Excursion to Sonning. Saturday, June 25th, 1910 - Geologists' Association excursion

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Geologists' Association Circular 120. Session 1909–1910. p.6[edit]

Excursion to Sonning. Saturday, June 25th, 1910 (Transcription from GA Circular No. 120. Session 1909–1910. p.6)[edit]


EXCURSION SECRETARY: Miss JOHNSTON, Hazelwood, Wimbledon Hill, S.W.

Leave Paddington, 2.20, Arrive Twyford, 3.10. Meet Excursion Secretary under the clock of No. 1 platform, not later than 2.5, to obtain cheap tickets. Fare 3s. 3d.

Drive along the Reading road 1½ miles to Charvil Hill gravel pit, in which palaeoliths have been found. The pit is in a terrace of Thames valley drift at a level of 64 feet above the river. Good views of the Thames and Loddon valleys and of the surrounding country may be had from this spot. Continue the drive to Sonning and across the present flood-plain of the Thames to Play Hatch, where there is a chalk pit in the M. cor-anguinum zone. Proceed north-eastwards about half a mile along the Henley road to Span Hill chalk pit. This is at a higher horizon, but still in the same zone. Note a strong spring at the foot of the hill.

Return to Sonning for tea at the White Hart Hotel. Tea, 1s.

After tea, walk by the river a short distance towards Reading, then return and drive to Twyford to see the Director's collection of flint implements, etc.

Return train leaves Twyford, 8.36. Arrives Paddington, 9.37.

Cost of drive, about 2s.

Total walking distance, less than one mile.


Geological Survey Map, New Series. No. 268, Reading.

1890. SHRUBSOLE, O. A.—"Valley Gravels about Reading." Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc., vol. xlvi, p. 590.

1893. MONCKTON, H. W.—"Boulders and Pebbles from the Glacial Drift." Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc., vol. xlix, p. 312.

1895. WHITE, H. J. O.—"Relations of the Westleton and Glacial Gravels." Proc. Geol. Assoc., vol. xi v, p. 23.

1903. MONCKTON, H. W.—"Geology of Reading," pp. 13, 73. Mem. Geol. Survey.

1908. CHATWIN, C. P., and WITHERS, T. H.—"The Zones of the Chalk between Goring and Shiplake." Proc. Geol. Assoc., vol. xx, p. 403.

Geologists' visit to Sonning (transcription of the newspaper article)[edit]

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On Saturday, the 25th of June, the Geologists' Association spent all enjoyable day at Sonning. The party included Mr. Llewellyn Treacher, F.G.S., of Twyford, Director; Miss M. S. Johnston, Excursion Secretary; Mr. W. Whitaker, F.R.S.; Mr. James Parker, F.G.S., of Oxford; Mr. H. W. Monckton, F.L.S. ; Mr. T. W. Reader, F.G.S. ; Mr. T. H. Withers, of the British Museum; Mx. Ernest W. Dormer, of Reading; Miss Foley, B.Sc.; Miss Cadmose; Miss Walker, B.A. Mr. Blundell, of Wellington College; Mr. Janohen, Mr. Whether, etc.scotfot

The party met soon after three o'clock at Twyford Station, and thence, under the care of the Director, Mr. Treacher, proceeded to Charvill Hill gravel pit. The gravel here forms part of a terrace extending along the south, side of the Thames from Earley to the Loddon, at a level of about 70 feet above the river. What is probably a part of the same deposit occurs at Ruscombe, on the other side of the Loddon, whence it extends nearly to Wargrave. There is also a patch near Shiplake Church. All these are remains of an old flood plain or valley bottom of the Thames, formed when the river ran at a relatively higher level than at present. The central parts of this flood plain have been cut away by the river in the process of deepening its valley. Palaeolithic implements are found abundantly in the gravel in this old flood plain, which shows that either the population at that time was very large, or more probably that the gravel took long ages to accumulate.

In the middle of the geological description of the locality a very heavy thunderstorm broke over the . neighbourhood., and the party were compelled to seek shelter where they could find it. After a short time a start was made for the Play Hatch chalk pit, via Pound-lane and the new flood plain of the Thames, which clearly deserved its name on this occasion. Passing through Sonning, the party reached the chalk hills rising from the plain, and proceeded to investigate the Play Hatch chalk pit. It is in the "Micraster cor-anguinum" zone and is very poor in fossils, the chief ones being fragments of "Inoceramus". The flint at the base is largely tabular, with about three feet of chalk between the layers. It is possible that within a hundred yards or much less it becomes nodular again. A cave has been excavated at the foot of the wall, and here the party took some refuge from the rain, which was still persistent. The cave had no remarkable features.

The party mounted again for a half-mile drive to the Flowing Spring, which bubbles up from the foot of the chalk hills and which. is joined here by a backwater of the Thames. Half way up the hill the Director explained the geological features of the district spread before the members. The village of Sonning nestled at the foot of a rise by the Thames, embowered in ancient elms. The Charvill Hill terrace of gravel behind the village was noted. Away to the left was Bowsey Hill, a large Tertiary outlier, the tole remaining part of a high bank which formed the southern wall of the valley in Palaeolithic times, the remainder having been washed away by the Loddon; and the various small streams connected with the White Waltham valley.

