150 Years of Geologists of the Cotteswold Naturalists Field Club
Hugh Edwin Strickland (1811-1853) was already a well known geologist and naturalist by the time he joined the field club in 1846. He was the second son of Henry Strickland of Apperley, Gloucestershire, also a supporter of the Club. Hugh was the grandson of Edmund Cartwright the inventor of the powerloom. Hugh Strickland was born on the 2nd March 1811, at Righton in Yorkshire and went as a pupil of Dr Thomas Arnold at the age of sixteen (1827) who was a "family connection". The following year Dr Arnold was to become the Headmaster of Rugby school. In February 1829 Strickland went to Oriel College, Oxford.
Strickland had long had an interest in fossils and shells, which he had started collecting at the age of fifteen. At Oxford University he attended the geology lectures given by William Buckland (1784-1856). During his vacations he made visits to Paris, the Isle of Wight, and went to examine the new railway cuttings in the Vale of Evesham. After leaving Oxford he went to stay with his father at Apperley near Tewkesbury and became familiar with the geology of the area, and gained the ability to understand the geology of any district he was to visit. This so impressed Sir Roderick Murchison that he asked Strickland to sort out the boundary between the Lias and the New Red Sandstone on the Ordnance map that was being prepared.
In 1835 he went on a tour to Asia Minor with William John Hamilton (1805-1867). They set off from London on the 4th July 1835, travelling through Greece, Constantinople and the Western coast of Asia Minor, examining shells and geology on the way. Strickland made his own way back through Greece, Italy and Switzerland. Some of Strickland's land and freshwater molluscs collected on this tour appear to be in the collections of Cheltenham Museum. On his return he was able to devote much of his time to geology as "his means made him independent of his labours". During the next two years he wrote up the geology of the countries he had visited, and read six papers on the subject to the Geological Society of London.
In 1837 he went in company with his father on a tour of north Scotland, Orkney, Skye and the Great Glen. At Cromarty he met the stonemason, and author of geological works, Hugh Miller(1802 - 1856). Strickland gave his first paper on "classification" to the British Association meeting at Glasgow in 1840 "On the true Method of discovering the Natural System in Zoology and Botany". This attacked some of the popular ideas of the day such as the "Quinary system" based on a belief that God had arranged all things in groups of five. Some of these groups were believed to be "Circular" so that the last of the five in the series approached the first.
Strickland's "Laws" were quoted for many years after his death. These "Laws" were an attempt to avoid synonyms and false names in zoological and geological nomenclature. Strickland worked alongside eminent naturalists like Charles Darwin (1809 - 1882), John Stevens Henslow (1796 - 1861) and Leonard Jenyns (1800 - 1893) on the first committee for Zoological Nomenclature formed by the British Association for the Advancement of Science when they met at York in February 1844. Given the confusion of scientific names current at that time and the dubious practices of some who would put in unjustified claims when naming specimens, some "Laws" were desperately needed. It was at this meeting that Strickland and George Johnston (1797 - 1855) of Berwick on Tweed, promoted the founding of the "Ray Society" for the publishing of natural history books.
In 1845 Strickland married, Catherine, the talented second daughter of Sir William Jardine (1800 - 1874). Jardine was a naturalist who published works on ornithology with Prideaux John Selby (1788-1867) in 1830. Jardine and Strickland first met at a British Association meeting in 1840 and soon were visitors at Twizell House, Selby's home. Sir Thomas Tancred married Selby's youngest daughter, Jane in 1839. The links are now clear how it was that Selby came to attended the first meeting of the Field Club in 1847, with Sir Thomas Tancred becoming the first Secretary. After their marriage Hugh and Catherine went on a European tour though Holland, Copenhagen, Berlin, Switzerland, Frankfort and Brussels visiting most of the museums on the way.
Murchison then encouraged Strickland to work out the New Red Sandstone in his home area and this resulted in a paper on that formation in Gloucestershire in the proceedings of the Geological Society (Vol. V.). In 1845 Strickland and James Buckman published a "new edition, augmented and revised" of Murchison's 1834 "Geology of Cheltenham". This was one of the first books on local geology, a pattern that was later followed by John Lycett in "The Cotteswold Hills"(1857) and by Edwin Witchell in the "Geology of Stroud", (1882).
In 1847 during the first year of the Field Club, Strickland held the position of Chairman of Section "D" (Natural History) at the British Association Meeting, Oxford, and gave an evening lecture on the Dodo, a subject had on which he had considerable knowledge and on which he was to publish as "The Dodo" in 1848.
On the 6th October 1847, Strickland went with the Field Club to Horsepools where he examined pebbles in the Oolite, they went on to Painswick Camp, to the summit of the Beacon, where he described to the members, the geology of the panoramic view: Robinswood Hill, the junction of the Middle Lias; the Lias of the Severn Valley; the syenitic rocks of the Malverns with its Silurian and Old Red Sandstone; the May Hill Sandstone, and Silurian. The Old Red Sandstone and Carboniferous rocks of the Forest of Dean. He even suggested to the members that they consider the vast amount of rock that was now missing and that above them would once have been the Chalk or Cretaceous strata rising to a great height "all now denuded". He thought that there had once been a continuous connection of these rocks with Ireland.
