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.

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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.

Ashford Black Marble jewellery – Selim Bright & Co

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery has bought an Ashford Black Marble jewelry set, consisting of a brooch and earrings set in gold and in their original box.  The work is of the highest quality but what made it stand out for us was the box which bears the words ‘S. Bright & Co, Buxton, Goldsmiths and watchmakers’.

Buxton was one of the main centres for the Derbyshire Black Marble industry and the museum has a fantastic collection of Ashford Black Marble.  Much of it is on permanent display in our Wonders of the Peak gallery.  Most of the work is unsigned and is difficult to attribute it to specific workshops so we are delighted to have the original Bright box.

Selim Bright appears in the business directories in 1822 as ‘Bright and Sons, the Square’. By 1835 the business had moved to the Crescent. They were associated with jewellers and cutlers in Sheffield (St James Street) and are described as such rather than marble workers.  By 1857 they are listed in White’s Derbyshire Directory as Bright & Co, still in the Crescent.  Bright exhibited an Ashford Black Marble table and numerous vases at the 1851 Great Exhibition, where he was awarded an honourable mention for his work.  A decade later he exhibited at the 1862 London International Exhibition.

The jeweller’s box is marked S.Bright and Co. Buxton, so the garniture dates from the height of the marble trade, around 1850 – 1865.

Selim Bright had a shop under the arches in the Crescent. It is a pity we can’t make out an A Board outside his door.

The Bingham Trust kindly gave us a grant to assist with this purchase and we are very grateful for their support.  In 2005 they also helped us purchase the Tomlinson Collection of Ashford Black Marble, which is now a highlight of our collection.

We have bought other Ashford Black Marble pieces during the project including a pen rest with a Mawe’s Museum retailers sticker and an intriguing socle decorated with a silhouette.  We were spectacularly outbid on an Ann Raynor etching of Matlcok Tor in 2010.

Derby Lecture: Mines, Mills and Machines

Thursday 31st May, 7:30pm to 9.00pm

Derby Local Studies Library

 

Enlightenment, industry and tourism in eighteenth century Derbyshire .

Join Che Binder as he explores the Enlightenment in Derby and Derbyshire. The birth of the scientific method and early emphasis on its application to industry led to the world’s first factories and other wonders such as the purpose-built technological marvel that was Strutt’s General Infirmary in Derby.

Philosophers, scientists and industrialists travelled from all over England and Europe to view these achievements in order that they might emulate them at home. Charles Cotton ‘Wonders of the Peak’ and Defoe’s work also encouraged people at this time to begin to view the natural landscape as a spectacle in its own right, rather than as a resource to be exploited.

Learn about the voyages of discovery taking place in eighteenth century Derby and the along the Derwent. Count the world firsts as they stack up and find out more about the men who laid the foundations of the modern world.

Tickets cost £6 and early booking is advised.  Tickets are available by calling Derby Local Studies Library on 01332 642240 or email localstudies.library@derby.gov.uk. For more information visit – http://www.derby.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/libraries/library-events/the-derby-lectures-mines-mills-and-machines/

Wilmot family Agate seal

Derby Museum and Art Gallery have bought a desk seal from Dreweatts auction in Newbury. The seal is the coat of arms of the Wilmot family of Chaddesden, Derbyshire. It has an agate handle, gold mount and the matrix seal is made from white chalcedony.

The Wilmot family feature numerous times in Joseph Wright’s account books. The most well known Wilmot/Wright painting is the Madonna-esque ‘Lady Wilmot and her child’ which was painted in1788 (now in a private collection).

The seal would have been used to authenticate documents sent by the Wilmots. The Derbyshire Record Office contains many letters written by the family and it would be interesting to see whether any of these letters have wax seals, and whether they were made by our latest purchase! Watch this space….

White Watson – unsuccesful bidding

In June we put a bid on a copy of White Watson’s 1811 book ‘A Delineation of the Strata of Derbyshire’ which was going under the hammer at Bonhams.  Sadly we were outbid and the book went for £720 including the buyer’s premium.

 White Watson (1760 – 1835) was a scientist, geologist, stone mason and mineralogist who lived and worked for most of his life in Bakewell.  If you want to find out more about Watson then have a look at Derbyshire Record Office’s fantastic information sheet about ‘Derbyshire’s Men of Science’.  You can access it through the DRO blog.  We are still interested in acquiring an 1811 edition so we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled – let us know if you come across one.