Natural awakenings: early naturalists in Lakeland.

Ian D Hodkinson
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaeological Society (2019)

Sometimes local historians can be too parochial. We have a tendency to focus on our own patch, whether this is a single house, village or parish. But these are not self contained entities, existing in splendid isolation, so there is the danger that we miss the interaction with the wider world. This volume charts the lives of eleven naturalists who lived in Cumbria until the early decades of the nineteenth century. So what is the relevance to those who are particularly interested in North Craven?

The first of the naturalists considered by the author is Thomas Lawson (1632-1691) who is described as the pioneer of Cumbrian natural history. Lawson was born in Lawkland but moved to Rampside, near Barrow, to serve as a minister before becoming a Quaker. He was a methodical plant collector and correspondent with John Ray. This resulted in Ray’s exploration of Ingleborough and the earliest record of some of the rarer Dales plants.

A second example is John Gough (1757-1825) who was born in Kendal. As an infant he lost his sight following an attack of smallpox. This did not stop him becoming an accomplished naturalist and one of the most influential of his time. In 1796 he visited the Ebbing & Flowing Well at Giggleswick and provided an early account of how it worked. He also wrote an article about bird migration with dates of when swallows arrived in Kendal and in Settle in 1808. But who was his informant in Settle?

The other naturalists covered in this book are equally fascinating. If you are interested in the early development of natural history then this is the book for you.