Strickland became the successor to James Buckland becoming Deputy Reader of Geology at Oxford, and in 1847 his address was "Merton Street, Oxford". The Field Club met at Oxford on the 7th December 1847 where Dr Daubeny and Strickland took the party around the Ashmolean Museum, Buckland's Geological and Mineralogical Museum, and other places of interest. Dr Daubeny gave one of his lectures on Volcanoes, and Strickland gave an outline of a paper he had given to the British Association at Oxford in the summer of 1847, the "Natural History and Affinities of the Dodo" in which he produced the few remains of the Dodo in the museum collection. The Club were unexpectedly stuck at Oxford for the night by "the want of a train" and were "most hospitably received by Mr and Mrs Strickland" for breakfast, the house was described as "quite a museum of ornithology". In 1849 Strickland was appointed one of the small committee set up by the Field Club, to look into the best method of obtaining Meteorological observations on the periodical phenomena of vegetation and Natural History, an interest promoted by those who knew of Gilbert White's Calendar in the book "A Natural History of Selborne" and subsequently a subject followed up by the British Association.
On Tuesday the 26th June 1849, Strickland stood on the top of May Hill pointing out the geology of the view to the Field Club. The Syenite ridge of the Malverns, the Clee Hills in Shropshire and to the westwards, "looking across the Wenlock and Ludlow deposits, and the Old Red Sandstone in the valley - whose enormous thickness is proved by the fact that, for a breadth of two miles, it inclines at an angle of 50 degrees - are seen the Dean Forest Hills, consisting of Carboniferous Limestones and the Coal Measures". He also pointed out the Old Red Sandstone of the Black Mountains and across the Severn to Tortworth and the Cotswold scarps "and thus is completed a more perfect panorama, whether to the geologist or the mere lover of scenery, than is to be found elsewhere perhaps in the south-west of England". On August 7th 1849 Strickland invited the Field Club to his house near Tewkesbury, because of the rain only two came, but these saw his fine collection of birds. Another five members then joined them and they went by train to Eckington Station and ascended Bredon Hill. The summit was hidden by rain and mist so Strickland and John Jones discussed "philological subjects" (languages). On September 27th 1849, the Field Club went out to Newport in Gloucestershire, driven out from Hardwicke by Mr Baker. After a day out they had dinner at Newport where Strickland read a paper on "Leckhampton Hill".
On the 10th January 1852, Strickland joined the party as they visited the Museum in Park Street, Bristol, the home of the Bristol Institution and were shown around by William Sanders FGS. FRS (1799-1875) . This institution later moved site and became Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery. The facade of the old Institution still exists much as it did in 1852. From the Museum they went to examine the Gorge of the Avon. On the 7th June 1853 the Field Club met the Woolhope and Malvern Clubs at White-leaved Oak and walked on to one of the Malvern peaks where Strickland gave a "brief but comprehensive lecture, as few save Strickland could give, on the vast and extra-ordinary disruption which, as far as human proof could show, had caused the features of the excellent landscape now spread at our feet".
Strickland soon after this was killed in an accident in a railway cutting near Hull, a death so awful that his fate was still being held up as a warning to undergraduates not to examine railway cuttings as recently as the 1980's. The President of the Field Club, in his address said: "Deeply as we lament our loss of such a man, endeared to most of us as a friend, as much admired by all as one of the most eminent Naturalist of the day, I cannot but for my own part rejoice that the last recollection we have of him was one so truly characteristic". Strickland's violent death was a shock to both naturalists and geologists to whom he was equally well known. The tragic end of "poor Hugh" as he was ever afterwards referred to, came after he had been attending the British Association meeting at Hull in 1853. On his way home he stopped off to see Flamborough Head with the geologist John Phillips (1800-1874) and parted with him to visit a new section on the Sheffield, Manchester, and Lincolnshire Railway at Clarborough. On the 14th he was stood a little way up the track from the tunnel entrance making a pencil sketch of the strata in his notebook, when he stepped from the down-line to avoid a slow coal train on to the up-line. With the noise of the coal train, Strickland would not have been aware of the sudden and immediate arrival of a fast passenger train coming round the bend, and though the driver saw him, and made every attempt to stop the train or attract his attention, it could not be done. His notebook was found to contain a pencil sketch of the strata of the Clarborough Hills and a note "Waterstone at Clarborough Cutting, between Retford and Gainsborough; also at Gainsborough; Lias between Gainsborough and Blyton" The passenger train struck him killing him instantly, his gold watch was broken in the impact, and was found to have stopped at 29 minutes past four.
Strickland named several fossils including the oyster Oystrea liassica, which is so characteristic of the Planorbis Zone of the Lower Lias Clay in Gloucestershire also the bivalve Pullastra arenicola from the Avicula contorta zone. The brachiopod genus Stricklandinia was named after him as well as a new species of ammonite from Crowcombe near Evesham, called Schlotheimia stricklandi by Buckman. Most of Strickland's fossil collection are in the Sedgwick Museum, Cambridge. His book on "Ornithological Synonyms" was edited by Mrs H.E. Strickland and Sir William Jardine in 1855.
So fondly was Strickland regarded by his friends in the Cotteswold, Woolhope and Malvern Field Clubs they set up a committee: H.H.Barker, W.Symonds, F.Bayly, J.Jones and J.Buckman, they were to select a design for a magnificent stained glass memorial window to be set in Deerhurst Church near Gloucester. On the 9th May 1854 the Club went to Deerhurst Church to see the window destined to receive the memorial glass and the design for the window, by Mr O'Connor. They went again on 1st May 1855 invited by Mr Henry Strickland to Apperley Court, where after seeing the natural history and the exquisite drawings of plants by Miss Strickland, they went to Deerhurst Church to see Hugh's window of which the club highly approved. The dedication at the bottom of the window reads:
TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND THE MEMORY OF HUGH EDWIN STRICKLAND
A CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHER. THE TRIBUTE OF MANY FRIENDS.
DIED SEPTEMBER XIV MDCCCLIII AGED XL11
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