In transcribing the following passage from Smith’s text, I have begun with the rough OCR material provided by the Internet Archive and then collated it with the Internet Archive’s page images. If you spot any errors, please notify the webmaster. —  George P. Landow


A large part of this county is covered by the metropolis, and its thickly inhabited and highly cultivated vicinity. By the numerous excavations thus occasioned, but little variety of strata is ascertained, even to the greatest depth of wells,

Blue clay is the most prevalent, and thence called the London clay. Its outcrop makes the strong soil of most of the pastures on the north side of London. It is very commonly an excellent brick-earth, to the depth of many feet beneath the surface; but a large portion of the regular strata in Middlesex is covered with alluvial gravel, which makes a lighter soil. There is some gravel mixed with clay. The small round pebbles blended with sand, which are common to the strata over chalk, form the surface of the poor commons toward the north-west; and in that extreme angle of the county some chalk is dug.

Great part of the flat thence to the Thames is covered with alluvial gravel, which extends down to the low marshy ground by the side of that river.

2. Essex

The moderately elevated and most interesting part of Essex is formed of a part of the London clay, which takes a north-easterly course through this county.

Those clays and strong loams form an agreeable undulating surface between Romford and Chelmsford, and to the eastward of that road, the slopes of which are finely wooded with the oak, which thrives admirably well on this this soil. The forest, and parts westwad of Chelmsford seem to be composed of much the same strata.

From Chelmsford north-eastward to Colchester and the sokens, is a large breadth of mixed soil and substrata, light loams, or sandy, with an absorbent substratum, and some interspersions of wood, which are chiefly clay. Colchester seems the capital of this district.

The eastern shore is very flat and marshy but lately much improved by draining.

The western portion of the county contains chalk, and greatly resembles the adjacent part of Hertfordshire. Some chalk, and its usual incumbent gravelly soil forms the boundary of the Thames marshes.


Norfolk and Suffolk are so commonly coupled together, and talked of as one, that they might be so considered in this general description of the most prevalent soils and substrata, had I not proposed to give each county in England separately.

The soil, as well as the management of it, in these two counties, are much alike, except that Suffolk has a greater breadth of the clay or woodland soils; and no where such connected breadths of good Joams as in Fleg and Blofield, although there is much of this kind of land in the county, on the borders of the clay.

The most striking features of the county are, two very sandy districts to the east and west of a large intermediate surface of clay, the greater part of which is called Woodlands, or High Suffolk. Chalk lies under the western sands, and extends thence to Newmarket, and to the border of the fens. A considerable portion of this low alluvial district is in Suffolk.

4. Norfolk

The surface of Norfolk, and the greatest varieties or particular districts of its soil, seem naturally divided into five parts: the rich loams of Fleg, Blofield and the vale of Aylesham, with considerable and intricate interspersions of low and wet marshland — a sandy district around Norwich, and thence north-westward to the sea, with interspersions of chalk-clay and strong loams on the higher lands, through the middle of the county, from south-east to north-west — light lands, with a dry surface and a thick stratum of chalk beneath — and, in the western extremity, a large portion of alluvial matter in the fens. The carstone, or iron sand, makes a conspicuous figure in a range of poor heaths between the chalk hills and marshland.

Of all these, the Flock district is the largest; which, being on a dry substratum of chalk, with a sandy surface, and this joining in the north to the other sandy district which reaches to the vicinity of Norwich, give Norfolk the general character of sandy soil, although there is much strong land in the interior.

5. Surry [Surrey]

Surry is distinguished by a chalk ridge through the middle of the county; and on the south side of this, a parallel ridge of dark brown sand. The woody part, still further south, is composed of the same kind of clay and soft sandstone as the wealds of Kent and Sussex. The latter strata, from Leith Hill westward, form high and poor heathy surfaces.

The west and north-western portion of the county, on the other side of the chalk-hills, is distinguished by great breadths of similar sandy and poor heathy surfaces, on the strata which lie over the chalk. These sands are generally intermixed with gravel or small black cherty pebbles. The extent of this surface, and of the chalk, is marked by the downs and light and dry soil, which it generally produces.

Clay-hills, similar to those on the north side of London, and of the same strata, fill up the remainder of the space to the side of the low and originally marshy ground in the vicinity of the metropolis.

