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Newsletter - March 2016

The full, illustrated newsletter is available as a pdf for download. Text extracts are given below.

Naming the Hirnantian Stage of the Ordovician a former University of Manchester student and staff member. Can you help?

By an unusual set of coincidences I have come across original and interesting information about the naming of the uppermost Hirnantian Stage of the Ordovician. It is a short Stage of 1.9 million years duration, but it is extremely significant for its dramatic events involving a mass extinction, global climate change, extensive glaciation and sea level fall. Its fossil distribution is worldwide and was originally defined primarily by the Hirnantia fauna comprising brachiopods and trilobites. Today its stratigraphy is primarily based on graptolites found in China and Scotland, although the Hirnantia fauna is still locally important where shallow shelf successions are found.

It was named after Cwm Hirnant, southwest of Bala in N Wales, by John Bevis Beeston Bancroft in 1933. He was born in Northwich on 27 Aug 1897 and was one of three brothers, who all served in and survived WW1. Although seriously injured he later became an eminent palaeontologist. He researched the trilobite and brachiopod fauna of the Ordovician in and around South Shropshire, Cwm Hirnant and many other locations, including Scandinavia.

My interest was further aroused when I found that Bevis Bancroft studied at Manchester University Geology Department in two two year periods, the first during WW1 1914-16 and the second from 1922-24, gaining his MSc (by thesis) in Dec 1924. In June 1922 he gained a BA at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1923 he was admitted to the MSc course at Manchester by Professor O T Jones who (in a reference for a lectureship) described him as "exceedingly keen and enthusiastic and has a genius for investigation".

I am in contact with David Adams, a relative of Bevis, who has a wealth of original, catalogued correspondence (over 3000 documents) about all three Bancroft brothers. That relating to Bevis includes letters between many eminent geologists including O T Jones, S H Straw, Gertrude Elles, W F Pugh, E S Cobbold, L Whitcomb, A Lamont, etc., also many institutions including Manchester Lit & Phil, Sedgwick Museum, Smithsonian Institute, Princeton University, United States National Museum etc. I have started working through these files with Keith Nicholls of the NWGA (who is doing a PhD at the University of Chester on the Hirnantia fauna) to see if there is sufficient material to make an interesting story about the life of a past student and staff member of our very own Geology Department. It is worthy of note that Bevis was around at the time of the foundation of the MGA in 1925!

Seriously wounded in WW1, Bevis was nominated for the Croix de Guerre. It appears he served in 342 Siege Battery, leaving Southampton for Le Havre on 29 May 1917. Having survived WW1 Bevis sadly drowned in Normandy while serving in the Royal Observer Corps in WW2 in 1944. There is an original letter of condolence to Bevis's mother Ann (nee Beeston) in the file signed by W Mansfield Cooper, Registrar at the University of Manchester, dated 1 April 1947.

If any MGA member or university alumni have any contacts or information that can add to the story I would be delighted to hear from you.

Fred Owen

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Book review

The story of Alderley: Living with the Edge
Editor: AJNW Prag
Date published: 2016
Publisher: Manchester University Press
No of Pages: 984pp., 65 pls
Price: £50
ISBN-10: 0719091713
ISBN-13: 978-0719091711

The third and final report of the Alderley Landscape Project (AELP) (1997-2005) was published in January as an impressive A4 hardback titled 'The Alderley Story'!; 984 pages, 270 illustrations in colour and black and white. It weighs 5lbs!

The AELP was a multidisciplinary study of the core area of the National Trust property on the Edge and the hinterland of Over Alderley, Nether Alderley and Alderley Edge village. This was headed by the National Trust, Manchester Museum and the University of Manchester. The project leader Dr A.J.N.W. Prag, formerly Keeper and Professor of Archaeology in the Manchester Museum, was joined by more than 30 researchers in geology, mineralogy, geomorphology, botany, ornithology, entomology, archaeology, mining history, human history, social history, archive history, local history and folklore. These experts contribute 31 chapters and 13 appendices to this comprehensive volume. It can, perhaps justly, claim to be the most complete account of the local landscape and the history of its community in this region!

The book has a Foreword by Lord Stanley of Alderley, whose family owned the Edge for over 400 years. Alan Garner, the famous local author, who wrote The Weirdstone of Brisingamen was born and educated in Alderley Edge. He contributes a personal perspective to the Introduction recalling the discovery of the Bronze Age wooden shovel and a hoard of Roman coins; these items led to the formulation of the AELP. Later in the volume he contributes a fascinating chapter analysing the Alderley legend of the sleeping knights under the Edge.

