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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Robert Wedgwood to Emma Darwin   9 February [1871]1

Dumbleton | Evesham

Feby. 9.

My dear Emma—

I enclose you two letters from two intelligent men—both of them large farmers.2

Indeed all that I have spoken to are unanimous in saying that the Ridges remain unchanged in Shape.3

Yrs. ever— R. Wedgwood

[Enclosure 1]

Chadbury | near Evesham

Feby 7. 1871

My dear Sir—

There are several fields at Dumbleton which will enable you to answer Mr. Darwin’s question— Ley Field4 Barn hills— Smither’s Home Ground (next Halls Hill)5 & others— These are all Ridge and Furrow in the direction of the Slope: and the ridge and furrow as distinct at the foot of the slope, as elsewhere: but in all cases there is a level piece—a “headland” (we call it) on which the horses would turn on ploughing the Ridge and furrow—

Take Leyfield—this was ploughed in what we call two “furlongs”—upper and lower; and there is a level piece through the middle of the field, which serves as the “headland” on ploughing both “furlongs”— the other headlands being the two outsides of the field— “Barn hills” the same—

Very truly yours | C. Randell

Revd. R. Wedgwood—

[Enclosure 2]

Dear Sir

I am sorry your letter was not returned yesterday—

There is, I believe, little doubt that all ridged lands were once under plough altho’ many (& these invariably the best pastures) not for generations.

There are many fields running down a steep slope & ending below in a perfectly level surface of a few feet, or yards, wide— Tradition tells us that these Edlands were never cultivated, but left at a period when drainage was imperfectly understood, as a sure footing for the teams, & to induce sportsmen, when in persuit of their game, to avoid riding over the crops—

I think if you walk across Ley Field, you will find the ridges are as distinct at base, as on the slope—in fact, I fancy, more so—

I am | Yours faithfully | W. A. Corbett

Revd. R. Wedgwood


The year is established by the date on the first enclosure.
The two farmers were William Ashley Corbett and Charles Randell (see enclosures).
CD was interested in the obliteration of ridges in ploughed fields over time; see also letter from Francis Wedgwood, 4 January 1871. CD mentions reports from Gloucestershire of field ridges being as distinct at the bottom of the slope as at the top in Earthworms, p. 295. (Dumbleton is in Gloucestershire.)
Leyfield Farm is south of Dumbleton.
Hall’s Hill is west of Dumbleton.


Earthworms: The formation of vegetable mould through the action of worms: with observations on their habits. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1881.


Encloses letters from two owners [W. Corbett and C. Randell] of large farms concerning fields with ridges and furrows in the direction of the slope. All local men agree the ridges do not change shape.

Letter details

Letter no.
Robert Wedgwood
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 181: 66, 67, DAR 161: 226
Physical description
1p, encs ALS 3pp, ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8205,” accessed on 24 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19