More from John Rutter

Yesterday I shared a description of our village of Uphill, as it was observed by John Rutter, born 1796 in Bristol, and who published a marvellous book describing the towns and villages of North Somerset in 1829. John seemed very taken with Uphill and described it and its sandy beaches, but was most interested in the caves below the church where many fossils and remains of animals were found. The animal remains weren’t just what you might expect, foxes, wild pigs, and various rodents, but also rhinoceros, hyæna, bear, ox, horse and polecat. The vicar of the nearby village of Bleadon, Mr Williams, had enlisted workmen to excavate the caves and this is what John writes about it:

In this sand and near the surface, was found a Roman piece of pottery, and a coin of the emperor Julian; deeper were found other bones of sheep, fox, cuttle-fish, and bird; and twelve feet through the sand was clayey loam, which has not yet been excavated.
Mr Williams considers that here are evidences of three distinct periods of time, when water was a powerful agent; first in the higher fissure where hyænas were found, with the quantity of gnawed and cracked bones, so firmly imbedded in the diluvial detritus. Here was no sand; but a stiff, red calcearous loam, forming almost a brecchia of bone, stone, and earth.
(Breccia is a sedimentary rock composed of broken fragments of minerals or rocks cemented together by a fine-grained matrix that can be similar to or different from the composition of the fragments – Wikipedia)
This can only be attributed to that great, and violent catastrophe, recorded by Moses.

Of course, when Mr Williams undertook his excavation, and John wrote about it, there was no understanding of any geological timescale, most people, even the most educated believing in the Bible stories of the creation and formation of the Earth.  The Theory of Evolution by natural selection was first formulated in Charles Darwin’s book “On the Origin of Species” published in 1859, thirty years after John Rutter’s book mentioned the Biblical floods which he believed had engulfed the whole world.

It’s fascinating to look through census records and find family details about people from the past. John appears on the 1841 census with his wife Anne living in Shaftesbury. Along with two servants they are living with their children John, Anne and Llewellyn in Layton Lane in the parish of St Peter. Ten years later at the next census they are still living there, along with another son, Clarence,  who must have been elsewhere for the last census. Clarence is a chemist and druggist, unlike his father and brothers. Shortly after the census was taken, John very sadly died, having been thrown from a coach.

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