Elias Hall – Part two

Elias Hall strata map

Last week John Henry, chair of The History of Geology Group came to look at some of the maps we have in our collection. The highlight of his visit was seeing the horizontal section showing the geological strata which we bought back in 2012. The map was produced by Elias Hall and published in two sections by William Phillips in 1824 and 1834. John kindly pointed us towards an article on Elias Hall that was published by the Mercian Geologist Journal in 2011.

Elias Hall strata map

The article written by Hugh S. Torrens and Trevor D. Ford gives a lot of detail about the life and pioneering works of Elias Hall. Included are discussions on the geological models which Hall created, first carved from wood and later cast in plaster. The article contains a description by John Farey of Hall showing a model to the Geological Society. Unfortunately the models didn’t meet with the best reaction being criticised for their ‘injudicious use of rather too glaring colours’ and that they called to the mind ‘a tray of Guts and Garbage in a Fishmonger’s or Poulterer’s Shop’. I am not sure how similar the colours on the models are to our strata map, but ironically we’ve chosen the colours from the map as our palette for the Collections in the Landscape project.

Collections in the Landscape logo

Hall came under further criticism being described as ‘a queer-looking old man, with white hair and lame, and has no notion of lecturing, and he likewise speaks very broad High Peak’. What’s wrong with speaking in broad High Peak, I hear you exclaim?

Sadly the article confirmed that, as far as anyone knows, none of Hall’s models have survived. Go check your attics people!

You can read the full article here.

William Brockedon’s sketchbook

I must admit I’d never heard of William Brockedon until this week.  To summarise his Oxford National Biography article…. He was born in 1787 in Devon , took over his father’s watchmakers business when he was 14, caught the eye of two local Devonshire patrons in 1809 and with their support went to study at the Royal Academy and pursue a career as a painter.

He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1812 onwards, mainly showing portraits and religious subjects.  In 1815 he headed to the alps and produced topographical paintings which were later engraved and widely circulated. By Brockedon’s own estimation he crossed the alps nearly 60 times by 30 different routes.

While that last statistic is pretty impressive the reason why I am writing about him, is that YCBA holds one Brockedon's Derbyshire sketchbookof his sketchbooks, enticingly entitled…

‘An Album containing 24 drawings, in black and white chalks, and graphite; Album also contains one wash drawing, mostly of Derbyshire scenery, with exception of last plate: a full-length portrait’.

I had a look this morning and it was fantastic.  Most of the sketches are untitled but it looks like Brockedon travelled via Nottingham and Sheffield to Derbyshire.  His first stop was Castleton where he sketched Peak Cavern/the Devil’s Arse and Peveril Castle before heading south to Dovedale.

Here are a selection from his Castleton sketches:

Peak Cavern (B1977.14.1496.5)

Inside Peak Cavern (B1977.14.1496.6)Peak Cavern (B1977.14.1496.13)Peveril Castle (B1977.14.1496.9)
















































As well as being an artist with work in museums including the V&A and British Museum, Brockedon was also an inventor, a founding member of the Royal Geographical Society and a fellow of the Royal Society.

I’ll upload more images from his sketchbook in the next couple of days.

Elias Hall – A vertical stretch of the Strata across the High Peak Hundred of Derbyshire

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery has bought a geological strata map of England, stretching from near Southport on the West Coast to near Doncaster on the East.  The engraved map shows the different  strata in hand painted colours e.g limestone, coal, gritstone etc.   The central section shows the strata across the High Peak Hundred of Derbyshire.  It was produced by Elias Hall, and published in sections by William Phillips in 1824 and 1834.

Strata Derbyshire map - Elias Hall

Elias Hall (1764 – 1853) was a mineral surveyor, collector and geologist who James Croston writing in ‘On foot through the peak’ (1876) describes as being the ‘father of geology in Derbyshire’.  Croston praises Hall for directing his attention to the subject of geology ‘at a time when geology, as a science, had made but little progress, and in this country was comparatively unknown’.