6. Kent

Kent and Sussex, like Norfolk and Suffolk, are so often coupled together, that they need scarcely be considered apart. Their stratified parts are the same; but the marshes in Kent give it a character which does not belong to Sussex. These, like the similar flats of the other side the great estuary of the Thames, are parallel to its shore, also in the flat which separates the Isle of Thanet from the main land of Kent, and in the great district of Romney Marsh.

Interspersed with the first described district of these marshes, and parallel to them and the chalk, are knolls of the London clay, pebbly and sandy subsoil, in some places producing very good loamy land, and in others very indifferent. The chalk, rising from beneath this south and south-westward, terminates abruptly in an angular course through the county, from the cliffs of Dover to its western extremity, and, at Barham Downs and in other parts, forms that kind of dry surface of short grass, or down-land, by which the outcrop of this stratum is commonly distinguished.

The dry surface of the Isle of Thanet has chalk beneath.

The oak-tree soil may be traced through small woods, parallel to the chalk, with the carstone sand and limestone rising into a well-defined ridge, with a flatter district of clayey commons, &c. between that and the soft, sandstone of the higher part of the wealds or forest ridge.

7. Sussex

The chalk hills of the South Downs produce the boldest feature of Sussex, and occupy a fourth of the county, in a ridge which extends east and west, the longest way of it, from Beachy Head to the western extremity.

East of these hills, in the low district called Manhood, is a portion of the sands, clays, and brick-earth, whose surface, as in many other parts over chalk, produces a fine loamy soil for tillage. This extends along the flat coast to Brighton.

On the north side of the chalk, and parallel to it, some of the same kind of sand as in Surry appears occasionally, and also the clay, or oaktree soil, which accompanies it.

The clay, with some modifications (and in some parts of it beds of Sussex marble, or smeg stone), occupies lower moderately rising ground, in a course parallel to the chalk hills, and seems to terminate in the rich alluvial marshes of Pevensey Level.

The northern part of the coimty gradually rises to the higher lands in the forest ridge; much of which, on a poor surface of soft sandstone, is yet appropriated to the growth of timber, or remains, like the similar soil of North York moors, in an uncultivated state, and is, like that dreary district, still covered with rusty-looking ling.

8. Hampshire

Hampshire, like Norfolk, has but two sorts of strata, and no stone fit for building, except from the back of the Isle of Wight; and this small part of the county makes the only difference between these two distant counties, except that the surface of Hampshire is not so sandy. The bulk of the chalk runs through the middle of Hampshire; but in Norfolk it is chiefly on the western side, and the poor commons of the stratum over it lie to the east and midland parts. In Hampshire, the same sort of commons lie in the northern and southern part of the county.

The New Forest, and the Forest of Bere, constitute a large portion of the southern parts; the clay, sand, and gravel of which appear to occupy nearly as large a space as the chalk of the dry downs and arable land in the northern part. A little of the carstone sand, and the poverty of the Surry and Sussex sandstone of the forest ridge, come into the eastern part of Hampshire.

8. Dorsetshire

Dorsetshire partakes of three of the great strata which form some of the first features in the island, viz., the forest, heath, and extensive common surface — the chalky (arable and down land) and the stony district. Though these are the most conspicuous divisions of the county, yet each of them will produce considerable varieties. The first may be divided into, 1. light loamy land, inclinable to sand; 2. poor thin gravel; and, 3. stiff clay. The first of these, is chiefly good arable land; the second generally heath and common; and the third produces fine timber, which is chiefly oak; and, where it is not too wet, is good arable which ploughs rather stiff, like much of the clay in Essex and Suffolk.

The heaths and commons are by far the greater portion of this sand, and give to all the eastern part of the county a general appearance of dreariness, like Bagshot Heath. These form the second principal class of Dorsetshire strata. The chalk is the first, with its usual surface of high down land and dry arable. The green and iron sand, which in many parts appears only in a narrow ridge, parallel to the chalk, here expands over a vast surface of high poor land in Dorsetshire, bordering upon Blackdown, and partaking of its general appearance and properties. In the vale of Blackmore, a great breadth of the oak tree clay, and the clunch clay, spread from the base of the chalk hills to the edge of the combrash limestone; which, with some interspersions of clay and stone, and a part of the oolyte rocks about Sherborne, occupy the remainder of the county. Somewhat of the same kind of limestone appears about Bridport. And the Purbeck stone is the same as that in the vale of Pickering.

