by F. HIND

The most striking feature of the geology of the Bulwell district is the great variety of rocks in so small an area, each with its distinctive physical character. They belong to three of the geological systems: the Carboniferous coal measures, the Permian limestone and marls, and the Triassic sands; also patches of glacial boulders left by the ice age during the Pleistocene period. Each kind of rock has been used industrially and commercially by the people of Bulwell and been the foundation upon which the social and economic life has developed.

Eminent geologists who have visited the various quarries or cuttings made hy railways have been enthusiastic about the rich colorations exhibited by the local rocks, especially the mottled sands at Hempshill and the Permian marl at the Pottery quarry.

The story of how the rocks came to be where they are and their character as we see it, is also very interesting, taking us back more than one hundred million years, to the time when the coal measures were being laid down. It is no fanciful picture, but one fully attested by abundant evidence, that in those far off times the land was covered by dense marsh forests, stretching from the West of England to the East of Russia in Europe. The mountains of Wales, the Lake District, Scotland and Charnwood stood out of this flat expanse of marsh forests and lagoons or inland seas. The rank vegetation composed of club mosses (Lycopods), horsetails (Equisetums)—these were not the small insignificant plants which now represent their family, for in coal measure times, the club mosses and horsetails often grew as enormous trees. Then there were also conifers and ferns, in fact rank vegetation such as prevails to-day in many parts of the world, as in the swamps of Africa, South America, Florida and the marshy parts of Poland and Russia. It is strange to realise how little the natural conditions have changed over the great level plain which now runs from the small district we are speaking about, Bulwell, to the Ural mountains or the Caspian Sea, 3,000 miles with not a hill 1,000 ft. high. The geologists, con­sidering the permanence of this land, speak of "Unyielding Russia", but there has been change. Gradually the dying vegetation accumulated and gradually the land sank. Water carrying mud and sand covered the dead plants, which in time turned into coal. Then conditions for plant life again become possible and another layer of decaying vegetation was produced; another subsidence of the land occurred, resulting in another seam of coal. This went on for ages until more than 10,000 ft. of coal measures were accumulated in places. But the subsidence of the land led to lateral pressure of the rocks, and this pressure caused the land along a line running northward through the northern centre of England to rise. This elevation produced what we speak of as the back-bone of England, the Pennine range, the gradual rising of the land lifting up the huge mass of coal rocks. Bulwell is situated on the eastern flank of the Pennine range, the Staffordshire and Lancashire coalfields are on the western side of the Pennines, and almost all of the coal rocks which once covered the tops of the Pennines have been denuded or washed away. However in a few places, patches of them still remain as at Ten Hill and on Punchard in the North Riding of Yorkshire, and it is possible to carry an imaginary line from each of the outcropping seams of coal on the east and link it with its identical seam of coal on the west. But six thousand feet to ten thousand feet of rock has been washed away from the upper parts of the Pennines, and we ask where has it gone?

Eastward the conditions have changed. The vast plain across the North Sea, the Low Countries, Poland and Russia have become a land-locked sea or several inland seas, and into these, rivers are carrying quantities of material from the elevated Pennines, laying down a new geological system, which is called the Permian system on account of its vast accumulation in the Province of Perm in Russia. This inland sea, like the present Caspian Sea, became supersaturated with mineral salts which deposited themselves on the sea floor as masses of calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate. These form what is locally known as the Bulwell limestone, or the Permian magnesium limestone.

We have seen how the coal measure rocks were denuded from the summit and side of the Pennine range, leaving the upturned edges of coal seams as outcrops on the lower parts. Over these the waters of the Permian seas swept and laid down deposits of limestone, and then marl or clay. In the railway cutting at Kimberley, you may see the Permian rocks lying horizontally on the upturned edges of the coal rocks.

