« PreviousContinue »
25. What is the general price paid for bands, arable, meadow, pasture, &c.
26. Does the parish produce any quantities of timber, of what sort, and what are the prices on the spot, per
load or ton?
27. What are the methods of tillage, what sorts of ploughs, &c. are used?
28. Are any quantities of sheep raised or fed in the parish, and on what do they chietiy feed?
29. Are the people of the country remarkable for strength, size, complexion, or any bodily or natural qualities?
30. What are the diversions chiefly used by the gentry, as well as the country people on particular occasions?
31. What is the nature of the air; is it moist or dry, healthy or subject to produce agues and fevers, and at what time is it reckoned most so, and, if you can, account for the causes?
32. Are there any petrifying springs or waters that incrust bodies, what are they?
33. Any hot waters or wells for bathing, and for what distempers frequented?
34. Are there any figured stones, such as echinita, belemnitæ, &c. Any having the impression of plants or fishes on then, or any fossil marine bodies, such as shells, corals, &c. or any petrified parts of aniipals; where are they found, and what are they?
35. Is any part of the parish subject to inundations or land floods i Give the best account, if any things of that nature have happened, and when.
36. Hath there been any remarkable mischief done by thunder and lightning, storms, or whirlwinds, when and what?
37. Are there any remarkable echoes, where and what are they?
38. Have any remarkable phenomena been observed in the air, and what?
If the Parish is on the Sea Coast,
39. What sort of a shore, flat, sandy, high, or rocky?
40. What sorts of fish are caught there, in what quantity, at what prices sold, when most in season, how taken, and to what market sent?
41. What other sea animals, plants, sponges, corals, shells, &c. are found on or nçar the coasts?
Account of an Inflammable Well. - 443 42. Are there any remarkable sea weeds used for manure of land, or curious on any other account?
43. What are the courses of the tides on the shore, or off at sea, the currents at a mile's distance, and other things worthy remark?
44. What number of fishing vessels, of what sort, how navigated, and what number of hands are there in the parish?
45. How many ships and of what burthen belong to the parish?
46. Are there any and what light-houses, beacons, or land-marks?
47. What are the names of the creeks, bays, harbours headlands, sands, or islands near the coasts?
48. Have there been any remarkable battles or sea fights near the coasts, and when did any remarkable wrecks or accidents happen, which can give light to any historical facts ?
49. If you are in a city, give the best account you can procure of the history and antiquity of the place; if remarkable for its buildings, age, walls, sieges, charters, privileges, inmunities, gates, streets, markets, fairs, the number of churches, wards, and guilds, or companies, or fraternities, or clubs that are remarkable; how it is governed; if it sends members to parliament, in whom does the choice lie, and what number of voters may there have been at the last poll?
XVII. Account of an Inflammable Well.
Coalbrookdale, June 25, 1755. IN
consequence of your inquiry after natural curiosities, I shall endeavour to give you as exact an account as possible of one in our neighbourhood, leaving the physical causes to be assigned by those who are better qualified to judge of such phenomena.
About 40 years ago a burning well was discovered not far from hence. It was situated about 60 yards from the river Severn, in the parish of Broseley, and county of Salop, at the foot of a gently rising hill, encompassed on every side with coal-works, though none very near it.
This remarkable curiosity first made its appearance about the year 1711, being discovered by a poor man living near the place, who heing alarmed with an uncommon noise in the night, arose, and went to the place from whence it proceeded, with a lanthorn and spade: upon digging a little, the water gushed out with violence, and (10 the man's surprize) took fire at the candle. In order to reap some benefit from the discovery, he afterwards inclosed it with a frame and door, leaving a hole to collect the flame, by which he might light, and extinguish it, at pleasure; by this means he made considerable profit from the company resorting thither to see it. Thus it continued in fame some years, but the store of inflammable matter being exhausted the fire grew weaker, and would burn no more.
But in the year 1747, the same old man, by a like notice as before, once more gave the struggling vapours veat, at a place about ten yards distant from the old well, where it burnt as formerly. At that time I published a short account of it in the Birmingham paper, for the discoverer's benefit, and numbers of strangers from different parts were gratified with so rare a sight. Amongst other ladies and gentlemen whose curiosity drew them thither, was Mr. Masoll, F. R. S. and Woodwardian professor at Cambridge, who afterwards inserted a little meinoir in the Philos. Trans. on this subject, addressed to Martin Folkes, Esq. but as it is a vague account, wanting that precision necessary to gratify a naturalist, I shall here attempt a more distinct narration.
