I REGRET to state that no improvement is, as yet, visible in the demand for iron. Prices, consequent upon competition, and the practice of underselling on the part of some of the South Staffordshire firms, are still receding. Some improvement in the shape of home orders has been manifest at some of the foundries for finished articles of a useful kind, also for bar iron. The price of the latter article is usually so much above that of the South Staffordshire makers, that smiths often get supplied from the South Staffordshire makers. Some of the blast furnaces in the neighbourhood have suffered from a formation of zinc, which, notwithstanding attempts to dislodge it, accumulates in masses around the interior, so as to choke up the work. In a furnace recently blown out for repair, belonging to Beriah Botfield, Esq., M.P., as much as 11 tons 9 cwt. has been cleared away. From a specimen I have seen, and in the opinion of Mr. Onions, the White Flat, one of the ores in use in that district, contributes largely to produce the state of things described. I believe, however, that nearly all the iron ores of the Shropshire field contain a portion; crystals of that metal are often found forming a sort of nucleus wherever a nodule having a fossil occurs.
In the COLLIERY GUARDIAN, some months ago, I directed attention to a very futile attempt made by a landed proprietor in this neighbourhood to sink for coal in strata which any tyro in geology would know to be silurian. Fortunately for the estate, water has at last put a stop to the proceedings, after a large outlay of money, and an amount of anxiety and perseverance worthy a better cause. The error was so palpable from the first, that it is really astonishing how any man could have been led astray. The first spadeful of earth, after the surface soil had been removed, brought up silurian fossils by handsful; yet, mislead by its colour and appearance, they were declared to be one of the coal-measure shales. In this shale and its underlying silurian member, men have been fruitlessly labouring for eighteen months or more. What makes the matter still more preposterous is, that the millstone grit, which marks the passage from the carboniferous formation to the silurian system, lies in an elevated ridge but a few hundred yards from the sinkings, while the cuttings into the strata from the high grounds where the several shafts have been sunk, to the river below, made by brooks, display every variation of rock down to the base of the Wenlock limestone. As is usual in such cases, every one who offered a disinterested opinion upon the matter was suspected to be in the pay or under the influence of some coal or iron company of the district. For the honour of our countrymen, let me say, the wiseacre who conducted the proceedings is a foreigner, who professed to believe the government survey maps erroneous, and who, I believe, is entirely ignorant of geology.