070227.Tucking Mill, Pilgrimage to Smith of the Rocks

February 27, 2007 at 12:18 AM | Posted in Architecture, Chisel Marks, people, Pilgrimage, somerset, Tucking Mill | 10 Comments

Copy of 070215.44.Somset.Tucking Mills.WmSmith House
Why is there a car there? Why is it a red car? Someone told me that red coloured cars are the ones most likely to be stopped by the police for speeding or other traffic infringements. (See JC’s comment.)

House of Geologist William Smith (1769-1839)

“Another claim of Monkton Combe to fame is as the starting-place of the science of geology in this west country. At the hamlet called Tucking Mill at the western extremity of the Parish on the now abandoned canal, which stands a house which bears a modest marble tablet with the inscription—

In this house lived
William Smith
The father of English Geology

“This ingenious pioneer of science was born in 1769 and became a mineral surveyor and civil engineer. In 1794 he was appointed engineer to the Soon Coal Canal, the one which used to pass through Monkton Combe but is new extinct and superseded by the Railway to Hallathrow. He bought this house, now the office of the Fuller’s Earth Factory, and made it his residence, and also traveled much about the country observing strata. He was the first to lay down the important formula of the identification strata by their characteristic organic remains, the great key to unlock the definite order of organic succession in the crust of the earth. (vide Prestwhich Geology, vol. ii, p. 190). He was also the first man to frame a complete geological map of England and Wales. A reminiscence of his country home remains embedded in the nomenclature of Geology, in the name “Midford Sands,” given to a certain formation found at the top of the Upper Lias and at the base of the Oolite series. These “Sands” were exposed in the making of the Somerset and Dorset Railway, the long tunnel between Bath and Midford being cut through them. They are found also at other places in the hills around Bath.” – D. Lee Pitcairn and Alfred Richardson, An Historical Guide to Monkton Combe, Combe Down and Claverton (Bath: F. Goodall Printer, 1924) 29-30.
Clearly the original marble tablet was removed and “re-erected” in 1932 (possibly this refers to more than the plaque.)
Copy of 070215.45.Somset.Tucking Mills.WmSmith House
Ironically, he was sent to King’s Bench Prison for debt after he published his famous map and others merely plagiarized his work without paying him. It’s all over the internet today, and for this post I merely lifted it off a random site without credit to the site or payment made. Thankfully dead people don’t really need royalties, and they wouldn’t be valid anymore since he’s really dead…been so for a while now. (See Barbara’s comment.)

William Smith’s geological map of England and Wales (and part of Scotland) published in 1815:


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  1. The red car thing might be wrong- http://www.snopes.com/autos/law/redcars.asp (though the source isn’t particularly trustworthy).

    Plagiarizing bastards! Admittedly, it is a nice map.

  2. ce qui est bien avec tes posts, c’est que je dois travailler mon anglais (pas toujours facile facile pour moi)

    what is well with your posts, it is that I must work my English (not always easy easy for me)

  3. Hey J! You really should do more of an in-depth blog post…there’s just not enough info to keep my brain busy here! 😉 Miss your smile…miss Bath…miss the UK! Can we do a cyber-coffee? =)))

  4. PS: So just how IS the mortar in that place? =)

  5. Smith was written about by Simon Winchester in a book called The Map That Changed The World. The nice thing about this book (paperback too) was that it had a gatefold that showed Smith’s map–really a nice thing. Here’s what Publisher’s Weekly said about the book:]
    From Publishers Weekly
    As he did in The Professor and the Madman, Winchester chooses an obscure historical character who is inherently fascinating, but whose life and work have also had a strong impact on civilization. Here is William Smith, the orphan son of a village blacksmith, with lots of pluck and little luck until the end of his life when this pioneering first geological cartographer of the world beneath our feet was finally and fully recognized. Smith’s life illustrates the interconnectedness of early 19th-century science, the industrial revolution, an intellectual climate that permits a look beyond religious dogma, and the class biases that endlessly impede his finances and fortunes. Published in 1815, Smith’s huge and beautiful map of geological strata and the fossils imbedded in them blazed the way for Darwin and the creation-vs.-evolution debates that rage even day. Winchester is a fine stylist who also has a fine, clear reading voice. He fully engages listeners, not only with the excitement of Smith’s life and work, but even with geological explications that would have been pretty dull in science class.

  6. In America, if you drive a red or yellow car, you receive reduced car insurance rates, because your vehicle has higher visibility.

  7. love the old map. i was born where that line of white is pointing into the grey, just under ‘the german ocean’ lettering

  8. Midford Castle has now been purchased by Nicolas Cage.

  9. An eight foot map! Of what, for what?! It’s a geological survey of the Island of Britain the self-taught geologist William Smith on display at The Walters Art Museum in Maps: Finding Our Place in the World. It’s quite literally the map that changed the world. Smith mapped the various strata and fossil records he found across Britain. He reasoned that through looked at the different layers, Britain was formed over a long period of time. Years later, it was this map that gave Darwin the time he need to develop his theory of evolution.

    Go to http://www.baltimore.org/maps/maps.php for more info and to see videos of the curator talking about the exhibition.

  10. My recollection of reading The Map That Changed the World is that the marker in Smith’s honour was put up erroneously – that Smith actually lived in the much less impressive house nearby which sits just at the bottom of a cutting/cliff.

    Whenever I’ve passed it I’ve been struck by its lugubrious qualities; let’s say it’s not being taken care of at present (looks rather bedsitterly) and I think Smith died there in poverty, so perhaps sad vibes remain. It’s poignant that the cute Gothic cottage gets all the credit…

    I’ll try to relocate the book to check if I’m right.

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