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Charles Darwin (Natural History Museum)
Charles Darwin in Staffordshire
The great nineteenth-century naturalist, and writer of ‘On The Origin of Species’, spent a lot of time in this county – gaining inspiration, support and even a wife
The tiny, picturesque village of Maer, in north Staffordshire, hides a fascinating history.
It was here, nearly two hundred years ago, that Charles Darwin – one of the greatest and most controversial names of the last 500 years – fell in love, married, and worked on some of his world-changing theories.
All during 2009, Maer village, and other sites in Staffordshire, pay respect to the man who once graced this part of the country, with a number of outstanding events.
Darwin in Staffordshire
It’s not so well known, but, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Darwin family, of Shropshire, had close connections with Staffordshire.
Charles Darwin's paternal grandfather, the celebrated philosopher Erasmus Darwin, had lived in Lichfield (where his house is still open to the public as a museum).
But it was the link with the famous Wedgwood family that really brought the young Charles Darwin into Staffordshire.
His mother being a Wedgwood, he would often holiday at his uncle’s home in Maer – uncle being Josiah Wedgwood II (the son of the Josiah the founder).
Uncle Josiah and his family spilt their time between Maer Hall and their other base, Etruria Hall in Stoke.
At Maer Hall, Charles met his future wife-to-be, his cousin Emma Wedgwood, who had actually been born at the hall.
It is said that the young Charles enjoyed the walking and shooting there, and fostered his interest in the natural world there, even studying the activities of earthworms!
However, it wasn’t until he’d completed his five-year trip to South America on the ship HMS Beagle that he made up his mind to ask Emma to marry him.
Thus it was that two of the great Josiah’s grandchildren were united. Curiously, the marriage of two such close relatives might be frowned on today – but in those days it was quite acceptable.
And, even though they then set up a home in London, Charles and Emma did often return to Maer.
To see: a photo-gallery of features of Maer (and photos relating to Darwin's times in Staffordshire); and a page of the curious facts linking Darwin to this county - click on the links below...
Sadly, it is only one year later that the connection is broken. In 1843, Josiah died, and, the hall being his especial project, it was decided to sell it off.
Or…is the link really broken?
The Maer Hall estate nowadays contains a number of holiday cottages, and in fact Darwin enthusiasts are among the visitors who come.
And, at St Peter’s Church, the Wedgwood pottery company has now donated, to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of Darwin’s birth, a commissioned black-basalt plaque, inscribed in 22 carat gold.
So it seems that the Darwin-Wedgwood-Maer relationship is unlikely to be forgotten for many, many years….
last updated: 23/12/2009 at 08:28
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