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South Coast of England.—To pass over some points near Hastings, where the cliffs have wasted at several periods, we arrive at the promontory of Beachy Head. Here a mass of chalk, three hundred feet in length, and from seventy to eighty in breadth, fell, in the year 1813, with a tremendous crash; and similar slips have since been frequent.* Susser.—About a mile to the west of the town of Newhaven the remains of an ancient entrenchment are seen, on the brow of Castle Hill. This earth-work, supposed to be Roman, was evidently once of considerable extent and of an oval form, but the greater part has been cut away. The cliffs, which are undermined here, are high; more than one hundred feet of chalk being covered by tertiary clay and sand, from sixty to seventy feet in thickness. In a few centuries the last vestiges of the plastic clay formation on the southern borders of the chalk of the South Downs on this coast will be annihilated, and future geologists will learn, from historical documents, the ancient geographical boundaries of this group of strata in that direction. On the opposite side of the estuary of the Ouse, on the east of Newhaven harbour, a bed of shingle, composed of chalk flints, derived from the waste of the adjoining cliffs, had accumulated at Seasord for several centuries. In the great storm of November, 1824, this bank was entirely swept away, and the town of Seaford inundated. Another great beach of shingle is now forming from fresh materials. The whole coast of Sussex has been incessantly encroached upon by the sea from time immemorial; and, although sudden inundations only, which overwhelmed fertile or inhabited tracts, are noticed in history, the records attest an extraordinary amount of loss. During a period of no more than eighty years, there are notices of about twenty inroads, in which tracts of land of from twenty to four hundred acres in extent were overwhelmed at once; the value of the tithes being mentioned by Nicholas, in his Taxatio Ecclesiastica.t In the reign of Elizabeth, the town of Brighton was situated on that tract where the chain pier now extends into the sea. In the year 1665 twenty-two tenements had been destroyed under the cliff. At that period there still remained under the cliff 113 tenements, the whole of which were overwhelmed in 1703 and 1705. No traces of the ancient town are now preceptible, yet there is evidence that the sea has merely resumed its ancient position at the base of the cliffs, the site of the old town having been merely a beach abandoned by the ocean for ages. Hampshire—Isle of Wight.—It would be endless to allude to all the localities on the Sussex and Hampshire coasts where the land has given way; but I may point out the relation which the geological structure of the Isle of Wight bears to its present shape, as attesting that the coast" owes its outline to the continued action of the sea. Through the middle of the island runs a high ridge of chalk strata, in a vertical position, and in a direction east and west. This chalk forms the projecting promontory of Culver Cliff on the east, and of the Needles on the west; while Sandown Bay on the one side, and Compton Bay on the other, have been hollowed out of the softer sands and argillaceous strata, which are inferior to the chalk. The same phenomena are repeated in the Isle of Purbeck, where the line of vertical chalk forms the projecting promontory of Handsast Point; and Swanage Bay marks the deep excavation made by the waves in the softer strata, corresponding to those of Sandown Bay. Hurst-Castle Bank.-The entrance of the channel called the Solent is becoming broader by the waste of the cliffs in Colwell Bay; it is crossed for more than two-thirds of its width by the shingle bank of Hurst Castle, which is about seventy yards broad and twelve feet high, presenting an inclined plane to the west. This singular bar consists of a bed of rounded chalk flints, resting on a submarine argillaceous base. The flints and a few other pebbles, intermixed, are exclusively derived from the waste of Hordwell, and other cliffs to the westward, where tertiary strata, capped with a covering of chalk flints, from five to fisty feet thick, are rapidly undermined. Storm of Nov. 1824.—In the great storm of November, 1824, this bank of shingle was moved bodily forwards for forty yards towards the north-east; and certain piles which served to mark the boundaries of two manors, were sound, aster the storm, on the opposite side of the bar. At the same time many acres of pasture land were covered by shingle, on the farm of Westover, near Lymington. The cliffs between Ilurst Shingle Bar and the mouth of the Stour and Avon are undermined continually. Within the memory of persons now living, it has been necessary thrice to remove the coast-road farther inland. The tradition, therefore, is probably true, that the church of Hordwell was once in the middle of that parish, although now very near the sea. The promontory of Christ Church Head gives way slowly. It is the only point between Lymington and Poole Harbour in Dorsetshire, where any hard stony masses occur in the cliff. Five layers of large serruginous concretions, somewhat like the septaria of the London clay, have occasioned a resistance at this point, to which we may ascribe this headland. In the meantime, the waves have cut deeply into the soft sands and loam of Poole Bay; and, after severe frosts, great landslips take place, which, by degrees, become enlarged into narrow ravines, or chines, as they are called, with vertical sides. One of these chines near Boscomb, has been deepened twenty feet within a few years. At the head of each there is a spring, the waters of which have been chiefly Vol. I.-2 I
* Webster, Geol. Trans., vol. ii. p. 192. # Mantell, Geology of Sussex, p. 293.