Part 2: 'The bedrock of the Edge' contains five chapters on the solid geology, landforms, mineralogy and geomorphology. These were written by MGA members David Thompson, Geoffrey Warrington, David Green and Richard Braithwaite. They contain excellent colour maps, photographs of minerals and the first illustration of the Triassic fossil clam shrimps (Euestheria), burrows, reptile footprints, together with animal and environmental reconstructions.

Part 3: 'The natural history of the Edge' occupies six chapters, recording the meticulous survey of 20 'parcels' of land in the core area, much of which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Herein are analysed the vegetation, tree cover and its history, birds, pond life and invertebrates with excellent colour photos of insects and spiders. In fact all animal life is here except mammals!

In Part 4 we move on to 'Human History - archaeology and underground' (5 chapters). Some of these chapters draw on the earlier AELP volume Archaeology of Alderley Edge by Timberlake and Prag (2005), the former of whom was the senior surveyor of AELP; he also contributes to other chapters. The history of mining on the Edge is covered from the Bronze Age to 1598 by Simon Timberlake and for the documented period, 1600 to 1920's when mining ceased, by Geoffrey Warrington. The importance of the work by the Derbyshire Caving Club in reopening, exploring and conserving the mines is reflected in two chapters by Nigel Dibben (DCC); also including the history of the quarries.

Part 5: 'Human History - overground and social history' (chapters 19-28) moves on to the fascinating research into the history of Alderley Edge. The archives of the Stanley family have been meticulously studied and a detailed AELP archive established and digitised; this includes oral history from local inhabitants. Graffiti on local stone and wood, the Village, 'Cottentots' Victorian villas, the Stanley Estate and Nether Alderley Mill, all occupy discrete chapters. Historic track-ways and roads, recumbent and standing stones, and even the names of streets, houses and fields complete the social history perspective.

The final Part 6, 'Looking back - looking forward', contains a most comprehensive review by the National Trust's Countryside Manager for Cheshire and the Wirral on the responsibilities, proposals and management plans for the conservation and public amenity of the Edge. Alan Garner returns to the folklore aspect of the Edge in his penultimate chapter while the Editor's final word stresses how much has been achieved by AELP and what new questions have been raised.

The detailed Appendices are linked to the respective chapters, reptilian tracks and minerals, vegetation lists (including 35 species of brambles!), breeding birds and lists of insects (estimated to be about 5,600 species), 616 species of butterflies and moths. Also included is the history of the Alderley Beacon, the Hagg Cottages, which housed miners, (and were previously recorded in the second AELP archaeological volume The Alderley Sandhills Project, Casella and Croucher (2010)), John Evans the Church Quarry hermit, the National Trust Sites and Monument Record for the Edge (5 pages). The volume concludes with three glossaries, general, geological, mining and quarrying terms (25 pages), a reference list of 16 pages and a comprehensive index of 30 pages.

This book is truly a landmark in our knowledge and understanding of this popular natural feature and its environmental, historical and social contexts. It is a must for any lover the Edge or frequent visitor - above ground or below!

The price of £50 is not unreasonable for such a large and beautifully produced hardback and discounts of 20% may be available to members of such bodies as the National trust or orders received before March 31st 2016. Copies should be ordered directly from Manchester University Press or their distributors NBN International.

John Pollard

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Manchester: Making the Modern City

I am delighted to write and tell you about a forthcoming publication: Manchester: Making the Modern City. Written by leading experts on the history of the city with numerous insights and unexpected stories, this profusely illustrated book is essential for an understanding of what Manchester has been and what it can become. This book will be published in May 2016, to coincide with events marking Manchester as the European City of Science 2016.

We are offering the opportunity to purchase the special limited edition of this book, a beautifully produced, slip-cased copy, priced at £100. All subscribers to the limited edition will have their name, or the name of their organisation, printed inside all copies of the book (including the regular hardback and paperback editions, which will be widely sold to a global market).

Please note that the special edition is sold on a limited basis. To order your copy please contact Katherine Pulman.

Katherine Pulman
Books Marketing Manager
Liverpool University Press
4 Cambridge Street
L69 7ZU
T: 0151 795 2350 | W:

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