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'Table of strata in the vicinity of Bath', 1799

 Table of strata 400dpi
 click to enlarge
This unique, rather faded manuscript table (ref: LDGSL/741) is William Smith’s first attempt to lay down the order of the layers of the strata which he observed in Bath. Dictated by Smith, and in the handwriting of the Reverend Benjamin Richardson (1758-1832), it was one of a number of items gifted by Smith to the Geological Society in 1831 in thanks to his being awarded the Wollaston Medal.

Smith had met Richardson during the Annual Meeting of the Bath Agricultural Society in 1799. On viewing Richardson’s fossil collection at his residence in the city, Smith began pointing out to which beds they exclusively belonged. He later demonstrated the theory to Richardson’s astonishment out in the field. Keen that his discovery be communicated, Smith urged Richardson to write to his friend the Reverend Joseph Townsend (1739-1816) of Pewsey (also in Bath) who was equally astounded. Townsend had been studying the subject for nearly 50 years and had travelled all over Europe, but stated that no-one of his acquaintance knew of it either. The Table was created by the three men after dinner, when it was proposed that they should write down a tabular view of the subject. Each man took a copy of the table, with Smith annotating this version, "This Table of Strata, dictated by myself, is in the handwriting of the Rev Ben[jamin] Richardson, and was first reduced to writing at the house of the Rev Joseph Townsend, Pulteney St, Bath, 1799. William Smith."

The table is very faded and illegible due to it being hung proudly on the walls of the Society until the 1980s. It was likely not to have been in very good condition when given as indicated by the many folds which can be seen on the paper. Preservation techniques in the 19th and early 20th century unfortunately involved the generous use of varnish which has since discoloured. Additionally the original iron gall ink has burnt into the thin paper, further exacerbating its illegibility.

Judd table of strata   UVA table of strata
1897 photographic enhancement of the 'Table of Strata'   'Table of Strata' under UVA light 
Transcription of the 'Table of Strata'

Fossils, Petrifactions &c &c
Descriptive Characters and Situations 
1. Chalk  300 Intermitting on the Downs Echinites, pyrites, mytilites, dentalia, funnel-shaped corals & madrepores, nautilites, strombites, cochleae, ostreae, serpulae Strata of silex imbedded 
2. Sand 70
  The fertile vales intersecting Salisbury Plain & the Downs
3. Clay 30 Between the Black Dog and Berkeley
4. Sand & stone 30      Imbedded is a thin stratum of calcareous grit. the stones flat, smooth, and rounded at the edges
5. Clay 15 Hinton, Norton, Woolverton, Bradford Leigh
6. Forest Marble 10
A mass of anomiae & high-waved cockles, with calcareous cement The cover of the upper bed of freestone, or oolite
7. Freestone 60   Scarcely any fossils besides the coral Oolite resting on a thin bed of coral. - Prior Park, Southstoke, Twinny, Winsley, Farley Castle, Westwood, Berfield, Conkwell, Monkton Farley, Coldhorn, Marshfield, Coldashton
8. Blue Clay 6 Above Bath    
9. Yellow Clay 8    
10. Fuller's Earth 6     Visible at a distance, by the slips on the declivities of the hills around Bath
11. Bastard ditto & Sundries 80   Striated cardia, mytilites, anomiae, pundibs and duck-muscles  
12. Freestone 30   Top-covering anomiae with calcareous cement, strombites, ammonites, nautilites, cochliae hippocephaloides, fibrous shell resembling amianth, cardia, prickly cockle, mytilites, lower stratum of coral, large scollop, nidus of the muscle with its cables Lincombe, Devonshire Buildings, Englishcombe, Englishbatch, Wilmerton, Dunkerton, Coomhay, Monkton Coombe, Wellow, Mitford Stoke, Freshford, Claverton, Bathford, Batheaston and Hampton, Charlcombe, Swanswick, Tudwick, Langridge
13. Sand 30   Ammonites, belemnites Sand burs
14. Marl Blue 40 Round Bath Pectenites, belmnites, gryphites, high-waved cockles Ochre balls.- Mineral springs of Lincombe, Middle Hall, Cheltenham
15. Lias Blue 25
Same as the marl with nautilites, ammonites, dentalia and fragments of the echrini The fertile marl lands of Somersetshire. Twerton, Newton, Preston, Clutton, Stanton Prior, Timsbury, Paulton, Marksbury, Farmborough, Corston, Hunstreet, Burnet, Keynsham, Whitchurch, Salford, Kelston, Weston, Pucklechurch, Queencharlton, Norton-malreward, Knowle, Charlton, Kilmersdon, Babington
16. Ditto White 15
17. Marl stone, Indigo and Black Marl 15
Pyrites and ochre A rich manure
18. Red-ground 180   No fossil known Pits of riddle. Beneath this bed no fossil, shells, or animal remains are found; above it no vegetable impressions. The water of this stratum petrify in the trunks which convey it, so as to fill them, in about fifteen years, with red watricle, which takes a fine polish.- High Littleton
19. Millstone        
20. Pennant Street     Impressions of unknown plants resembling equisetum  
21. Grays       Fragments of coal and iron nodules.- Hanham, Brislington, Mangotsfield, Downend, Winterbourn, Forest of Dean, Pensford, Publow, Chelwood, Cumptondando, Hallatrow near Stratford-on-Avon, Stonebench on the Severn, four miles from Gloucester
22. Cliff     Impressions of ferns, olive, stellate plants, threnax-parviflora, or dwarf fan-palm of Jamaica Stourbridge, or fire-clay
23. Coal

<<Stratigraphical theories

Geological Map of Bath, 1799>>