Digging into Yarcomb Sand’oil

The title of Martin Lister’s paper to the Royal Society, delivered on March 12th 1683.

I realised Acomb must be vaguely scientifically interesting when I found it mentioned in Martin Lister‘s 1683 Royal Society paper “An ingenious proposal for a new sort of Maps of Countrys, together with Tables of Sands and Clays, such chiefly as are found in the North parts of England…”

Lister’s idea was that rocks and sediments should be mapped, for economic purposes, and he included “Acome near York” in his sand table:

Courfe, Greifly, Reddifh Browne.

It was only today, however, when I was dragging my daughter round Acomb on an Easter bunny hunt, that I discovered where Lister’s sand probably came from. As said daughter entertained herself in the Acomb Green play area, I spotted an information board, which said this:

“Come here and buy some sand, good lass,
Which I from Acomb bring.”

I am sad I shall never hear the Acomb sand-hawker’s cry on the streets of Leeds, but I shall henceforth refer to Acomb Green as Yarcomb Sand’oil.

Looking at the British Geological Survey’s map of the Quaternary deposits around York, Acomb Green appears to sit on clayey gravelly sand of the York Moraine Member (shown in green below). However, the lilac-coloured unit to the south-east is simply mapped as ‘York Moraine Member – Sand’. Perhaps the Yarcomb Sand’oil might have lasted longer if they’d dug there instead?

Geological map of Acomb, with the red-striped area marking the Yarcomb Sand’oil (data from British Geological Survey & Ordnance Survey; Crown Copyright.)

Now, is there any truth to the rumour that Acomb sand was used in making glass for York Minster? Martin Lister was a friend of Henry Gyles after all…

Earth scientist in York, fossilist across Yorkshire. Co-director of the Yorkshire Fossil Festival and palaeontologist for hire. Can be found twittering, facebooking, and instagramming as @fossiliam.