The well, on application of a candle, immediately took fire, and famed like spirits of wine, to the height of 18 or 20 inches; the heat was so intense as to boil a common tea kettle in about nine minutes; mutton stakes, and slices of bacon, were broiled very soon, and with an excellent fa
The old man sometimes boiled his family pot over it, and had the adjacent neighbourhood abounded less with fuel, it might have been applied to culinary purposes, with good advantage
It is remarkable, that the flame was emitted with a rumbling noise, and alternate gulpings of the water, which, though boiling like a pot, always remained cold,' and the ebullition still kept it muddy. I do not suppose there was any inflammable quality in the water itself, which proceeded only from the morassy grounds above; doubtless the igneous vapour's were collected in the lower cavities of the earih, and bollows of old coal mines, which generally produce very sulphurous exhalations, and particularly in the works near this place, where the subterraneous ducts of air force through the fissures of coal and rock, so forcibly, as to blow out a candie. These currents of air, in their passage to the vacant
hollows, are impregnated with sulphur and salt, where being pent down and confined, they at last force a passage through the interstices which drain off the superficial water, and therehy occasion that pulsation in the flame, resembling a smith's forge.
I am farther confirmed in this supposition by the circumstances attending its last, and probably, its final cessation; for about three years ago a gentleman determined to sink a coal-pit near the spot, but the undertaking proved expensive, and hazardous; the workmen were greatly annoyed by wildfire, and when they had sunk to the depth of 88 yarus, and began to get coals, a subterraneous reservoir of brine suddenly burst into the work, and filled it to the level of 18 yards, which proved to be only a stagnant lake, and not a brine spring, although it was so strong that an egg swam high in it. The pit was afterwards drained, but the sulphur remaining excessively strong, it was judged proper to fire it, which caused so terrible an explosion as alarmed all the neighbourhood, they imagining it had been an earthquake. It shook their windows, pewter, and even the casks in the cellars. This, however, seemed like a dying groan of the burning well, which since that time has entirely ceased to burn.
Had such a curiosity appeared near London, the discoverer would probably have got a fortune by it, but now we can only perpetuate its memory by inserting this account, which you may depend upon as authentic.
Yours, &c. 1755, July.
XVIII. Fire from the Bowels of a Beast.
THE latter end of October, 1751, an inhabitant of Esnans, near Neufchatel, in Franche-compté, who had a beast that had been sometiine sick and extremely swoln, gave it about the quantity of an ordinary charge of gunpowder in cold water, upon which the swelling presently subsided; but soon returning, the remedy was again repeated, but produced only a transitory effect. It was therefore resolved to kill the creature, and several of the neighbourhood came out of curiosity, at the opening of it, to see in what condition the flesh was. As a butcher was forcibly drawing out the stomach, or paunch, he tore it, and there instantly issued forth, with some noise, a flame that rose above five feet high, which burnt his hair and eyebrows, and affected his eyes to that degree, that he could not bear the light for a long time. A young girl who held a lamp to light him, had all her hair burnt off, and would probably have been a further sufferer, had not her mother thrown her apron over her head, and so smothered the fire. This flame continued decreasing two or three minutes, the paunch contracting all the while, but an intolerable stench remained in the cowhouse.
As singular as this fact appears to be, it is not the only one we have upon record. Fortunjus Licetus, in his book De lucernis antiquorum reconditis, reports, that a professor of anatomy at Pisa dissecting a body in the public amphitheatre, and a candle standing near him, there burst forth from the stomach a vapour which kindled at the candle. This accident appears to be near a-kin to that above related, and both seem to prove, that vapours easily inflammable may be formed in animal bodies, for it is very unlikely, that the gunpowder which the beast had swallowed several days before, could any ways contribute to such an event.
IN order to form the most probable system of earthquakes, it should be observed, that all readily infiammable substances, as gunpowder, and nitrous or sulphureous minerals, in their ignition generate a large quantity of air, and that the air thus produced is in a state of very extraordinary rare. faction, and if compressed within the bowels of the earth, cannot but occasion
violent effects. Suppose, therefore, that at the depth of 100 or 200 fathoms there be lodged pyrites, or other sulphureous matters, and that by the fermentation produced from the filtering of waters, or.other causes, these happen to take fire, what will most likely be the result?
In the first place, it is known that those substances are not, for the most part, disposed in horizontal strata ; on the contrary, they are contained in perpendicular fissures, and in caverns at their bottoms, as also in other places into which waters can penetrate. These substances coming to take fire upon imbibing water, will generate a large quantity of air,