages of our Transactions might, with advantage, be annually devoted to the reception of ‘Waifs’ and ‘Strays’ connected with Devonshire; and the members who attended our Teignmouth meeting remember, no doubt, that the suggestion met a cordial reception, and that I was asked to edit and bring to the present meeting such notes and newspaper cuttings as Mr. Heineken contemplated, and which might be sent to me by the members during the ensuing twelve months. I readily undertook the office, but have to report that it has given me almost nothing to do, for since our last meeting I have received communications on the subject from Mr. Heineken and Mr. Pycroft only.

(¹) Everything within brackets is editorial.
(²) See Trans. Devon Assoc., vol. vi. p. 774, 1874.

The suggestion, however, appears to be too good to be allowed to die through mere neglect, and in order to prevent this I would suggest that the Council should annually appoint a Committee of members, representing at least the greater divisions of the county, for the purpose of noting the discovery or occurrence of such facts in any department of scientific enquiry, and connected with Devonshire, as it may be desirable to place on permanent record, but may not be of sufficient importance in themselves to form the subjects of separate papers. The notes should be sent, without unnecessary delay, to the Secretary of the Committee, who should edit and bring them to the next annual meeting of the Association.

I would further suggest that the fact of the appointment of such a Committee, and, indeed, of all Committees, should be recorded in our Transactions after the manner of the British Association, and that the record should be placed immediately before the President’s Address.

I venture to hope that though the “Waifs” and “Strays” secured for the present meeting are by no means numerous, they will not be found wanting in interest. The first nine of them have been communicated by Mr. Heineken, and are memoranda of “finds” made at Sidmouth since June, 1874, and the tenth and eleventh are from Mr. Pycroft.]

I. Archaeological

1. Sundry flint discs, scrapers, &c., have been found by Miss Ede, Mr. Ede, jun., and Mr. P. O. Hutchinson, in July, 1874, and onwards. N. S. H.

2. Roman coin. Large brass of Commodus, found in clay deposit on the sands, in which are the remains of ancient trees and teeth of mammoth. The inscription is T.R.–P.O. VIII IMP. VI COS IIII P.P. The emperor in a quadriga to right. September 14th, 1874. N. S. H.

3. A shilling of Elizabeth, found in what is locally called the “black sand” on the beach; viz., disintegrated bog iron ore. September 22nd, 1874. N. S. H.

4. Broken sling-stone in tumulus (disturbed) on Salcombe Hill. Mr. P. O. Hutchinson. September 22nd, 1874. N. S. H.

5. Roman coin. 2d. brass. Obverse and reverse quite obliterated. Found in the clay deposit on the beach. October 26th, 1874. N. S. H.

6. A shilling of Elizabeth or Edward. Much corroded. Found on the sands. October 29th, 1874. N. S. H.

7. Roman coin. 2d. brass(?) Very much obliterated. Found in the clay deposit. October 30th, 1874. The three Roman coins were found by the same person, Fred. Bartlett, and opposite Fort Cottage. N. S. H.

8. A halfpenny, in good preservation, “Gulielmus Tertius, 1697”. Found when digging a drain in “Ebdon’s Court”, at the depth of about three feet. August or September, 1874. N. S. H.

9. A guinea, in very excellent preservation, of Anne. Date 1714, the last year of her reign. Found by a man when ploughing a field on Peak Hill, the property of J. B. Lousada, Esq. November 26th, 1874. N. S. H.

10. Exminster Castle:- In the village of Exminster there existed in the olden time a castle, Exminster Castle, not yet forgotten by the antiquary. Leland mentions it as an embattled house in his Itinerary. William Courtenay, Archbishop of Canterbury A.D. 1381–1396, was born there. Some fifty years ago an archway leading to the entrance of the castle remained; it has long since been pulled down, and with it the last memorial of the old building. About six years ago the ground on which it stood was purchased by the late Mr. Carpenter, of Gatehouse, Dawlish; and on digging up the soil, the foundations of the castle were brought to light, with the wide stone steps leading to the entrance. The stones were used in building the new wall by the roadside; and now, beyond these few lines, there is nothing to mark the spot where the old castle was. It stood on the left-hand side of the main road as you pass through Exminster from Exeter, and exactly opposite Pottles Lane. G. P.

