“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Discovering Oxygen at Wiltshire's Atlantis

Anyone who has studied chemistry will be familiar with the name Joseph Priestley (1733 - 1804). Priestley was the clergyman chemist who is credited with the discovery of oxygen in August 1774.

Oxygen, which Priestley called "dephlogisticated air", was only one of the "airs" that he discovered during his experiments. Priestley also isolated: nitric oxide (NO); hydrogen chloride (HCl); ammonia (NH3); nitrous oxide (N2O); carbon monoxide (CO); and sulphur dioxide (SO2). Priestley also conducted electrical experiments, and his dabblings with charged spheres lead him to propose that the electrical force followed an inverse-square law. This relationship was formalised and published in 1784 by French physicist Charles Augustin de Coulomb, and became known as Coulomb's law.

Priestley's greatest gift to the world was probably his method for making soda water. Thinking that soda water might cure scurvy, he provided the method to Captain James Cook for his second voyage. If only he had provided them with some lemons and limes to go in it, his idea may have worked!

When Priestly discovered oxygen he was resident at Bowood House near Calne in Wiltshire, as a guest of Lord Shelburne who had provided him with lodgings and a laboratory.

Bowood House today is a shadow of its former self. At its peak the house consisted of the "Big House" and the "Little House" which were connected by a huge drawing room. In the modern era Bowood become too expensive to maintain, so in 1956  the "Big House" and the drawing room were demolished. During this rationalisation of the house a dining room designed by Robert Adam was auctioned off to Lloyd's of London.  Lloyd's had the drawing room rebuilt in their London offices, and  today this part of Bowood House can be found on the 11th floor of their Lime Street offices. All that remains of Bowood house today is just the "Little House", but this name does a disservice to what is still a rather substantial country residence.

The grounds of Bowood House were designed by Lancelot "Capability" Brown, and the centerpiece of his design was a sizeable lake. However, one thing stood in the way of Capability Brown's lake, and that was the village of Manning's Hill!

To enable the lake to be constructed the residents of Mannings Hill had to be relocated, and in 1766 they were persuaded to move to nearby villages such as Sandy Lane. Once the former village was empty Capability Brown had it flooded to form the sinuous lake that is seen today. A lake that is almost 1 km long covering an impressive area of 45 acres.

It seems that parts of the village remain submerged in the lake to this very day and in 2007 divers found the remains of two cottages and stone walls in the lake's murky depths.

So not only does Wiltshire boast its own ghost town, it also boasts its own version of Atlantis!

Bowood House.

The laboratory where Joseph Priestley discovered oxygen.

Bowood's Lake, but what lies beneath its surface?

A Doric temple folly on the lakeside. 

Pictures: Wiltshire (August 2016).

If you find this post interesting please share it using the buttons below.

No comments:

Post a comment