10. Wiltshire

Wiltshire has four leading features: the chalky (arable and down land), and the stony land bordering upon Gloucestershire (which Mr. Davis has called the Cotswold part of the county), are the most striking, on account of the boldness of the hills produced by such thick strata: but the other two principal divisions are very distinct, and clearly to be traced in the sand, which follows the chalk, and the clay, which lies between the sand range and the stony part. This clay is the stratum which more particularly characterizes the strong lands of the vale of North Wilts. The stubborn soil, which is the effect of a too near approach of this stratum to the surface, is, however, in great breadths of this district, much improved by the fine soil of a consider able covering of gravel.

A fifth sort may also be distinctly traced through the clay-lands between the sand ridges, and the chalky which is called the oak-tree soil,

11. Berkshire

Berkshire partakes much of the same strata as Buckinghamshire, and other counties over the Thames in a north-eastern direction; but its chalk hills are not so deeply spread with the strong soils of the superincumbent strata; the principal parts of those heights are therefore less covered with timber. The eastern and southern part of the county consists entirely of the clays, sand, and gravely incumbent on chalk, and has large portions of its surface in forests, commons, or extensive woods.

The clay-land of the vale of White Horse, and the sand ridge which succeeds it to the north, with a narrow strip of another clay, parallel to the Thames, occupy the remainder of the western part of the county.

North of the forest and heathy district, in the eastern part, and bounded by the Thames, is a fine dry surface soil, on a thick substratum of chalk, with some interspersions, of the clay over it, which are covered with wood.

12. Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire, though a small county, of very irregular figure, partakes of a considerable variety of strata. It has some part of all, from the brick-earth and sand above the chalk, down to the blue marl. The portions of the former, on the clayey common of Nettlebed and woody heights adjacent, are but small. The chalk makes a bold figure in Stokenchurch hills and in the ground which slopes towards the Thames. The oak-tree clay may be traced, in its proper character, from Newnham north-eastward; and the sand and its accompaniments in its course across the narrowest part of the county, is equally distinct. The blue shale through Ottmoor, and the wet and dirty part in the south-west, parallel to the Isis, has a diaracter too plain to be mistaken, and is only rendered habitable by the fine clean gravel, which is usually lodged on it in sufficient thickness to produce materials foe the roads and an excellent soil. Dry stony soils and substrata, like the Cotswold hills, rise to high land, and occupy the remainder; which, in the north-western and northern extremity of the county, is, like the adjacent part of Northamptonshire, interspersed with valleys of strong blue marl and clay. The latter part is by far the largest of all these natural divisions in the county.

13. Buckinghamshire

Buckinghamshire has all the varieties of Oxfordshire, but differs from it in having but a small portion of that kind of stony land which characterizes the north-western part of the latter county. It has considerable breadths of poor sandy and gravelly heaths above the chalk; a bold ridge of chalk; its clay-land vale, of Aylesbury, succeeded by a sand and sandstone ridge; a district of strong clay-land, with its usual wet surface, and a drier limestone, which skirts the northern part of the county in a north-eastern direction, parallel to the river Ouse.

14. Bedfordshire

Bedfordshire has an interior ridge of sand, and partakes largely of an interior ridge of chalk, between which is a course of stiff clay-land, which, toward the sand, extends to the heights. These are the three principal features of the south-eastern half of the county.

Parallel to the sand, which extends through the county from north-east to south-west, in the vale of Bedford, lies the thick stratum of dark blue shale, which is common to other valleys and low land to the north-east and south-west In the northern part of this county, as in Huntingdonshire, it extends to the heights. Where the soil is formed on its surface, nothing can be more difficult to cultivate; but the gravel in the vale of Bedford, as about Huntingdon, has happily covered it to a good thickness, and produced a better soil. This clayey stratum is found under all the northern half of the county, except in a few places, where the combrash limestone appears.

15. Hertfordshire

The north and north-western extremities consist of the openness and aridity of surface which the most elevated parts of the thick chalk stratum generally produce; and the southern part of the county, of the woody eminences of the clay over the chalk. Most of the valleys of Hertfordshire are deep enough to expose some of the chalk, which is the general base of the county; and the intermediate heights partake of the sand, gravel, and clay, which are its usual covering.

16. Cambridgeshire

Cambridgeshire has but little variety of strata. This county includes a large portion of the adjacent fens, and the alluvial matter about Cambridge hides much of the dry sandy soil which usually appears at the foot of the chalk. The open arid surface over the chalk, which stretches along the south-eastern side, and the clay soils on the western side, are the principal distinctions in the substrata. One half of the county is fen. The gravel in the vicinity of Cambridge makes a good soil, and the most agreeable walks.

