Page images






Wiltshire Archæological and Natural History Society,

HELD AT THE TOWN HALL, HUNGERFORD, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, 16th, 17th, and 18th September, 1867.


HE Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the Society was held at Hungerford. The number of those present was smaller than on many previous occasions; but the meeting was universally acknowledged to be a thoroughly successful one. The proceedings commenced at the Town Hall; the lower portion of which was devoted to the General Meeting, and the upper part to the Museum.

At two o'clock the PRESIDENT took the chair, and opened the proceedings by calling upon the Rev. A. C. SMITH, one of the Honorary Secretaries, to read the Annual Report.


"The Committee of the Wiltshire Archæological and Natural History Society has again the satisfaction of reporting favourably of the present condition and future prospects of the Society. The number of our members has considerably increased during the last year-indeed, since this Society was formed we have never lost so few of our body in any twelvemonths, by death, or withdrawal, or removal from the county. Amongst the former of these, however, we cannot pass over in silence the name of our second patron, the late Marquis of Lansdowne, who, for the short period that inter



vened from the death of his father, most graciously acceded to our wishes to make him our patron; nor can we omit the name of Mr. Merriman, whose exertions and good-will towards us during our meeting at Marlborough will not be readily forgotten by those who were present on that occasion.

"We have however added many new names to our list; the total number of members now on our books amounting to 331; while the son of our late patron, the present Marquis of Lansdowne, has most cordially accepted the office of Patron, held by his father and grandfather since the day when the latter gifted nobleman presided at the inauguration of this Society in 1853.

"With regard to finance but little need be said, inasmuch as the balance-sheet but lately placed in the hands of members speaks for itself, showing as it does a balance in hand of upwards of £200.

"During the past twelvemonths two more numbers of the Magazine concluding the tenth volume have been published, which the Committee trusts has not been found inferior in interest to the preceding volumes.

"The Museum and Library have also been increased by many donations, the particulars of which have already appeared in the later numbers of the Magazine.

"But in speaking of the work which has been done during the last twelvemonths, we may say that archæology at all events has not been at a stand-still in Wiltshire. Within the present month a Museum has (through the unbounded liberality of an individual) been opened at Salisbury, which, in regard to the collections of the period to which it is strictly confined, is believed to be quite unrivalled. Limited for the most part as it is to the stone age, as it is called, or the relics which bear the impress of man's workmanship of the very earliest periods of the human race; and gathered as the various specimens which compose it have been from the United States of America, from Canada, from Peru, from France, from Denmark, from Ireland, and from various parts of this kingdom that collection now remains within our county, through the munificence of the founder, a monument not only of the generosity of Mr. Blackmore, but of the success which has

attended the labours of a diligent archæologist in collecting the finest specimens, very many of which are unique, from every available source. The Committee of this Society will doubtless have occasion another day to publish much of exceeding interest with regard to this magnificent Museum, and must content itself at present with this brief notice. And now turning again to the work more immediately before it, it desires in concluding this Report to assure its members that so far from exhausting the objects which it is its province to discover, examine, and elucidate, as has been surmised, research only seems to develope new fields of enquiry; and the Committee earnestly trusts that the members of this Society will not relax in their efforts while so much of interest remains to be examined, and while this county, pre-eminently remarkable for its antiquities, and with several branches of its fauna yet undescribed, offers such ample opportunities for years to come both to the antiquarian and the naturalist."

At the conclusion of the Report, Mr. CUNNINGTON endorsed the encomiums passed upon the Blackmore Museum at Salisbury, and expatiated on the value of that unrivalled collection.

The Report was then unanimously adopted; the General Secretaries, Treasurer, Local Secretaries, (with the additions of Dr. Meeres for Melksham, and Mr. Astley for Hungerford); and Committee (with the addition of Mr, Robert Clark, Devizes), were re-appointed.

The PRESIDENT then proceeded to deliver the following address.


