The Influence of Geology on Settlement Patterns by Shaun N Wersching Langham Village History Group
Langham Village History Group
The Geology of Langham and the environs has its origins within the early Jurassic period, which started some 195 million years ago and lasted for 40 million years.  At that time the area comprised a marine environment of changing sea levels. The start of the Jurassic period is marked by a group of strata call the Lias; an old term that was used by West of England quarryman to describe thin beds of muddy and shelly limestone. The Lias series has three subdivisions: Lower, Middle and Upper Lias. The Lower Lias comprises fine grained clay and siltstone rocks inter-bedded with limestone which were deposited within an advancing sea, the depth of which fluctuated throughout the period of deposition.  There are no exposures of the Lower Lias around Langham and its environs.  A shallowing of the sea marked the start of the deposition of the Middle Lias; a series of silts and clays capped by a relatively thin (locally up to 3m thick) iron rich layer called the Marlstone rock bed. This in turn is overlain by the Upper Lias clay, which comprises mudstones containing cemented nodules of limestone and ironstone. The Lias Series dip at about 5 degrees to the east.  Weathering and erosion by the passage of water and ice has resulted in the formation of a number of valleys in the Upper Lias clay to the west of Oakham.  These are broadly aligned east-west.  One of these valley systems has been dammed to form Rutland Water.  To the north and south of Oakham the Upper Lias thins out and is locally absent, exposing the Marlstone rock bed. In places the rivers and streams have incised through the Marlstone rock bed to reveal the silts and clays of the Middle Lias. An overview of the geological map for the area (Sheet 157, Stamford) shows Langham, Oakham and many of the villages around Oakham, such as Brook, Braunston, Barleythorpe, Egleton, Ashwell and Whissendine to be located on the Marlstone rock bed outcrop.  This pattern of habitation suggests that the Marlstone rock bed provided some advantage to ancient man that was not available from the surrounding Upper Lias clay, which covers a greater area of land around Oakham.  The supply of water from the streams that run through these settlements is, by itself, insufficient grounds for defining their location.  However, the more granular nature of the soils derived from the weathered Marlstone rock bed, when compared with that of the heavy clay of the Upper Lias, provided better, lighter, more freely draining agricultural land, and was better for habitation and the movement of livestock.  The soils would be easier to cultivate and would not become water logged during the winter.  As a result the land could be tilled and crops sown earlier in the year, giving a longer growing season.  The Marlstone rock bed is also an aquifer.  Wells sunk into this horizon, of which there are many in Langham, would provide an ample supply of fresh groundwater throughout the year.  Geology maybe, therefore, the primary factor defining the location of Langham as an early settlement.
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