I like the idea that I, like many in and around Much Wenlock, live inside blocks of repurposed, and well-travelled seafloor – the compressed and decomposing shells, sponges, bony fish, sea scorpions, trilobites and corals of the Silurian Sea. It is also intriguing to know that some 400 million years ago, this shallow tropical ocean was part of a land mass that lay off East Africa, somewhere near the Comoros Islands. We even have our own geological epoch – The Wenlock that lasted from 428 to 423 million years ago. And yes, I know, it is hard to fathom – this mind-boggling vastness of geological time, the tectonic shunt and shift across the globe to create the continents we all now recognise.
My own view of the world, I find, is firmly fixed, and distinctly two-dimensional, being the usual flat configuration found in an atlas. And of course, when I consult the world map I can surely see that Much Wenlock is definitely in the northern hemisphere, in England’s Midlands to be exact, nudging towards Wales. Yet the proof that this was not always so, is all around me – in the stones of church, priory, and the many barns and cottages, even in my chimney breast – this place, this ground beneath the wooded ridgeback of Wenlock Edge, where the stone was quarried, WAS ONCE IN THE TROPICS. And since I once lived in the tropics myself, I like to think that returning to Shropshire has brought me back to the place where I was in Africa, but in a different time zone – a bit like a Time Lord, a Doctor Who without a Tardis.
The Farrell Silurian fireplace built c 1830
But back to the stones. The circular sections you can see in the first photo are the remains of crinoids or sea lilies. These were animals, echinoderms, not plants, and looked something like this:
From McGraw-Hill Science and Technology Encyclopedia; Articulata
Bony fish also made their first appearance during the Silurian:
Artist’s impression of Silurian Fish (creative commons copyright expired) from Nebula to Man by Joseph Smit 1905
And the landscape may have looked like this, although was apparently entirely inhospitable above water, with roaring winds and hot flying dust, and no signs of life.
Silurian Sea reconstruction by Richard Bizley: http://www.bizleyart.com/
And here is bed of the Silurian Sea today, the upthrust levels that form the fifteen-mile wooded ridge of Wenlock Edge. Its geology is of international importance. (For more on Wenlock Edge, see its Facebook page here.)
The Edge has been quarried for centuries, but the quarries lie mostly empty now, waiting to be repurposed themselves. In the town our earliest surviving stone buildings date from monastic times. (In Much Wenlock An Inspector Calls.) But old buildings have always been recycled into new buildings, and you can see signs of this as you walk along the streets nearest the priory ruins.
And finally (below) is the Farrell establishment – a blend of old and new construction. Hopefully the inhabitants are not yet as fossilized as their surrounding walls, although clearly it is only a matter of time.
© 2013 Tish Farrell
25 thoughts on “Old Stones of Wenlock: repurposing the Silurian Sea”
Thanks for this.
Thank you for this.
This is wonderful. The movement of land masses intrigues me. I can’t imagine plates shifting to form new land masses and mountains.
Thanks for your comments, Pat. It is amazing isn’t it – the way the earth has moved around. And is still moving!
How insignificant are we, with our boasting and false pre-eminence. We are no more than another bunch of boney fish.
I have visited MW several times. It has the feel of a hill town with a sense of isolation and a long view on life. I will remind myself to look much more closely and not concentrate too much on wondering why the queue outside the butcher’s is so long.
Such a rich post on ‘stone’, thank you.
How very nice that you know Wenlock. As to the butcher’s queue, it’s a little bone of contention with me: largely unnecessary and somewhat contrived, but something of an institution. On Wednesdays when the butcher’s is shut, the town slumbers.
You will be careful when you confront a butcher with a bone to pick, won’t you?
Absolutely, Tony. ho, ho!
Much Wenlock looks lovely – we are about 40 miles north at Overwater Marina near Audlem, holed up on the narrowboat for a few days. I had thought to do something similar on stone in Audlem but I have left my USB cable at home 😦
Hope it’s not too chilly on your narrow boat. Shame about the cable.
A fascinating fantasy of how things were before we got here. I enjoyed this, Tish.
Gosh, Shimon, you have been busy reading my posts. Thank you very much for this and all your other comments.
Reblogged this on the harsh light of day….
Finally I get to see what Silurian Sea looked like. I appreciate your insight as archaeologist into this fascinating place you now call home.
I think I might be getting a bit obsessed with this sea, but it IS fascinating as you say. Glad to share.
Tish, this post is even more fascinating than I had already anticipated. I learnt new things today.
I do know of all the moves of the tectonic plaques but not so much of all details of where they ended up.
You in fact went back to Africa!
Thank you again. Heading to more.
Yes, back to Africa – only a 400 mill year time difference 🙂
Thanks for this interesting insight into Wenlock Edge. We went there for the first time today, even though it’s not very far from where we live. Fascinating to learn about it.
Thank you, Sally-Ann. I hope you had a good visit. You certainly had fair weather for it 🙂