From W. E. Darwin [1 January 1872]1
My dear Father,
I went to Stonehenge yesterday. about 4 m. from Salisbury I saw an old ridged & furrowed field (which shepherd at Stonehenge said had been so out of memory)2
The hill sloped perhaps 7o at top to 10o or 12o way down & then gradually lessened its slope to the valley.
The ridges were straight down the slope & faint and seemed to terminate in a common transverse furrow at the bottom of the steepest pitch, & therefore some little way from base of slope.
It was so gastly cold I could not stay long, meaning to go again, unless anything else turned up.
I unfortunately did not examine carefully enough transverse furrow
Beginning at top of slope
depth of furrow— 5 inch deep
70 strides down— 4 " deep
60 " lower 5 "
10 " " 4 "
10 " " 5 "
I do know what the interval is between these two measurements.
18 strides from transverse) furrow was 3 deep
furrow where the other ends)
8 strides nearer transverse) " " 3 "
4 strides nearer transverse) " " 3
furrow (i.e. 4 strides from it))
This is quite incomplete, and should be measured all again; it wants 2 or 3 persons to do it quickly.
at Stonehenge itself little was to be made out. the main outer range of stones with flat ones on the top were all of same level and therefore certainly had not sunk.
A pair of large ones with top one fell in 1797; these have made a great indentation in the ground, and have squeezed some of their corners into the ground, but they are undermined by rats or rabbits and are of such gigantic size that nothing could be told as to the work of worms.
In several places the outer stones have fallen outwards and broken in two, and these great blocks are all sunk in the grass at various angles.
I examined one which may have lain for many centuries as the fracture between the two halves was quite weather worn. By means of my trowel I found that this was sunk at the spot I examined 10 inches into the mould (it was evidently worm mould v. full of worms); the shepherd said the earth had probably been disturbed there, but I could see no signs of it and the turf was smooth all round the block. at almost 8 yards from the point outwards and falling about 10 inches to a foot, I found the depth of the mould above the mixed flint and chalk to be 5 inches and at a depth of about 4 inches I found a bit of tobacco pipe.
I should think therefore the blocks had long sunk as deep as they could, tho’ by driving my skewer (of 6 inches) down down at bottom of my trowel hole (of 12 inches deep) I did not find the bottom.3
I found I had reached bottom of stone on that side by being able to drive my skewer underneath it at right angles to my trowel hole. The two halves of the stone I think have sunk to the same amount into the soil as they are about the same level above it namely 2 ft; a corresponding stone standing up is about 2ft 10 inches in depth which agrees with this one, but they are not very regular, and the block may easily have sunk on certain points as far as the rubble so as to prevent this block sinking any more on the side I examined.
round many of the buried (not round the upright) stones the angle between the turf & stone was filled with turf to the height of 3 to 4 inches
this turf was pretty evidently caused by worms as the castings were coming out between the stone & the upper edge of the turf, and in some cases in the little slope itself. this turf band was not all round the blocks, and as far as I could decide anything, there was no band of turf where the stone went sheer (perpendicular) down. the irregularities in the stone were mostly filled in. As this patch pointed out by the shepherd as having been untouched during memory of man I send you particulars on another sheet.
I go tomorrow to examine a field which I hear on first rate authority was corn about 50 years ago & has not been touched since.
I also hear of a similar field in Beaulieu Park which I hope to go to soon as well as the Abbey armed with an introduction.4
Your affect Son | WED
Worm action at Stonehenge.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8137,” accessed on 24 March 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-8137