11. Exminster Monastery:- The vicarage house stands on the site of the old monastery; and till within the last ten years a Gothic arch, the last remains of the ecclesiastic building, stood in the vicarage garden. It has been removed; and although some of the old masonry can still be traced in the walls, there is little beyond this record to point out where the monastery which gave its name to Exminster stood. There is, however, an old building at the rear of the vicarage which is believed to have been the granary of the monks. G. P.

12. About Christmas, 1874, the workmen engaged at the Zitherixon Clay Works of Messrs. Watts, Blake, Bearne, & Co., in the parish of Teigngrace, between Newton Abbot and the village of Kingsteignton, on the left bank of the Teign and about 20 yards from that river, found the fine bronze spear-head which, through the kindness of Mr. Watts and his partners, to whom I am indebted for the facts in these memoranda, I have the pleasure of exhibiting to the meeting, and which is represented by fig. 1 in the accompanying plate on the scale of .425 linear, or four inches and a quarter to ten inches. It lay about 20 feet below the surface of the ground, and from 12 to 15 feet below the general level of the surface of the adjacent river, in black mud, near the base of that accumulation of angular, sub-angular, and rounded stones, mixed with clay and sand, locally known as the “Head”, and about 3 feet above the deposit of clay for which the district is so famous. The implement measures 10.95 inches in extreme length, 1.8 inch in greatest breath, and 1 inch in diameter at the end prepared for the shaft or staff. When it was discovered, a portion of the wooden staff, but very much decayed, occupied the socket prepared for it and projected about 2 inches. This staff appears to have been held in its place by a nail or pin passing through a hole in the socket. Its edges are somewhat jagged here and there, and it weighs 7.8 ounces avoirdupois. W. P.

13. The discovery of an object of interest in the “Head” is by no means an unprecedented event. About 8 or 9 years since, a strange and by no means beautiful work of art in the form of a human figure, or what was no doubt intended as such, carved in oak, was met with in the parish of Kingsteignton, also on the left bank of the Teign, and about the distance of that vague unit of length, a “gun-shot”, from the spot at which the spear-head was found. It was 25 feet below the surface, lying, in an inclined position, against the buried trunk of a prostrated oak tree, 3 feet in diameter. The proportions of the various parts of the figure are not those of the human subject, at least as it exists in the present day. The entire figure is 13.3 inches long, of which the head, from crown to chin, is 2.7 inches or 20 per cent., the neck 2.2 inches or 17 per cent. nearly, the trunk 5.2 inches or 39 per cent., and the legs 3.2 inches or 24 per cent., that is but little longer than the head. The shoulders are well developed, but there is no indication of arms having been attached or articulated to them. Just above the shoulders, however, and in a line parallel to that joining them, a cylindrical hole, about .3 inch in diameter, passes quite through the neck. Possibly arms may have been attached to the ends of a pin which occupied this perforation. There are no feet properly so called, but the legs terminate in hoof-like knobs. The weight of this figure, or doll, or idol – for all these names have been given it  – is 11.75 ounces. Messrs. Watts and Co. have been so good as to entrust to me this specimen also. It is represented by fig. 2 in the accompanying plate, on the same scale as the spear-head. W. P.

14. A few potsherds, the finest of which I have also the pleasure of exhibiting, and of representing in fig. 3, were found at the same time as, and almost in contact with, the wooden figure. They are of coarse clay or silt, which contains numerous small scales of mica.

Prostrate oak trees occur somewhat frequently in the “Head”, and some examples have been met with containing 100 cubic feet of timber. The wood is generally well preserved, and has been made into walking sticks and other objects.

Bones of various animals are also found from time to time, including those of Ox, Deer, and Dog. W. P.