In opening the Meeting of our local Archæological and Natural History Society, I will make no pretence of deep research. I have neither studied Stukeley, nor Bowles and Duke. I cannot tell you who constructed Wansdyke, nor what were the relations to each other of Avebury and Stonehenge, nor whether Eddington, Heddington, or Yatton Down, is the scene of Alfred's victory. I cannot trace the races of men whose bones or ashes we are disturbing in our barrows, nor the Fauna and Flora vanishing under our extended cultivation. I cannot discriminate those ferruginous

sands in the centre of our county which connect themselves with the Oolithic series below them, and those which belong to the Greensand and cretaceous deposits above-yet as an outline map is the right thing to be filled up by the accurate topographer, so may a very superficial but comprehensive survey rudely lay out the field within which are enclosed the minute and accurate observations which are the main office of these local associations.

We have indeed in our number those who are entitled to generalize, because they unite actual experience with systematized science. I need not scruple to name Mr. Cunnington and Dr. Thurnam as men who form links between the two branches of our operations; who connect the paleontology of the geologist with faithful research into the earliest vestiges of our race inhumed among us, and trace its progress from the pre-historic, through the traditionary to the truly historic.

In both branches our county affords a field of considerable extent and interest. To begin chronologically. We have not indeed those igneous rocks which were a molten and consequently became a globular mass, when "the earth was without form and void," when "darkness" must have been "on the face of the deep," as the whole contents of the ocean must, from the heat, have been suspended in the atmosphere; transparent indeed where the heat was most intense, but gradually condensing outwards into a depth of cloud of which we can have no idea. We have not, I say, these igneous rocks by whose partial cooling and elevation the dry land emerged, and a basin was made for the sea. We have not the great coal beds, where "a tree having the fruit of a tree," i.e. arborescent vegetation with its appropriate reproductive system, flourished in the stovelike heat, which, produced from beneath and protected from radiation by the constant cloud, made it independent of latitude. Light indeed there was, for the waters which were above the firmament had been to some extent separated from the tepid waters which, having already been able to settle in the hollows left by the elevation of rocks, were below it, so that day and night could be discriminated. Yet was the cloud still so continuous that the Heavenly bodies had not yet appeared,

These old and chaotic periods are not represented in Wiltshire. But we have just what to our perceptions would be the main span from a chaos to a world. From the Lias, in or near to which, I believe, (though not in Wilts but in a neighbouring part of Somerset) the Mammalian system begins, we rise to the lower Tertiary where dawn the conditions of terrestrial life approaching our own. Our Oolithic, Greensand, and Chalk formations are well developed ; and, though extensively denuded, are much less obscured by the obliteration caused by extensive aqueous action than in the nearest and in some respects the most interesting corresponding formations on the Continent. The tertiary deposits, though existing in the south-east of the county, and probably in this valley, are not, as far as I am aware, of primary importance. The later drift, here and elsewhere, demands peculiar attention, from the search for early works of man connected with it.

But before we pass on to Man, the highest, and by the accordant voice of geology and Scripture, the latest type of animal life, let me digress for a moment to notice a misconception, which, placing science and Religion at apparent variance, has been, I am convinced needlessly, detrimental to both. All my physiological prepossessions, (whether justly or not I have not science enough to know) are against the Darwinian hypothesis that species is derived from species, until at last we come to the highest. How, if this were the case, hybrids should not be almost the rule in Nature, instead of the rare exception, I cannot imagine. But neither can I feel the slightest anxiety for my faith, if it were proved to me that God's method in the creation of the species had been analagous to His undoubted method in the production of each individual of it; by gradual development until it became ripe to have breathed into its nostrils the breath of spiritual life.

Let us not be scared by the fear of so-called dangerous enquiries. Every enquiry indeed is dangerous which is not pursued in humility, and with a single eye to the truth. Every man who in the conceit of being above popular prejudices, and with the conventional cry of the day against what are called conventionalities, is prejudiced against what other men believe, is disabled from the right pursuit

« PreviousContinue »