Charles Darwin birthday weekend 2018

The flags were out for Charles Darwin this weekend as it was his 209th birthday.f


I was lucky to be there and went to some old haunts.

My first call where Darwin was baptised soon after he was born. This was not the font, fossiliferous though it is.




Next stop was the Unitarian Church where his family often worshipped






It goes back to 1662 when it was a Presbyterian church, which went ~Unitarian. Coleridge preached there as a brass below the hatchment records. Howver later, he became an Anglican and described Unitarianism as ” a feather bed to catch a falling Christian.” I agree!!


There several plaques, one to Darwin and another to a Unitarian businessman and amateur geologist, John Eddowes Bowman, who visited Snowdonia in June 1842 to see whether there was glaciation. He said no but soon both Rev William buckland and Charles Darwin said there was.




One minister was George Case ,who ran a school. Darwin went there before going to shrewsbury School


Dr Case’s school.


Inbetween studying at Edinburgh and Cambridge, Darwin got friendly with FannY Mostyn Owen and they sent letters signed “housemaid” or “postilion”. Fanny married Robert Myddelton biddulph of Chirk Castle in early 1831, and lived in the castle.


In the 1840s Pugin was hired to improve the castle. Among other things he designed at least two fireplaces.


One on side is FMB – Fanny Myddleton Biddulph


And the other RMB – Robert Myddleton Biddulph




Just after Darwin sailed on the Beagle, Fanny and Robert met at the Queen’s Head (where we had lunch today) and then rode to Woodhouse where Robert asked William Mostyn Own for fanny’s hand in marriage. William grudgingly gave it.

Back to science. I July 1831 Darwin tried to teach himself geology, before Sedgwick came to take him round Wales.

He went to an old quarry in Shrewsbury, where there is a recently planted wood.  There he found a volute shell and showed it to Sedgwick a few weeks later. Sedgwick dismissed it by saying it had been “thrown away by someone”. Actually after Darwin returned there in 1838 he realised it was glacial drift and thus the “someone2 who threw away the shell was an ice sheet who picked up the shell way up in the desolate north – probably the North Sea and dumped it there as he got too hot!




There’s an erratic – the Bellstone – at the Morris Hall which baffled all in the 1820s until glaciation explained all.



In July 1831 Darwin tried to make a geological map and coloured it in a bit and marked 4 sites ABCD . Here is one of New Red Sandstone (Permo-triass) just by Nobold! Nearby,he recorded Coal Measures as there were a series of bell pits.




and so to Wenlock Edge which Darwin visited in 1838 after returning from Glen Roy , where he made his biggest geological blunder on the Parallel Roads

He visited a quarry of Ordovician limestone. It survives though overgrown with at least one limekiln.


Much is bedded limestone








But there is some reef limestone as in this photo.


Having visited so many coral reefs in the Indian Ocean  – the subject of his first book – he planned to make an extensive study of all the fossil coral reefs in Britain. He had his eye on many from the Carboniferous.

However illness soon put paid to energetic field geology and so he pottered around Downe House, first with his barnacles and then wrote “The Origin of species”

That is another story


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