15. On March 26th, 1875, Mr. H. F. Barnard, nephew of Mr. H. B. Woodward, F.G.S., of the Geological Survey of England, now residing at Newton Abbot, found an implement made of greenstone, in the bed of the river Lemon, in Bradley Vale, near Newton. Mr. Woodward has kindly entrusted me with the implement for exhibition at the present meeting. It is 8.6 inches long, 2.6 inches in greatest breadth, which it attains at about 1.5 inch from one end. From this point it tapers almost regularly to the other end, which is but 1.2 inch broad and has a tendency to squareness with the angles rounded off, whilst the other end is curved. The opposite sides are almost, but not quite, perfectly symmetrical. It is .8 inch thick at the narrow end, and tapers thence to the opposite extremity.

Mr. Woodward found a second stone at the same spot on the 24th of July, 1875. This, which he has also placed in my hands, is 3.8 in. long, 1.8 inch in greatest breadth, and 7.5 in greatest thickness. It is almost a parallelogram in form, but somewhat rounded at one end and nearly square at the other, which is bevelled off to a chisel-edge. The stone is schistose in structure, and is probably a volcanic ash, such as is prevalent about Newton. I venture on no opinion as to whether this specimen has really been fashioned or used by man, but its chisel-edge appears to entitle it to this cautious notice. W. P.

II. Meteoric.

16. [The following memorandum was cut from the Western Morning News of Thursday, September 3rd, 1874] :–

A Brilliant Meteor:– About nine o’clock on Tuesday night” [1st September, 1874] “persons in North Devon saw a brilliant meteor shoot across the sky from west to east, between the zenith and the pole-star, leaving behind it a broad, straight bar of light of greater brilliancy than the moon. This bright bar of light remained for some minutes, and then, changing to a serpentine form, gradually died out. Many ‘shooting stars’ were seen during the night, and altogether the sky had a somewhat singular appearance.”

17. [The following is a cutting from the Western Times of June 7th, 1874] :–

Circle round the Sun:– Sir, – On Saturday my attention was called to a remarkable appearance in the sky, in the form of a large halo round the sun, beautifully coloured as a rainbow. When I first saw this it was about 1.20 p.m.; and I think it lasted about twenty minutes. In size I think it was about as large as that of the largest halo round the moon I have ever seen. The sky at the time was tolerably clear, though there were a few fleecy clouds at some distance from the sun. The northern part of the circle had stronger colours than the southern part.

“Perhaps some of your older readers would be able to say whether they have ever seen a similar phenomenon. I believe it to be rare in this country; but Beeton, in his Dictionary of Universal Information, says: ‘This appearance round the heavenly bodies is said to be frequent in Russia and North America.’ There, it is said, halos appear sometimes in concentric circles; this on Saturday had one circle only.

“I am, yours, J. H.
“St Leonards, Exeter.”

[Mr. W. Vicary, F.G.S., of Exeter, informs me that he and J. H., the writer of the foregoing letter, observed the phenomenon together.]

III. Oceanic.

18. [The following communication from some anonymous writer at Sidmouth appeared in the Western Times newspaper of 5th October, 1874] :–

Equinoctial Wave. – On Friday night a huge wave rose just as the sea was in its calmest mood, and suddenly broke over the Esplanade, washing out an iron machine, and thus preventing the loading of a vessel. The visitor was so unexpected, and none of the kind having been remembered since the tidal wave of five years ago, the people were alarmed at first; and their fears increased as the sea, which had previously been smooth, became exceedingly rough. This continued several hours, when the storm passed off.”

[This is worth preservation, not only as a probably correct enough description of a remarkable agitation of the sea, but as a good illustration of the utter confusion prevalent amongst unscientific persons respecting waves in general, as well as tidal waves and equinoctial tides. I have no recollection of having previously met with the name an “Equinoctial Wave”.]

[The following abbreviations have been used in these “Memoranda”: N. S. H., Mr. Heineken’s initials; G. P., Mr. Pycroft’s initials; and W. P., the Editor’s initials.]