17. Somersetshire

This county is generally considered in two parts, the northern and southern; it being divided nearly in the middle by the great ridge of hills called Mendip; and, in going westward, the county assumes a quite different character, from the south side of that hill. Somerset is compounded of such a great variety of strata, as makes it difficult of general description. Freestone forms a conspicuous feature in all the hills of the North-eastern part; and the same strata, sweeping in a long curve round its southern boundary, seem to enclose, by the help of Mendip and,the Quantock hills, a large anterior district of low land, great part of which is alluvial soil or rich marsh land; another, rich pasture, on blue marl; and the remainder, interspersions of lias and red marl. This latter extends through the fine vale of Taunton; and behind this, a considerable district of poorer surface, on killas and its accompaniments, rises to the heights of Exmoor, terminating on the shore in blnff headland of red and dun-stone. These latter strata generally produce a hilly, but not infertile surface.

The northern division of the county is more diversified. The limestone of Mendip, and the hills thence to Bristol, are, however, a striking feature which, with that of the freestone in the eastern part before described, the blue marl, lias, and red ground, make up the general outlines of its strata. A large district of marsh-land, similar to that of the midland part before described, occurs on the shore of the Severn. The dry surface of the thick or mountain limestone, cannot be mistaken. The red marl occupies most of the intermediate spaces; and it is rather remarkable that this stratum, is more noticed in this and the adjoining county of Devon than in many other counties where it occupies a much greater breadth of surface. This may arise from its being here frequently seen in higher situations.

The coal is now worked at great depth beneath this red marl; and it is very remarkable, that the coal districts of Somersetshire present not the least appearance of the general poverty of soil in coal countries.[sic]

18. Gloucestershire

Gloucestershire is distinguished in the northern, part by the stony district of the Cotswold hills, in the southern by the collieries of Kingswood, in the middle, by the vales of Berkley, Stroudwater, and Gloucester, which, all together, seem to be comprehended in the one great vale of Severn, whose utmost limits of breadth are formed by the bold outline of the Cotswold hills on one side, and the ridge which stretches from Malvern to the Forest of Dean on the other; but this ridge is divided, opposite Gloucester, with a fine valley of red land, which extends up to Herefordshire.

The woody, land part rocky, district in the angle of the Severn and Wye, which comprehends the Forest of Dean, seems like an insular part of this county. This forest has been long noted for its fine timber, and, by the help of works recently established, will shortly be equally famed for its coal. This is, in fact, one of the largest districts of that valuable mineral which has, till lately, remained in obscurity.

19. Worcestershire

Worcestershire is much like Warwickshire, chiefly composed of red marl and red sandstone, with interspersions of gravel, and a considerable breadth of lias and its clay, on or near the surface in its south-eastern part. The rich vale of Evesham, and its insular hills, make a pretty variety, which are also similar to the southern parts of Warwickshire. The base and sides of these are of blue marl, and their tops only of stone. A range of hills on its south-western side, with others near its northern boundary, and those before mentioned, seem to circumscribe the principal part of the county as one great vale, through which the rivers Avon and Severn flow to their junction at Tewkesbury.

The western and most northern parts partake of the irregularities of coal and limestone eminences, and retain, in the Forest of Wire, some of the original wildness of coal-measure surface, wet land, and soft and bad roads.

20. Warwickshire

Warwickshire has but little variety of strata, and not much of surface, the greater part of the county being upon the red marl, and its more sandy and loamy varieties, where the red sandstone lies within a few feet of the soil. A large portion of this kind of land, now very well timbered, was originally called the Woodlands, as the north eastern part, somewhat more hilly, on the course of the lias limestone, was called Feldon. Still higher lands of the under-oolyte form its eastern and southern boundary. The sides and base of these hills, and all the low land thence to the lias, is of the blue marl which is eommon to the pastures of the adjacent counties. Its other eminences, which form the bbundaries of drainage to the rivers Trent and Avon, are only of such moderate altitude as is common to the red marl and its stone. It has great advantages from coal, without the poverty of soil occasioned by a surface of coal-measures.

21. Leicestershire

Leicestershire is one of those midland counties which have a striking similitude to each other. It bears the greatest resemblance to Warwickshire and Worcestershire, from its being composed of much the same materials, red marl, lias, and blue marl, and interspersions of gravel nearly in the same proportion, with a moderately elevated eastern boundary of marly hills, which have some stone on their summits. These form the bold margin to the vale of Belvoir; which vale, with a surface of lias and its marly clay, form the principal features of that side of the county.

