Thursday, 9 February 2012

Muswell Hill and Finchley's Glacial Drifts (whatever)

Link to locallocalhistory web site
(then click link for each page)

The Glacial Drifts of
Muswell Hill and Finchley, 1874

By Henry Walker, F.G.S.

"In these pages the writer seeks to set forth the newly discovered physical history of a most interesting area of the environs of London.

"Where shall the stranger to Muswell Hill and Finchley look for these remains of Glacial England; and what shall he look for? How shall he recognise these remarkable memorials when he sees them, and read their wonderful history?"

(Click to enlarge)

The Modern View

Postscript by Dr. Eric Robinson,
Past President of the Geologists Society

"Only one detail of the picture painted by Henry Wetherell [is this a misprint?] would find criticism in any modern account. This was the suggestion that an arctic sea extended south of the actual limit of the ice, a sea in which icebergs floated and dropped foreign stones into a clayey bed. Icebergs were a fascination to Victorian geologists from the accounts brought back by Polar exploration voyages and seemed to offer a compromise to those, such as Lyell, who could not accept fully the eroding power of land ice. 

"In place of the Walker picture, we would now visualise a glacier tongue of very dirty, stone-choked ice, slowly melting and releasing that load of foreign stone in what we now see as the hill bench to the north of Falloden Way and Fortis Green.

"Fortis Green was the southern edge of the ice. To the south, Hampstead Garden Suburb south of the Mutton Brook, Highgate Wood and the southern marshland edge of Alexandra Palace, all represent ground which was never overwhelmed by northern ice.

"North of that line, however, the situation is different. T.H.Huxley, 'Darwin 's Bulldog' in the famous battle over the Evolutionary Theory, is buried beneath an oak tree in St Marylebone Cemetery, in chalky boulder clay deposited at the southernmost limit of the great glacial invasion from the north. In the soil of the cemeteries, fossils of the kind illustrated by Walker on p. 16 of his pamphlet can still be found when the rain has washed the soil. 

"Each time a grave is dug, the soil can be seen to be charged with pebbles of Chalk, white and soft to the touch. Less frequently, decidedly northern rocks such as lava or granite from as far away as Scotland or Northumberland, turn up in the same fresh clay from Oxfordshire. 

"In this way, the Walker account can be proved anew as good scientific observation. As it stands, however, this pamphlet gives us insight into the scientific thought of the day."

Eric Robinson, 1993

1 comment:

  1. Almost the only thing I remember from my geography o level is being told that where our school was happened to mark the edge of the ice sheet thing. At the time I thought it was a big fib. Just saying.