CHAPTER I. AIR.
[THIS Chapter contains a variety of matter not apposite to Wiltshire. Besides the passages here quoted, there are accounts of several remarkable hurricanes, hail storms, &c., in different parts of England, as well as in Italy. The damage done by "Oliver's wind "(the storm said to have occurred on the death of the Protector Cromwell) is particularly noticed: though it may be desirable to state on the authority of Mr. Carlyle, the eloquent editor of "Cromwell's Letters and Speeches" (8vo. 1846), that the great tempest which Clarendon asserts to have raged "for some hours before and after the Protector's death", really occurred four days previous to that event. Aubrey no doubt readily adopted the general belief upon the subject. He quotes, without expressly dissenting from it, the opinion of Chief Justice Hale, that "whirlewinds and all winds of an extraordinary nature are agitated by the spirits of air". Lunar rainbows, and meteors of various kinds, are described in this chapter; together with prognostics of the seasons from the habits of animals, and some observations made with the barometer; and under the head of Echoes, "for want of good ones in this county", there is a long description by Sir Robert Moray of a remarkable natural echo at Roseneath, about seventeen miles from Glasgow. On sounds and echoes there are some curious notes by Evelyn, but these are irrelevant to the subject of the work.- J. B.]
BEFORE I enter upon the discourse of the AIR of this countie, it would not be amiss that I gave an account of the winds that most commonly blow in the western parts of England.
I shall first allege the testimony of Julius Cæsar, who delivers to us thus: "Corns ventus, qui magnam partem omnis temporis in his locis flare consuevit". - (Commentaries, lib. v.) To which I will subjoine this of Mr. Th. Ax, of Somersetshire, who hath made dayly observations of the weather for these twenty-five years past, since 1661, and finds that, one yeare with another, the westerly winds, which doe come from the Atlantick sea, doe blowe ten moneths of the twelve. Besides, he hath made observations for thirty years, that the mannours in the easterne parts of the netherlands of Somersetshire doe yield six or eight per centum of their value; whereas those in the westerne parts doe yield but three, seldome four per centum, and in some mannours but two per centum. Hence he argues that the winds carrying these unwholesome vapours of the low country from one to the other, doe make the one more, the other less, healthy. ___________________________________
This shire may be divided as it were into three stories or stages. Chippenham vale is the lowest. The first elevation, or next storie, is from the Derry Hill, or Bowdon Lodge, to the hill beyond the Devises, called Red-hone, which is the limbe or beginning of Salisbury plaines. From the top of this hill one may discerne Our Lady Church Steeple at Sarum, like a fine Spanish needle. I would have the height of these hills, as also Hackpen, and those toward Lambourn, which are the highest, to he taken with the quicksilver barometer, according to the method of Mr. Edmund Halley in Philosophical Transactions, No. 181. ___________________________________
Now, although Mindip-hills and Whitesheet, &c., are as a barr and skreen to keep off from Wiltshire the westerly winds and raines, as they doe in some measure repel those noxious vapours, yet wee have a flavour of them; and when autumnal agues raigne, they are more common on the hills than in the vales of this country. ___________________________________
The downes of Wiltshire are covered with mists, when the vales are clear from them, and the sky serene; and they are much more often here than in the lowest story or stage.