A portrait of young Darwin
Charles Darwin's Staffordshire Facts
Charles Darwin may have been born elsewhere and died elsewhere, but his inspirational times were spent in Staffordshire. We list some of the county’s connections to Darwin – from the odd to the heart-warming...
Darwin + Staffordshire Facts
(For more Darwin material on the BBC. and on 'Darwin 200', see the links on the right-hand side of this page)
Charles’ father, Robert Darwin, was born in Staffordshire, at Lichfield, and lived there until early adult life.
Darwin fell in love with his cousin Emma, who lived at Maer Hall in North Staffordshire.
Another occupant of Maer was instrumental in his other great life-changing experience.
Staffordshire was on his mind even as he travelled.
When he returned from his world trip, he wrote about Maer:
It can be legitimately claimed that the origin of 'The Origin' was in Staffordshire. In 1842, Charles and Emma with their two young children, stayed with Emma's parents at Maer, and it was in the relaxed family atmosphere there that Charles was first able to put together a 32 page essay that condensed his theory of natural selection. This essay, 17 years later, eventually became 'On the Origin of Species'
It’s also believed that Darwin’s first diagram of the Tree of Life may have been drawn at Maer.
Staffordshire MPs, including the Moorlands MP Charlotte Atkins, are among those calling for Darwin's birthday, 12 February, to be designated a public holiday.
When Charles and Emma left Staffordshire, after the wedding, to form their new life in London, they left from the railway station at Whitmore, a little village nearer to Keele.
According to the history told by the owners at the Leopard pub in Burslem in Stoke on Trent, Charles Darwin loaned his cook Mary and his butler Pepper Lees the money to buy the pub in 1850.
It is reputed that Charles stayed at The Leopard too.
The Leopard figures in Darwin's history in another curious way.
Darwin was much opposed to slavery and the slave trade. (In fact, this hatred of slavery may have opened him up to the idea that all beings have common ancestors... as we are all ‘equal’ in Nature and none is superior to another).
In his walks and trips around the west Staffordshire area, Darwin maintained his interest in geology and botany.
A piece of rock from this same Butterton Dyke travelled on the MIR space station from February 1998 to February 1999. The piece of rock was donated to the space station by Staffordshire astronomer Phil Parker.
It’s claimed that Darwin is among the many people who have tried to crack the mysterious code on the Shepherd’s Monument at Shugborough Hall near Stafford (see elsewhere on this website for more information on the monument).
It’s known that Darwin thought long and hard about whether marriage would suit him. Perhaps this nervousness affected him on his wedding day – when he managed to blot his signature on his marriage certificate!
Another Staffordshire site that Charles would have walked, only a couple of miles from Maer Hall, is the house at Camp Hill (near the village of Baldwin's Gate up in the Maer Hills).
(Sarah was not Camp Hill's only famous inhabitant. The explorer Ewart Scott Grogan also lived here - in the early 1900s. His claim to fame was that he once walked the length of Africa, from Cape Town to Cairo).
Keele University is not far from Maer. When the second complex in the university’s Science Park at Keele was opened in December 1992, it was decided to name it “after a local scientist” as - The Darwin Building
Henrietta Litchfield was Charles and Emma’s daughter. In 1915 a book containing family letters, edited by her, was published.
In 1840, Charles published his paper 'On the Formation of Mould'. It was an investigation into how earthworms turn over soil... all inspired by the observations his uncle Josiah had made on one of their walks around Maer.
Even now, more than a century after his death, Darwin is still a huge international figure.
last updated: 23/12/2009 at 08:25
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