Charnwood Forest, with its irregular surface, and substrata of slate and gneiss, equally irregular, give bolder features to the north-western parts; and the westernmost extremity in Ashby wolds and the moors about Cole Orton, before they were cultivated, must have shown much of the poor natural characters of coal land.

22. Northamptonshire

Although the chief part of Northamptonshire is in the course of the great oolyte rocks which form the dry surface of the Cotswold hills, the stone here becomes so thin, and parts of it are so widely, dispersed, as to give this county a much better soil and more agreeable appearance. The variations from this kind of land (which, is frequently called stonebrash) to a strong clay, is all that tha county admits of.

From Peterborough great fen, which is in this county, a moderately elevated ridge of strong blue clay forms its south-eastern boundary against Huntingdonshire. To this succeeds a stratum of limestone in the same direction, from north-east to south-west, with a drier surface and much better soil. Many interspersions of clay occur, with rounded fragments of chalk, which proves this kind of surface alluvial; and in other places, the regular strata of forest marble or slatey stone are imbedded. These two sorts of tenacious and wet soils form much of the ancient forest land; some still remains in wood, and much was, till lately, in open fields, or common.

The freestone rock, which, in some parts, produces fine stone for building, is the substratum of most of the dry arable land. It is more sandy and reddish about Northampton, and rises, thence on the tops of the hills to the highest land on the extremity of the county. It is in these parts chiefly that the blue marl and clay occupy the valleys, and form, the strong soil which is now generally appropriated to pasture. On the borders of Leicestershire, the land consists wholly, of this kind of clay, with some interspersions of soft dirty gravel, which is a curious mixture of rounded fragments of different strata, principally from the eastward.

23. Huntingdonshire

Huntingdonshire has less variety of strata than any other county, nearly the whole of it being composed of one thick substratum of clay, varied only on the surface by casual interspersions of gravel. This alluvial matter is most abundant, round Huntingdon and other places on the great north road: it is not, however, deep to the substratum of strong blue day which constitutes the general base of the county. This stratum of blue clay, from its great thickness, forms considerably elevated ground on the western side of the county. The north-eastern side embraces a considerable part of the fen; and, but for a small portion of a thin limestone rock at Elton, &c. in the northern extremity of the county, Huntingdonshire might be said to have no stone.

24. Rutland

Rutland is the smallest county of England, and has but little variety of strata, its heights being composed of stone, and the valleys of clay or blue marl. Its eastern part, through which the great north road passes, has all that dryness of surface, with a hollow rock beneath and rubble-stone soil, which characterize the course of the great oolyte, rock, and which, from its being almost wholly in tillage, and inclosed with stone walls, and equally destitute of timber, makea it greatly resemble some parts of the Cotswold hills.

25. Lincolnshire

This county is not altogether so fenny as is usually supposed, the adjacent parts of the low lands in Northamptonshire and other counties being, frequently called by the general name of Lincolnshire Fens.

Lincolnshire is a large county, and partakes of the varieties or strata common to the south-eastern and midland counties. The fens, and two considerable parallel ridges, one of chalk and the other of stonebrash, are its principal features. It has, however, several other distinct varieties of soil and substrata, these may be taken in succession from east to west. The great district of rich feeding marshes and clays adjoining, with their marine sandy margin, is one; the open and airy ridge of chalk, another, the sandy heaths and rabbit-warrens, a third; the clay, or golt, of the interior emmet-hill pastures, a fourth; the stone ridge and light soil over it, a fifth; the low ridge of has limestone and its clay, in many places with a poor alluvial sand coverings a sixth; and the red, containing gypsum, between that and the Trent, a seventh. These occupy the county in long narrow strips; but in Kesteven, on, the borders of Rutland, the oolyte expands into a considerable breadth of stony surface, resembling the Cotswold hills.

26. Devon

Devon and Cornwall, as the Danmonia of the ancients, seem still to have a kindred union; and some parts of; these counties, from the nature of the strata and their mineral products, must be much alike. Yet the extraordinary protrusion of Cornwall into the sea, and the superior quality of Devonshire soil, render a still greater part of them essentially different.

Devonshire is generally considered a county abounding with rich soil: this may be true with regard to the red land and South Hams; but Dartmoor, Exmoor, and part of Blackdown and Haldon, make large deductions from this general good character of the county.