Section of the Strata of Lancashire Coalfields

On visiting Castleton, Croston went to see Hall’s grave and describes him as an example ‘of genius in the humbler walks of life’.  Croston goes on to explain that Hall was a self taught man who at an early age ‘imbibed a taste for natural science’.

‘As a practical geologist he attained to a considerable degree of eminence, and was favourably known as the author of several productions having reference to the structure of the earth. His most important work, and that on which perhaps more than any other his reputation is founded, is a geological and mineralogical map of the great coal-field of Lancashire, with parts of the neighbouring counties of Derbyshire, Cheshire, and Yorkshire, coloured stratigraphically.’

The map publicises Hall’s work which was available to buy from his house in Castelton.  He produced geological models and relief maps and sold mineral specimens ‘whose precise Localities’ he had ascertained.

According to Croston the British Museum – on Joseph Bank’s insistence – bought two models for their collection.  I have done a quick search of the British Museum’s collections but couldn’t find any reference to them.  A google search brought up a newsletter from the Geological Curators Group (no. 9, April 1977) which shows that in the 1970s they were looking for the models too, but had drawn a blank.  I plan to try and find out whether they tracked them down and if the British Museum still have them.

I like to think that the 25 year old William Day might have met the 25 year old Elias Hall when he visited Castleton in 1789.  Judy Egerton’s Connoisseur article on William Day (Vol 174, 1970) states that Day’s interests were Geology, Minerology and Painting – in that order.  He also ‘formed one of the earliest private collections of minerals in England; and always took on his sketching tours a bag for specimens as well as a box of watercolours’.

Castleton watercolour by William Day, 1789

Castleton watercolour by William Day, 1789
Could one of these buildings have been Elias Hall’s house?

Day’s mineral collections ended up in Hampstead Central Library where it was destroyed during the blitz, so we can only guess what Derbyshire specimens he might have collected.  18th century Castleton was a small place so I feel that it is in the realms of possibility that Day and Hall might have met and talked geology over an ale or two – although sadly I have  no evidence to support this!

Dec 2013 update on Elias Hall part two.

John Webber and William Day – Views of Castleton

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery have bought two watercolours of Castleton.

The watercolours were painted in 1789 by John Webber and William Day while on a tour of Derbyshire.

John Webber (1751 – 1793) was the official artist for Captain Cook’s third voyage – the voyage in which Cook was killed  in Hawaii. He had also been on various tours around the Continent, Wales and the River Wye, but what is unusual about his Derbyshire trip was that he brought along his friend William Day.


 William Day (1764 – 1807) was a geologist and self-taught artist who showed work regularly at the Royal Academy as an ‘Honorary Exhibitor’ between 1783 and1801. We don’t know much about their friendship but we do know that they often drew the same sights but from slightly different angles and perspectives. Their views of Castleton show Peveril Castle with the village in the foreground.

Castleton would have attracted Day as the village was well known for its important geological specimens. Mawe writing in the preface for his ‘Minerology of Derbyshire’ described Castelton as having ‘such a variety of strata, mines and minerals occur as perhaps no other situation in the kingdom can boast’.

Webber’s watercolour of nearby Oden Mine and Mam Tor are in the collection at the Whitworth Art Gallery.

Webber and Day’s paintings are in museum collections across the world. To have the pair however is very unusual and the only other pair in the public domain (apart from ours) are in the Yale Centre for British Art.

Alongside the HLF ‘Collecting Cultures’ grant these two watercolours were bought with the kind assistance from the Art Fund, V&A/MLA Purchase Grant Fund and the Beecroft Foundation. Thank you!

Much of our information about Webber and Day’s Derbyshire tour comes from the ‘Captain Cook’s Painter: John Webber’, catalogue from the 1996 exhibition at the Kunst Museum Bern and the Whitworth Art Gallery. We currently don’t have a copy of this but are trying to get our hands on one. Let us know if you can help!