It is interesting to note that the shoreline of this Permian sea reached its local limit within two miles of Bulwell. Mr. Shipman, F.G.S., found the shore­line near the Western Boulevard, Radford. The Permian limestone and marl thin out and end near Wollaton and Radford. The colliery shafts pass through Permian limestone at Bulwell, Newstead, Cinderhill and Hucknall; but at Clifton Pit, the shaft passes through Burner sand rocks straight into the coal measures. The limestone is overlaid by a reddish brown marl streaked with greyish bands. It was well exposed in the Bulwell Brick Company's quarry near the cemetery, and is still being worked by Messrs. Sankeys for their Pottery manufacture, and the Cinderhill Brick Co. This marl or clay is quite distinct from the Mapperley clays, which belong to a different geological system, the Triassic. The Permian rocks end the great division of the Palaeozoic, and we pass into the secondary group or era with the Triassic Bunter sands. There has been, and still is, considerable doubt as to the derivation of these rocks. The general opinion is that they are the delta of rivers which flowed into the Triassic sea from the west. Along the Cannock Chase district, there protrude masses of rocks which are the roots of a range of hills from which the sand and quartsite boulders are thought to be derived. The Bunter sands may be due to the same causes we see in operation at the present time near the mouth of the Thames and the Trent. These rivers carry enormous quantities of mud, sand and gravels into the North sea and deposit them on the sea floor, choking up the passages for ships, and making those dangerous Goodwin sands. So in far off days, rivers, flowing from the hills to the north and west, carried sand, gravel and boulders eastward and spread them on the floor of the Triassic sea, which occupied much of the area formerly covered by the Permian seas. These sands, as in the case of all the other rocks here, dip in an easterly direction and are overlaid by newer rocks. The Bunter sands pass under the Keuper marls at Mapperley and Redhill, and the Triassic rocks are covered by the Liassic system at Barnstone.

None of the newer geological systems is represented here at the present time. The Pennine elevation proved a barrier for the Liassic and the Oolitic seas, which appear to have reached from 10 to 20 miles to the east of Bulwell. It is held by most geologists that the Chalk sea did submerge this area, but that any deposit left by the Cretaceous sea has been denuded from Notts. During the Pleistocene times, glacial conditions prevailed and sheets of ice brought boulders and gravels and spread them about the land especially on the side of the Leen Valley at Highbury Vale.

If we travel from Derby to the Lincolnshire coast by rail, we see in the cuttings Belper gritstone, coal measures, Permian limestone and marl, Triassic sands, and Keuper marls, Liassic rocks, Oolitic limestone, then the chalk wolds. In fact, representations of the seven upper geological systems in succession, each one overlapping its predecessor.

The river Leen has played a great part in carving out the valley, and producing the sand rock cliffs on its eastern bank, while its tributary, the Farley dyke flowing from Watnall, carried into the Leen the loose soil and so exposed the limestone along Quarry Road. Rivers are the principal agents in changing the earth's surface from a level plain into hills and valleys. The Robin Hood hills north of Newstead are composed of Bunter sand; rain falling upon this land penetrates into and sinks down until it reaches the Permian marl on which it rests. Near the foot of the hills the water escapes by a series of overflow springs.

The united waters from these springs are the beginning of the Leen, which flows from north to south across the dip slope of the marl for the greater part of its course. We have seen that the stratas dip in an easterly direction. This causes the river to cut into its eastern bank, which being under-cut falls into the river and is carried away; this explains the gradual slope of the ground on the west from Papplewick to Radford, and the high land still remaining on the east especially from Bestwood, and on through Bulwell. Much of the water which falls on the Bulwell Forest and Bestwood area runs underground down the slope of the underlying marls and is trapped between this and the Keuper clays. The underground reservoir has provided and still provides Nottingham with most of its drinking water. As the water from the springs which feed the Leen has passed through sand which is almost pure silica, it contains little lime and is of a quality well suited for purposes such as bleaching, dyeing and laundry work. Hence the fame of these industries in the Leen Valley at Bulwell and Basford.

We must now consider the important part the local rocks have played in the development and wellbeing of the township. The surface soil is as varied as the rocks. Good land, for gardens and arable culture, around the Park district, has produced successful farming and market gardening. The sandy heaths of Bulwell Forest and Bestwood, on which the men of Bulwell were given the rights of pasture as early as 1228, would provide food for sheep, cattle and swine.

Coal mining was carried on for several centuries at Strelley, Wollaton, and Cossall, either from outcrop or shallow mines, before the Cinderhill and Bulwell pits were sunk about 100 years ago by Mr. T. North and others, who lost large fortunes before their venture began to pay through the business capacity and capital brought to the undertaking by Mr. C. Seely, who joined them in 1872.