Dartmoor, at the heignt of eleven to eighteen hundred feet, above the level of the sea, with immense blocks of giant on its lights, and broad surfaces of black peat in its valleys, is the most dreary waste that can well be conceived. Exmoor on killas, and Blackdown, on silicious sand, are not much better. Many small moors are interspersed through the red substratum or the broad flat between the two mountains of Dartmoor and Exmoor. Much of the red sandy surface is carved into deep hollow-ways. Rounded fragments, or alluvial pebbles, are very common to this part of the county, and give its soil, great resemblance to the gravelly parts of Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire.

27. Monmouthshire

The prominent features of Monmouthshire are its insular mountains and the beauties of its bordering river; the latter produced by the bold terminations of limestone, and the other by strata of sandstone, dunstone, and reddish brown marl, which is remarkable for producing a surface abounding with insular hills, frequently in a conical form, but none which rise so majestically as the Sugar-loaf and adjacent mountains of Monmouthshire.

The more western part of the county has lately become extremely wealthy and populous from its valuable mountains of coal and iron. About a sixth part of the great coal-field, which extends into Carmarthenshire, is in this county.

28. Herefordshire

Red marl, reddish sand, and red sandstone, are the prevailing strata of this county. The high land in the south,, through which the Wye works its way, and that about Malvern, abounds with limestone, which is also very plentiful along the north-eastern and northern borders of the county.

The strata of red and dun-stone on the southwestern side rise from hill to hill, between the branches of the Munnow to the character of mountains, which have much the same altitude as those of the same strata in the adjacent counties of Monmouth and Brecon. The Wye, in its passage through these strata, being confined to a narrow valley, gives these heights a connected appearance with those which skirt the Welsh mountains on the Radnorshire side of the county.

A hilly margin of kindred strata in the north, continuing to Ludlow, forms, with the other sides, as before described, the principal part of the county into an immense central valley, watered and drained by the beautiful rivers Lug and Wye, from, the midst of which there is no appearance of their entrance or escape. The richness of this vale around Hereford is well expressed in its name of Golden Valley.

29. Shropshire

The south-eastern part of the county, to the side of the Severn, and part over that river, consists chiefly of the sandy friable soil which is the common surface of the red sand, sandstone, and red marl which stretches into the county from Staffordshire and Worcestershire. Much higher ground, containing coal and iron in abundance, succeeds to this, forming the woody and dirty surface of the forest of Wire and Clee hills, and from thence, in a north-easterly direction over the Severn, to the similar eminences above Colebrook-dale.

A rugged district, which consists of the strata of some of the lesser mountains of Wales, succeeds in the south-west, stretches thence northerly along the western boundary of the county to the banks of the Severn, and forms the margin of the fine vale of Shrewsbury, through which this river passes. A further extension of the coal-measures skirts the southern and northwestern sides of this extensive vale, and forms the exterior boundary of the county against the Denbighshire mountains. The greater part of the interior vale, and the moderately rising ground and hills thence northward, comprising one third of the county, consist of the same kind of reddish soil, gravel, marl, and red sandstone, as is common to Cheshire.

30. Staffordshire

A large portion of Staffordshire is composed of red marl, and its sand and sand-stones, some part of the surface of which is gravelly. Alluvial matter of great thickness on the edge of Cannock Heath also covers the coal-measures which stretch through the most extensive works in the kingdom to the southern boundary of the county. The eastern and western sides of this great coal-field are of nearly the same kind of red strata, but somewhat more sandy than the interior, which, in various alternations of stone and marl, stretches up to the other coal-district in the northern extremity of the county. The usual poor surfaces of coal-measures is here more clearly defined than in the district before described in, the lower part of the county, and, connects with, and resembles, the dreary moors, which are common to such land in the high part of Derbyshire [modern photos]. Staffordshire has also has some of the limestone by which its neighbouring county is, distinguished. As this rock and the coal-measures last described, form the highest hills in this part of the country, and a boundary ridge continues thence west and southwards, almost to connect with the high land of Cannock Chase, the interior of Staffordshire is thus formed into a basin, or fine rich vale of yast extent, through which the river Trent meanders.

