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Thoughts In A Gravel-Pit
by [?]

They are flints; but very small, dark, often almost black, and quite round and polished. Compare them with the average flints of the pit, and you see that while the average flints are fresh from the chalk, these have plainly been rolled and rounded for years. They are (except in their dark colour) exactly such shingle as forms the south-coast beach about Hastings and Brighton. They are the shingle beaches of the Eocene sea, part of which are preserved under the London clay. To the north a vast bed of them remains in its original place, on Blackheath near London; while part, in the district to the south, which the London clay has not covered, have been washed away, and carried into our gravel-pit, to mingle with other flints fresh from the chalk.

I said just now that I had proof that a great tract of the chalk- hills which are now bare, was once covered with sand and gravel. Here, in the presence of these dark pebbles, is a proof. But I have another, and a yet more curious one.

For our gravel-pit, if it be, will possibly yield us another, and a more curious object. You most of you have seen, I dare say, large stones, several feet long, taken out of these pits. In the gravels and sands at Pirbright they are so plentiful that they are quarried for building-stone. And good building-stone they make; being exceedingly hard, so that no weather will wear them away. They are what is called saccharine (that is, sugary) sandstone. If you chip off a bit, you find it exactly like fine whity-brown sugar, only intensely hard. Now these stones have become very famous; for two reasons. First, the old Druids used them to build their temples. Second, it is a most puzzling question where they came from.

First. They were used to build Druid temples.

If you go to the further lodge of Dogmersfield Park, which opens close to the Barley-mow Inn, you will see there several of them, about five feet high each, set up on end. They run in a line through the plantation past the lodge, along the park palings; one or two are in an adjoining field. They are the remains of a double line; an avenue of stones, which has formed part of an ancient British temple.

I know no more than that: of that I am certain.

But if you go to the Chalk Downs of Wiltshire, you see these temples in their true grandeur. You have all heard of Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain. Some of you may have heard of the great Druid temple at Abury in Wilts, which, were it not all but destroyed, would be even grander than Stonehenge. These are made of this same sugar-sandstone.

But where did the sandstone come from? You may say, it “grew” of itself in our sands and gravels; but it certainly did not “grow” on the top of a bare chalk down. The Druids must have brought the stones thither, then, from neighbouring gravel-pits. They brought them, no doubt: but not from gravel-pits. The stones are found loose on the downs on the top of the bare chalk, in places where they plainly have not been put by man.

For instance, near Marlborough is a long valley in the chalk, which, for perhaps half a mile, is full of huge blocks of this sandstone, lying about on the turf. The “gray wethers” the shepherds call them. One look at them would show you that no man’s hand had put them there. They look like a river of stone, if I may so speak; as if some mighty flood had rolled them along down the valley, and there left them behind as it sunk.

Now, whence did they come?