Petrifications At Harwich


Edward Llwyd to Samuel Dale 17th July, 1702


We have indeed in these parts one or two Fossil Shells of a testaceous substance; but in colour they recede farther from those of the sea than yours. I find by those sent me that you sometimes find them imbedded in solid stone: which takes off any objection some might offer, of their being an accidental scattering of Gulls, Crows etc. on the Harwich Cliffs. (1)

Looking upon this occasion into Cambden’s Britannia, I find in the last edition a note concerning a petrifying spring at Harwich, which reduces clay and wood into Stone, of which I should be glad of some particular account from you at your leisure: as also of the place where these are found, particularly how far from the Sea.



(1) This explanation was also commonly deployed as providing a natural explanation for the phenomena of star- jelly or star- shot. i.e it was bird vomit.

Star jelly was a mysterious substance that late 17th century gentlemen seemed to step in with some frequency. One highland minister dismissed the substance as nothing but  rotten tatties (potato’s). Presumable a parishioner over- eager to identify the much discussed substance  was drawing some heart felt Presbyterian irritation. Erasmus Darwin would later use birdlime (a form of glue used in hunting) to explain the substance as being borne of mis-observation.

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