31. Cheshire

The surface of Cheshire is so completely occupied by red marl, red sandstone, and sand and gravel that it may be said to have little or no other varieties of strata. The gypsum which accompanies the red marl is rarely seen, and the salt rocks beneath are found only at great depths by sinking pits. There is scarcely any stone observable on the surface of the interior of Cheshire, but what has evidently been rounded by attrition in water: and hence the proof of its allovial origin. There is, however, an inner range of sandstone hills, chiefly confined to Cheshire, which appear to circumscribe the great salt dis trict. Delamere Forest and Alderly Edge are parts of this kind of sandstone. [modern photos of the Peak District]

Coal-measures come into the eastern and western parts of the county under very different superficial appearances. That on the eastern and north-eastern border has all the roughness common to these strata in high situations. Some parts of the surface greatly resemble the adjacent High Peak of Derby.

31. Lancashire

Lancashire has its flat and its hilly parts. The southern portion of the flat, divided from Cheshire by the Irwell, appears like part of the same great basin which, like that, has an abrupt termination in high land to the eastward. Moderately elevated land separates this from the other flatter part of Lancashire, which extends along the coast with high land also to the east. Red marl, sandstone, and large mosses, marshes, and sand-hills, occupy all the low grounds, and coal measures all the high, except in Furness, a district of itself, which partakes of all the wildness and grandeur of mountaiin scenery common to a substratum of schist. The limestone and its accompaniments in Low Furness and Kendal, exhibit a pleasing variety of beauty and fertility, interspersed with large inlets of the sea at high water, which makes it truly an interesting district, assuming, at ebb tide, a different aspect, from the great breadth of sands which are then exposed. [modern photos of Lancashire]

The coal-measures between Prescot, Chorley, Colne, and Ashton under-Line, are the general surface, which, in the high parts, is marked by all the dreariness of the wet and uncultivated moors which are common to these strata. The heights of Bolland are much the same; but the many advantages arising from the numerous coal-works in the south and south-west, have entirely changed the face of the country.

33. Derbyshire

Derbyshire is remarkable for its hills: part of these are formed of limestone; and a still higher part of the Peak, of the overlaying grits and shales of the coal-measures. The great difference in these hills may be seen at a distance, the limestone hills being generally clothed with a short green turf, while those which contain grit-stone are covered with heath, fern, or furze, which give them a brown appearance.

The same sort of surface which forms the High Peak, continues by the east moor to within a few miles of Derby, the high ground of which constitutes the west, as the ridge of magnesian limestone forms the east side of the broad vale of Scarsdale.

Derbyshire partakes largely of the red marl, but its surface is in many places thickly covered with gravel. This, as in several other counties, forms the best land. It is about an eighth part of the county, and no where rises to very high ground. The magnesian limestone of the eastern side, the coat-lands of the interior, the high wet moors of the Peak, and the large district of dry-surfaced limestone, which abounds with mines, are the principal features of the Derbyshire strata.

34. Nottinghamshire

Nottinghamshire is noted for red marl, chiefly in the districts call ed the North and South Clays. This, and its varieties of sand, gravelly sand, and red and whitish sandstones, constitute by far the greater part of the county. The latter forms a dry surface, very different from that of the Clays, which ranges, like the other, from north to south, through the large district of Sherwood forest, about the centre of the county. West of this, and somewhat higher, is a more regularly defined ridge of the magnesian limestone, of which Nottinghamshire has a consider able portion, and also of the strata beneath, which produce those va luable collieries on the borders of Derbyshire.

The surface of that part of Nottinghamshire which lies south east of Trent, is entirely of red, and its interlaid thin strata of blue clay, with the exception of some gravelly places, and two or three long ridges of lias and its blue clay, which stretch out beyond the general extent of the wolds in the adjoining county.

35. Yorkshire

Yorkshire is a county of immense extent, which, in its eastern part, comprises all the strata of the southern and eastern counties; its in terior, those of the midland counties; its western, those of Durham, Northumberland, and the part of South Wales which contains the coal. Though the hills of the east moors and wolds are high, their altitudes are comparatively low to those of the coal-measures in the west and northern-western parts of the county.