instrumental in producing these narrow excavations, which are sometimes from 100 to 150 feet deep. Isle of Portland.—The peninsulas of Purbeck and Portland are continually wasting away. In the latter, the soft argillaceous substratum (Kimmeridge clay) hastens the dilapidation of the superincumbent mass of limestone. In 1665 the cliffs adjoining the principal quarries in Portland gave way to the extent of 100 yards, and sell into the sea; and in December, 1734, a slide to the extent of 150 yards occurred on the east side of the isle, by which several skeletons, buried between slabs of stone, were discovered. But a much more memorable occurrence of this nature, in 1792, occasioned probably by the undermining of the cliffs, is thus described in Hutchins's History of Dorsetshire: “Early in the morning the road was observed to crack: this continued increasing, and before two o'clock the ground had sunk several feet, and was in one continued motion, but attended with no other noise than what was occasioned by the separation of the roots and brambles, and now and then a falling rock. At night it seemed to stop a little, but soon moved again; and before morning, the ground, from the top of the cliff to the water-side, had sunk in some places fifty feet perpendicular. The extent of ground that moved was about a mile and a quarter from north to south, and 600 yards from east to West. Formation of the Chesil Bank.—Portland is connected with the main land by the Chesil Bank, a ridge of shingle about seventeen miles in length, and, in most places, nearly a quarter of a mile in breadth. The pebbles forming this immense barrier are chiefly of limestone; but there are many of quartz, jasper, chert, and other substances, all loosely thrown together. What is singular, they gradually increase in size from west to east—from the Portland end of the bank to that which attaches to the main land. The formation of this bar may probably be ascribed, like that of Hurst Castle, to a meeting of tides, or to a submarine shoal or reef between the peninsula and the land. We have seen that slight obstructions in the course of the Ganges will cause, in the course of a man's life, islands many times larger than the whole of Portland, and which, in some cases, consist of a column of earth more than 100 feet deep. In like manner those transported materials which are annually swept away from large tracts of our coast, may give rise, wherever they encounter any impediment in their course, to banks of sand and shingle many miles in length. The course of the shingles in Dorsetshire, and on the shores of Sussex and Kent, appears to be from west to east, the prevalent winds, and, consequently, the chief forces of the waves, being in that direction.” The storm of 1824 burst over the Chesil Bank with
* See Palmer on Motion of Shingle Beaches, Phil. Trans., 1834, p. 568.
