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1771 - Pennant, Thomas - Tour in Scotland

Allusion
Date 1771
Author Pennant, Thomas
Title A Tour in Scotland. MDCCLXIX
Mentions Robin Hood's Bay
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Robin Hood's Bay.

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2017-04-16. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2017-09-26.

Allusion

Left Scarborough, passed over large moors to Robin Hood's Bay. On my round, observed the vast mountains of alum stone, from which that salt is thus extracted: It is first calcined in great heaps, which continue burning by its own phlogiston, after being well set on fire by coals, for six, ten, or fourteen months, according to the size of the heap, some being equal to a small hill. It is then thrown into pits and steeped in water, to extract all the saline particles. The liquor is then run into other pits, where the vitriolic salts are precipitated, by the addition of a solution of the sal sodæ, prepared from kelp; or by the volatile alkali of stale urine. The superfluous water being then evaporated duely by boiling in large furnaces, the liquor is set to cool; and lastly, is poured into large casks, to crystallize.

The alum works of this county are of some antiquity; they were first discovered by Sir Thomas Chaloner, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, who observing the trees tinged with an unusual color, made him suspicious of its being owing to some mineral in the neighborhood. He found out that the strata abounded with an aluminous salt.

At that time, the English being strangers to the method of managing it, there is a tradition that Sir Thomas was obliged to seduce some workmen from the Pope's alum-works near Rome then the greatest in Europe. If one may judge from the curse which his Holiness thundered out against Sir Thomas and [p. 22:] the fugitives, he certainly was not a little enraged; for he cursed by the very form that Ernulphus* has left us, and not varied a tittle from that most comprehensive of imprecations.

The first pits were near Gisborough, the seat of the Chaloners, who still flourish there, notwithstanding his Holiness's anathema. The works were so valuable as to be deemed a royal mine. Sir Paul Pindar, who rented them, payed annually to the King 12,500l. to the Earl of Musgrave 1,640l. to Sir William Pennyman 600l. kept 800 workmen in pay, and sold his alum at 26 l. per tun. But this monopoly was destroyed on the death of Charles I. and the right restored to the proprietors.

In these alum rocks are frequently found cornua ammonis, and other fossils, lodged in a stony nodule. Jet is sometimes met with in thin flat pieces, externally of the appearance of wood. According to Solinus, Britain was famous for this fossil**.

The sands near Robin Hood's village were covered with fish of several kinds, and with people who met the cobles in order to purchase their cargo: the place seemed as if a great fish fair had been held there; some were carrying off their bargains, others busied in curing the fish; and a little out at sea was a fleet of cobles and five men boats, and others arriving to discharge the capture of the preceding [p. 23:] tides*. There are 36 of the first belonging to this little place. The houses here make a grotesque appearance, are scattered over the face of a steep cliff in a very strange manner, and fill every projecting ledge, one above another, in the same manner as the peasants do in the rocky parts of China. Sand's End, Runwick, and Staithes, three other fishing-towns on this coast, are (as I am told) built in the same manner.

The country through this day's journey was hilly, the coast high.[1]

Source notes

Italics as in source, except "l" in amounts of money added by IRHB to distinguish it from the digit 1. IRHB's brackets. Marginal note, p. 21, against first line: "July 10"; line with phrase "alum stone": "Alum Works"; p. 22, line with word "nodule": "Jet".
Foot-notes: p. 22, note *: "Vide Tristram Shandy".
P. 22, note **: "Gagates hic plurimus optimusque est lapis; si decorem requiras, nigro gemmeus: si naturam aquá ardet, oleo restinguitur: si potestatem attritu calefactus applicita detinet, atque succinum. C. xxiv."
P. 23, note *: "From hence the fish are carried in machines to Derby, Lichfield, Birmingham, and Worcester: the towns which lie beyond the last are supplied from the West of England."

IRHB comments

Phlogiston was a fire-like element then believed to be contained within combustible bodies and released during combustion.[2] Sal sodæ was the Middle Latin name for crystallized sodium carbonate.[3] Cornua ammonis is a now obsolete paleontological term for an ammonite.[4]

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Notes

  1. [Pennant, Thomas]. A Tour in Scotland. MDCCLXIX (Chester, 1771), pp. 21-23.
  2. See Wikipedia: Pholgiston theory.]
  3. See OED, s.n. sal, n. 1, under Compounds: sal soda. (Paid subscription required).
  4. See Wiktionary: cornu ammonis.