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Lecture Report – Chilterns at Work, Jill Eyers

The Henley Archaeological and Historical Group has resumed its series of lectures, but now via Zoom. Members enjoyed the first of the new season, given on 6th October by Jill Eyers on The Chilterns at Work.

As a geologist, Jill emphasised the importance of the geology of the area on the industries which developed here. The hills are formed of chalk, on which a layer of flint-containing clay developed over millions of years. In prehistory, the high-quality flint was valuable as a raw material for tool making. More recently, the chalk provided a valuable building material (for making mortar) and the clay was exploited for brick-making.

The low natural fertility of the soil meant that, historically, the land was better suited to animal grazing and woodlands than to arable farming. The woodland was an important source of fuel, for metal-working, brickmaking (Nettlebed kiln in the picture) and charcoal production. And, of course, the trees provided the raw material for the region’s famous furniture-making.

The Group’s next talk will be given by Prof. Michael Fulford of Reading University on 3rd November, about recent findings from the excavations at Calleva, Roman Silchester. Members of HAHG will receive a Zoom link by email in advance of the date.