It is the magnesium limestone, however, on which the prosperity of Bulwell long depended, as it is used for building purposes and also burnt to produce lime. The Nottingham Borough Records contain items of payment to Bulwell lime-burners as far back as 1520 and also for Bulwell stone in 1458. The places of worship are built of the local stone, as were also most of the houses until 50 years ago. It is a pleasure to see such durable and substantial work as the Golf Club House on Bulwell Forest, the retaining wall built against the church burying ground, or the long high wall along the Vernon Road. This wall was built to prevent horses shying at the passing trains, and though it is about 60 years since it was constructed, I do not remember seeing it needing repair. The quarry owners were mostly men of strong character and individuality, fostered by the varied and independent nature of their business. Their small quarries were on each side of Commercial Road, formerly known as Quarry Road, which name should have been retained. Their homes were usually near their quarry, and here they and their sons laboured for generations at what is termed a domestic industry. The best formed rock was trimmed for building purposes; irregular blocks would be sold for rockeries and other ornamental requirements. The quarry men often undertook the building of walls, etc. Small pieces were laid in the kiln over layers of coal, alternating several times. When the kiln was filled the coal was fired, and by adjusting the amount of air, burned slowly, driving off carbon dioxide, leaving the lime. The thin flat slabs are used for crazy pavements. Recently so much of the Bulwell stone has been used for the foundations of new roads that it is a common saying that Nottingham is built upon Bulwell stone.

The Permian marls have been the material for making bricks which were in much demand. Unfortunately, the Bulwell Brick Company's quarry ceased to supply a sufficient quantity of clay, and the works had to close down some years ago. However, the Cinderhill Brick Works are still carrying on. But the industry which has spread the name of Bulwell into most parts of the world is that of flower pot making, Mr. R. Sankey, in 1855, founded this famous pottery. He, like the well known Capability Brown, who designed the lay-out of so many of the great parks, had an eye for what things were capable of becoming, and Sankey found in the Permian marl a material from which many essentia! domestic utensils could be made, but especially tree and flower pots, and in some years they have manufactured many millions, which are considered by nurserymen of most countries as unequalled for the purposes required. Beside these useful articles, large varieties of ornamental vases and pedestals are designed and made. Many flower pots are damaged in the prolonged burning in the kilns. These for long were cast aside as waste, but now they are crushed into grades of grit and sold for hard tennis courts or garden paths. The firm has received either four or five Diplomas from a succession of British Monarchs in recognition of the high quality of its products.

At the base of the Bunter sands there is a thick layer of the lower mottled sandstone. At Hempshill it is about 30ft. thick, being of a fine grain and almost free of pebbles. It has been in great demand for the purposes of iron moulding. Many thousands of tons have been taken from the Hempshill hill by the Stanton Ironworks. Above the lower mottled sands come the Bunter pebble beds, consisting of a coarse class of sand grains intermixed with pebbles. This sand is used for the making of mortar.

The patches of glacial boulders on the east side of the Leen valley have been recently taken away for the making of concrete. There is an item in the Nottingham Borough Records for 1486 of 6d.a load being paid for boulders from Bulwell for paving stones.

We have considered the uses to which the various rocks have been applied. These are all of essential importance for the wellbeing of any com­munity, being necessary requirements for homes, mechanical engineering, transport, etc.

The river Leen was used for power to work a number of mills from early times. But in the late 18th century and the 19th century, the Leen Valley from Papplewick to Nottingham was a hive of various industries which came into being through the swift development of frameworkknitting, and later lace manufacture. The hosiery required washing and bleaching, as also did the lace, and as the demand for coloured hose came along, dyeing became more important than bleaching. The water of the Leen Valley was found to be unique for these trades or industries, as it contains so little lime, and there is a great saving in the amount of soap required in the finishing processes for hosiery, lace and laundry work.

These industries commenced in a very small way. A house near the Leen for the bleacher and his family, a few sheds to work in, or perhaps an old cottage, and a dam to hold a water supply for the water-wheel. You may see the banks of several old dams, now dry, along the road from Papplewick to Bulwell. The dam at Forge Mill still operates. There were between 20 and 30 mills and finishing works situated on the Leen in the 19th century, between Nottingham and Papplewick. We are now paying the price for neglecting these methods of generating power. Unfortunately, it was not the quality of the Leen waters alone which attracted these industries. The Leen itself proved to be an easy means to get rid of all the waste products from the works, until it became little more than a sewer. Many of the old flour mills were picturesque, and it was no uncommon sight to see artists sketching or painting the view; but now, they are almost all places to be avoided, especially by those who remember them when they were the scene of a simple, busy domestic industry. Their glory has passed as also has the natural beauty of the Bulwell Spring, once a place of entrancing mystery, now an abomination of desolation. The marls, the limestone, the mottled sand rocks are disappearing, carried away by commercial enterprise, or covered over by pre-fab. dwellings. Soon there will be nothing to see which will call upon the geologist or the naturalist to investigate; nothing to make him murmur: —

"O earth, what changes hast thou seen,
There where the long street roars hath been
The stillness of the central sea".