great fury, and the village of Chesilton, built upon its southern extremity, was overwhelmed, with many of the inhabitants. The fundamental rocks whereon the shingle rests are found at the depth of a few yards only below the level of the sea. This same storm carried away part of the Breakwater, at Plymouth, and huge masses of rock from two to five tons in weight, were listed from the bottom of the weather side, and rolled fairly to the top of the pile. One block of limestone, weighing seven tons, was washed round the western extremity of the Breakwater, and carried 150 feet.* It was in the same month, and also during a spring-tide, that a great flood is mentioned on the coasts of England, in the year 1099. Florence of Worcester says, “On the third day of the nones of Nov. 1099, the sea came out upon the shore, and buried towns and men very many, and oxen and sheep innumerable.” We also read in the Saxon Chronicle, already cited, for the year 1099, “This year eke on St. Martin's mass day, the 11th of Novembre, sprung up so much of the sea flood, and so myckle harm did, as no man minded that it ever afore did, and there was the ylk day a new moon.” Dorsetshire—Devonshire—Cornwall.—At Lyme Regis, in Dorsetshire, the “Church Cliffs,” as they are called, consisting of lias about 100 feet in height, have gradually fallen away, at the rate of one yard a year, since 1800.f The cliffs of Devonshire and Cornwall, which are chiefly composed of hard rocks, decay less rapidly. Near Penzance in Cornwall, there is a projecting tongue of land, called the “Green,” formed of granitic sand, from which more than thirty acres of pasture land have been gradually swept away in the course of the last two or three centuries. It is also said that St. Michael's Mount, now an insular rock, was formerly situated in a wood, several miles from the sea; and its old Cornish name (Caraclowse in Cowse) signifies, according to Carew, the Hoare Rock in the Wood.S. Between the Mount and Newlyn there is seen under the sand black vegetable mould, full of hazel nuts, and the branches, leaves, roots, and trunks of forest trees, all of indigenous species. This vegetable stratum has been traced seaward as far as the ebb permits, and seems to indicate some ancient estuary on that shore. Tradition of loss of land in Cornwall.—The oldest historians mention a celebrated tradition in Cornwall, of the submersion of the Lionnesse, a country which formerly stretched from the Land's End to the Scilly
* De la Beche, Geol. Man. p. 82.
1 This ground was measured by Dr. Carpenter of Lyme, in 1800, and again in 1829, as I am informed, by Miss Mary Anning of Lyme, well known by her discoveries in fossil remains.
: Boase, Trans. Royal Geol. Soc. of Cornwall, vol. ii. p. 129.
§ Ibid. p. 135.
Islands. The tract, if it existed, must have been thirty miles in length, and perhaps ten in breadth. The land now remaining on either side is from 200 to 300 feet high ; the intervening sea about 300 feet deep. Although there is no evidence for this romantic tale, it probably originated in some catastrophe occasioned by former inroads of the Atlantic upon this exposed coast.* West coast of England.—Having now brought together an ample body of proofs of the destructive operations of the waves, tides, and currents, on our eastern and southern shores, it will be unnecessary to enter into details of changes on the western coast, for they present merely a repetition of the same phenomena, and in general on an inserior scale. On the borders of the estuary of the Severn the flats of Somersetshire and Gloucestershire have received enormous accessions, while, on the other hand, submarine forests on the coast of Cheshire and Lancashire indicate the overflowing of alluvial tracts. Since the year 1764, the coast of Cheshire between the rivers Mersey and Dee has lost many hundred yards, and some affirm more than half a mile, by the advance of the sea upon the abrupt cliffs of red clay and marls. Within the period above mentioned several light-houses have been successively abandoned.t There are traditions in Pembrokeshires and Cardiganshireş of far greater losses of territory than that which the Lionnesse tale of Cornwall pretends to commemorate. They are all important, as demonstrating that the earliest inhabitants were familiar with the phenomenon of incursions of the sea. Loss of land on the coast of France.—The French coast, particularly that of Brittany, where the tides rise to an extraordinary height, is the constant prey of the waves. In the ninth century many villages and woods are reported to have been carried away, the coast undergoing great change, whereby the hill of St. Michael was detached from the main land. The parish of Bourgneuf, and several others in that neighbourhood, were overflowed in the year 1500. In 1735, during a great storm, the ruins of Palnel were seen uncovered in the sea. A romantic tradition, moreover, has descended from the fabulous ages of the destruction of the south-western part of Brittany, whence we may probably infer some great inroad of the sea at a remote period."
* Boase, Trans. Royal Geol. Soc. of Cornwall, vol. ii. p. 130. f Stevenson, Jameson's Ed. New Phil. Journ. No. 8, p. 386. ! Camden, who cites Gyraldus, also Ray, “On the Deluge,” Phys. Theol. p. 228. § Meyrick's Cardigan.
| Von Hoff, Geschichte, &c. vol. i. p. 49. T Ibid. p. 48.