Span Hill chalk pit, close by, was then visited. It is slightly above the level of the Play Hatch pit, but is in the same zone and is more prolific in fossils, a good number of "Conulus," an echinoderm characteristic of the upper part of the "Micraster cor-anguinum" zone, having been found here. The party proceeded to explore the pit, but nothing was found that calls for special comment,. A return was then made to the conveyances, and the party drove to the White Hart Hotel, Sonning, for tea, which, despite the previous inclement weather, was partaken "al fresco" in the immediate vicinity of the roses for which the inn and the village are famous. During this break Mr. Whitaker proposed a, vote of thanks to Mr. Treacher for all he had done to make the day a success. With Mr. Treacher's name was coupled that of Mr. Withers, who had cycled down from London to tell them something of the chalk zone they had visited. The vote was heartily carried.

A move was then made for the riverside, where, near the site of the old Manor House of the Bishops of Salisbury (a grassy mound south of the lock cut), Mr. Ernest W. Dormer (Reading) told the party of some of the most interesting historic associations of the village. Mr. Dormer's paper was considerably curtailed in order to keep within the limits of the time table. He said : The historical and ecclesiastical associations of .Sonning will always give it a unique place among Berkshire villages. Berkshire was eluded in the See of Ramsbury by the splitting up the bigger Sees of Sherborne and Winchester. Florence of Worcester, who lived in the reign of Henry the First, speaks throughout his history of the See of Ramsbury, but in the catalogue which he gives of Bishops he styles them "Episcopi Sunnungenses," i.e., Bishops of Sonning. On this statement many have claimed for Sonning the dignity of an Episcopal See, but Bishop Stubbs put it quite clearly when he said: "The See of Ramsbury had no cathedral and was moved about in Wiltshire and Berkshire, resting sometimes at Sonning." So we can see that "Bishops at Sonning " became transposed into "Bishops of Sonning."

Hermann, the last of the Bishops of Ramsbury, united the Bishopric, of Sherborne to his own Bishopric and fixed his pontifial throne for both Bishoprics at Sherborne. But in the reign of the Conqueror his See was transferred to Old Sarum by Synodal authority. Thus Sonning became an estate of the Bishops of Sarum, and continued as such until the reign of Elizabeth; the churches of Sonning and Sherborne were left to the Dean of Sarum, to whose peculiar jurisdiction they belonged until 1846. The successor of Hermann, Osmund, held Sonning during the compilation of Domesday Book. By this time the Manor House of the Bishops had been erected upon the brow of the hill behind the look, and here for many hundred years the Bishops came at intervals to superintend the local work of their diocese.

Mr. Dormer dealt with the history of the Manor after it had come into lay hands, and Mr. James Parker added some interesting and valuable facts with reference to Bishop Osimmd and the Consuetudinary. A move was then made to the Thames Parade to view the chalk pit from which much of the material for the erection of the church, and possibly the old Saxon Manor House, was obtained. This done, the churchyard and the exterior of the church were admired and the special features pointed out. The party then took a walk through the village, and later again boarded the conveyances and rode to Twyford, where Mr Treacher's fine collection of flint implements, fossils. and other geological specimens were inspected. The majority of the members of the party caught the 8.36 train to Paddington and expressed themselves delighted with the day's proceedings, despite the vagaries of the English climate.


List of photographs[edit]

Excursion to Sonning, June 25th 1910[edit]

Page 19 P805375 Sonning bridge from old chalk pits by river bank. Excursion to Sonning, June 25th 1910.
Page 19 P805376 Spring at foot of Span Hill, bubbling up through coarse sand. Excursion to Sonning, June 25th 1910.
Page 19 P805377 Sonning Church. In the burial register is recorded the name of William Eyres who was killed by the fall of a chalk pit, Sep. 14 1660. Excursion to Sonning, June 25th 1910.
Page 19 P805378 Some of the members examining the collection of the Director, Mr Treacher. Excursion to Sonning, June 25th 1910.
Page 21 P805379 Span Hill Chalk pit. Micraster cor-anguinum zone (upper part of zonal horizon) with very regular flint layers. Excursion to Sonning, June 25th 1910.
Page 21 P805380 Span Hill Chalk pit. Micraster cor-anguinum zone (upper part of zonal horizon) with very regular flint layers. Excursion to Sonning, June 25th 1910.
Page 21 P805381 Span Hill Chalk pit. Micraster cor-anguinum zone (upper part of zonal horizon) with very regular flint layers. Excursion to Sonning, June 25th 1910.
Page 21 P805382 Span Hill Chalk pit. Micraster cor-anguinum zone (upper part of zonal horizon) with very regular flint layers. Excursion to Sonning, June 25th 1910.