Dr Plot’s Natural History of Staffordshire 1686
Dr Robert Plot: (13 December 1640 – April 30, 1696) was an English naturalist, first Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford, and the first keeper of the Ashmolean Museum.
Born in Borden, Kent, he was educated and subsequently taught at Magdalen Hall, Oxford before moving to University College in 1676.
Plot is known for looking for natural curiosities in several English counties, and for writing Natural History of Oxfordshire in which he described the fossilised femur of a giant man. “Now known to be from the dinosaur Megalosaurus”
Also in this book he describes a ‘double sunset’ visible on Midsummer’s Day, from the churchyard of Leek’s Parish Church, St.Edward the Confessor.
And so, it was for the first time ever, Wednesbury was mentioned in a history book:Dr Plot’s ‘Natural history of Staffordshire’ 1686.
“There are remarkable things in this place (Wednesbury)
There is a very distinct echo around when the Windmill windows stand open towards the church, otherwise there is none at all. Two of the three windmills there answering the five bells (Of the Church) orderly and distinctly.”
And another time, while writing about celestial objects, he again mentions Wednesbury.
“A meteor of a globular form was seen Nov 22nd 1672, about twelve or one at night, not in motion, but stationary, against the west door of Wednesbury Church.
This was seen by Mr Millar, vicar there, and two others in his company, which shone so bright that it gave light, though a very dark night. The light spread for half a mile distance, were it continued for about the one-eighth of an hours space, and then of a sudden, it disappeared. Whereupon there immediately followed a great storm of hail and rain.”
And yet again while discussing strange plants.
“Of all the accidents that can befall the trunks of Trees, there is none more un-accountable than their being found in divers country buried underground
They are found in Rotten Meadow, under Wednesbury Hall and also near Wrottesley, etc”
(He is talking of growing trunks, trees that live and grow beneath the ground?)
On another subject of birds, again Wednesbury comes to mind.
“Of unusual small birds I would add the Fringilla Montana (Mountain Chaffinch) of the short, beaked kind, found plentifully about Venice, but very rarely in England.
This bird I have (as evidence?) was killed and given to me by the ingenious Mr Millar, Vicar of Wednesbury, near the Vicarage House.”
In writing of the eggs of birds, Dr Plot states.
“Herein I also met with the divers abnormalities of Nature.
The ingenious Mr Millar, Vicar of Wednesbury, amongst his tithe-eggs, met with one whose yolk was perfectly white as that we usually call so, the separation between them remaining as distinct as in ordinary eggs.”
He did also write about normal things:
“Broadwaters were stocked with the first fish by Mr Lane of Bentley”
But his fascination with Wednesbury goes on.
“We need go no further for an instance of unknown noises than this town of Wednesbury, where colliers will tell you that, early in the morning, as they go to their work, they sometimes hear the noise of a pack of hounds in the air. And coming from the cole-pit itself.
Which has happened so frequently, that they have a name for them, ‘Gabriele’s Hounds’.
“Though the more sober and judicious, take them only to be wild geese, making their noise in flight, which perhaps, maybe probable enough.”
I actually had to check this out for myself, by first listening to the sound of wild Geese taking flight, and yes… there was a distinct ‘bark’ to their sound.
Then I listened to the sounds of Hounds, wolfs, Fox’s even. And did those hounds sound like the flight of Wild Geese?
He also describes “A sort of mud at Bescot which shone like fire when stirred up.”
He relates how Captain Lane and a friend had the misfortune to fall into Bescot ditch one night, and how this peculiar mud “Fouled their gloves, bridles, and horses.”
They then observed that on all these items, there was a faint flame .. like that of burnt brandy, which continued on them for some miles of their ride.
F.W Hackwood tried to explain this by writing: “If this matter has any foundation on fact, there seem but two theories to propound in explanation of it.
This remarkable mud of Bescot might have been shale impregnated with petroleum from the adjacent coal measures, in which case it must first have been ignited to give forth a flame.
But more probably the vegetable sediment at the bottom of the ditch was permeated with a kind of phosphorescent fungi which would produce the effect described by the learned doctor”.
But no matter what the explanation may (Or may not be) be for the strange Bescot mud.
What about that strange echo that can only be felt when the windmill windows are open towards the church.
Or the meteor that is said to have hung around in the porch of the church, bringing with it a great storm of hail.
The birds that didn’t belong in England, let alone Wednesbury.
The strange eggs with a pure white fully formed yoke.
The tree trunks that were found under Wednesbury Hall.
The hounds that greeted the miners from the depths of the pit?
All these strange things in one little Village from 1686 onwards, very odd.
There seems have been some very strange things going on in Wednesbury, don’t you think?
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