Except the moors and wolds before mentioned, nearly all the rest of this vast county has one general declination towards the east, from the tops of Whernside and Ingleborough to the mouth of the Humber. On the shores of this great estuary, and of the river Trent, and others, connected with the Humber, are large districts of alluvial and low marshy land, evidently formed by a sediment of the sea. The strip included between a district of this sort, and the easternmost part of the coast, called Holderness, is of the strata incumbent on chalk, and much the same kind of soil as the east part of Norfolk. The wolds [on?] chalk, are as dry, arid, and as Salisbury Plain. The clay and limestone of the vale of Pickering form a much better soil than that which succeeds it to the north and north-west. These dreary and most extensive surfaces of brown, rusty-looking ling, upon a substratum of soft sandstone, are worse than any other district. The blue clay, Or surface of alum shale, which succeeds it in the deep vales of the North York moors, and at the foot of them, is not good, and, in some parts of the vale of York, seems covered with alluvial sand, which has not improved the surface. A redder and much better soil runs through the middle of the county, parallel to the magnesian limestone, along the west side of the vale of York into Cleveland, and forms some of the best land in Yorkshire. The dry surface of the yellow or magnesian limestone is parallel to the red. Its course through the eastern half of the county is along the great north road, and in the northern parallel, and very near to it. West of this a vast surface of coal-measures, generally producing a poor soil, and more or less productive in coal, rises gradually to the tops of the highest hills. Eminences on its eastern side, with those of the wolds and Hambleton hills, seem to form the extreme limits of an immense vale, the central part of which is the Vale of York. The coal-measures form the largest portion of any of the Yorkshire strata. Its northern and western parts in Craven and Richmond are beautifully interspersed with a rich surface on a substratum of lime stone. These are the two principal districts of this kind of land which so much relieve the general dreariness of surface, occasioned by the bleak high, and wet moors of the coal-measures; but which vast surface is also further broken and relieved by various interspersions of the dry and rich soil in Swaledale, Yorkdale and others. [modern photos of the Yorkshire Dales]

36. Durham

The subterraneous products of Durham and Northumberland are the same, and the greater part of the two counties much alike.

Durham has its great coal district chiefly on the Wear, as that of Northumberland is on the Tyne; and Durham has also, like Northumberland, a large mineral district in its western parts. The limestone under the coal, which produces these mines, does not, however, in this county, any where in the dales, occupy so great a surface as about Hexham,, in the next. Its moory or boggy topped, and sometimes rocky, heights, in the mineral district, are much the same. Durham, howevet, differs materially from Northumberlaud in the great breadths of limestone, which its eastern part contains, and also in the strong clay-land which lies between that and the sea.

Durham, like Yorkshire, in the features which its principal rivers occasion, is characterized in its western parts by the long and extensive vales of Teesdale, Weardale, and Tynedale: only half of the first and last are in this county. Derwent also is a smaller intermediate valley, not equally distinguished by limestone and minerals, but its vicinity is better supplied with coal. At the head of this valley, between Weardale and Teesdale, are very extensive barren heathy districts. In Weardate and Teesdale, interspersions of a dry and rich soil upon limestone produce a pleasing variety.

37. Northumberland

This county is most eminently distinguished by its coal; and the strata which produce this invaluable mineral, more or less, are spread over the whole county, except in Hexhamshire and some other interspersions of limestone, thence northward, through the middle of the county, to Holy Island and the banks of the Tweed. Some limestone comes into the eastern corner from Durham.

A large portion of Northumberland, and particularly, in the western and high parts, abounds with extensive commons and wastes, or did so till lately, which nothing but the extraction of the subturaneous wealth of the county could ever bring into cultivation. [modern photos of Northumbria, Cumbria, and Hadrian's Wall]

40. Westmorland

Westmorland has but a small portion of the slate and other rugged strata of the Copeland mountains. Its westernmost part is, however, entirely composed of these kind of rocks. Its north-eastern border, nearly as high, consists of strata of a very different description, in which there are some thin beds of coal. This valuable, mineral, and its accompaniments also, occupy the heights of its southeastern border; and a red brown sandstone follows the vale from Brough to the northern boundary of the county: but Westmorland is most remarkable for its limestone, which, comes into the county in great breadths, both from the north and south, and dilates through the interior, to its eastern border, in the vale of Stainmoor.

41. Cumberland

Cumberland has the extremes of high and low land: on its northern coast, a considerable breadth of low land, formed by a sediment of the sea; and, in its interior district of Copeland, mountains which rise to the clouds. These, formed of schist and its accompaniments, are remarkable for their rugged surface and beautiful lakes of clear water, pent up in cavities of the rock. The intermediate eminences are composed of limestone, coal-measures, and red, which gradually sink to the low ground in the vale of Eden. The north-western part of Cumberland is said to have a great resemblance to the opposite coast of Scotland.

Smith’s Description of Other Parts of Great Britain

Related material


Smith, William. A Memoir to the Map and Delineation of Strata of England and Wales. London: John Cary, 1815.

Created 11 September 2018; last modified 8 September 2023