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Professor Edward Hull - A Valuable Reference Point

25/05/24
Professor Hull cropped
Now and Then

Edward Hull was born in Antrim, Ireland, in 1829. He became a much published geologist and stratigrapher and held the position of Director of the Geological Survey of Ireland and was a professor of geology in the Royal College of Science, Dublin.

So what was Edward Hull's connection with the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge?

One of his publications dated 1869 and entitled 'The Triassic and Permian rocks of the Midland Counties of England' and in which the Ridge receives attention, provides further understanding to our magical landscape.

Within the pages, Hull describes the landscape qualities and scenic beauty of the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge, such as the Peckforton Hills, which he considers '... when seen at some distance from the north, (as) one (of) the boldest and most elevated of which the New Red Sandstone can boast ...'. He goes on to describe Raw Head (the highest point on the Ridge) '... where nature has preserved a space which she can call exclusively her own ...'.

His description of Peckforton Castle, standing on a platform of Lower Keuper Sandstone (now known as the Helsby Sandstone Formation) is also remarkable and from which there is a commanding and '... extensive view over the central plain of Cheshire ...'.

But, looking northward across a deep valley, or strait, '... the rock of Beeston Castle, rising in a solitary mass from the surrounding plain, and crowned with ruins, forms a striking object. This rock is formed of the basement beds of the Keuper surmounting Bunter Sandstone, and presents a precipitous mural face to all points of the compass except the east. That it once joined the escarpment of the Peckforton range is evident, both from the similarity of the position and nature of the beds. The valley which separates them now has, therefore, been swept out by that old sea, which overspread the plain, and lashed the cliffs of the Peckforton Hills with its waves ...'.

Edward Hull's contribution to the geological understanding of our area may be complex for some readers, but in the context of 1869, this very detailed examination and survey of the Sandstone Ridge provides a shared experience and valuable reference point. It must be appreciated, however, that this work reflects mid-19th Century geological understanding and principles.

Hull also references Delamere Forest, Helsby Hill and areas near Frodsham with the same precision.

We include a 'Now and Then' image — Hull's woodcut (looking northward from the base of Bickerton Hill) was actually selected as the frontispiece to the 1869 book; informative and decorative in equal measure. The caption in Hull's text states 'The Peckforton Hills, Cheshire — from the base of Bickerton Hill, looking northward; terraced escarpments formed of Lower Keuper Sandstone and calcareous conglomerate resting on the upper beds of the Bunter Sandstone, which form the slopes descending into the valley'.

For those of you that regularly walk this area .... and from right to left on the woodcut .... you can identify the following promontories .... Cliffs at the southern end of the Ridge, Maiden Castle, Kitty's Stone, Tower Wood with Musket's Hole hidden, the '3 Graces' (the 3 crag faces near Raw Head), Raw Head, Burwardsley Hill, Kelsall in the distance and Harthill. Brown Knowl can be seen in the middle distance. Without the trees, such promontories were clearly exposed.

The portrait of Professor Hull is held in the National Portrait Gallery collection.

Our thanks to Nick Holmes, Trustee, for alerting us to the cultural significance of Hull's work.