Gold, Oak and Adventure

gold-lozaage-flikrNews of a few current happenings at Poole Museum might cheer the gloomy days of winter. The first is a free talk at the Museum on 25th February at 2.00pm by David Dawson of the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes. Gold from the Time of Stonehenge will outline the story of the World Heritage Site and its ritual landscape and feature the remarkable craftsmanship of objects found in the burials of chieftains, important women and priests who used the area for their ceremonies. Many of the objects discussed are on display at the Wiltshire Museum, home of the best Bronze Age collections in Britain. Booking is essential. To secure your place, please contact: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk and search under Poole.

Books for Boys: Heroism, Empire and Adventure at the Dawn of the First World War is a new exhibition running at the Museum until Sunday 23rd April which celebrates a golden age of books for children in the decades leading up to the war. In particular, it considers the influence of the stories of the time on the young men who so readily volunteered in 1914. There is also a special event for World Book Day on 3rd March. For more details see: http://www.poolemuseum.co.uk/whats-on/exhibitions .

mermanLastly – it’s back! The rudder of the Swash Channel wreck has returned to Poole from its conservation process in York and is now installed in the Museum. I would like to say it’s impossible to miss but actually that’s exactly what I did, wandering past it with my mind on something else. The massive piece of oak stands on the ground floor near the entrance, opposite the log boat. With a cross section of about 48cm x 34cm and a height of 4m to 5m, its top is above first floor level. Also on display nearby is a carving of a merman from above one of the gun ports of the vessel. This is a strangely androgynous figure with the body of a mermaid and the head of a man with beard, moustache and helmet, just one of a number of carvings retrieved from the wreck site.

rudder-head-1Looking down at the rudder from the first floor you get a better impression of the sheer size of the vessel, and yet this is only a section of the piece. The whole rudder is nearly twice as tall at over 8m. The most striking feature, however, is the larger than life-sized carved head on the top. The face is of a man of middle years, bold and tough, with the flamboyant moustache and long curls of the period and his eyes rolled upwards as if scanning the sails and the sky. It’s tempting to think that it might be the portrait of a real person, perhaps the Dutch owner of the ship, revealed once more after lying on the bottom of the sea, staring blindly out for nearly 400 years.

For more about the ship, see: https://poolemuseumsociety.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/poole-and-the-swash-channel-wreck/

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Poole Plaques – How Unfortunate was Monmouth?

alcatraz-plaqueThe number of information plaques in Poole has multiplied recently, giving  speaker, Steve Roberts, quite a challenge in tackling the subject at his talk on 15th February at Poole Museum. The latest crop of bright blue discs adds to the many types and styles of plaques already in existence. In fact the more you look, the more you find. They are mounted on walls and buildings, set into the pavement, on posts and plinths, indoors and outdoors. Some are made of stone, some of metal, ceramic tiles, wood or plastic. A purist might wish that they were all of one style but I think that would be a shame because the style of the plaque says as much about the time they were put up as the subject they are commemorating.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome are consciously antique in style, like the one recording the visit of Charles II in 1665 or the one on the old library. Others are contemporary like the tiled ‘Welcome to Poole’ signs and the decorative plaques round the walls of the Civic Centre which evoke the 1930s. The oldest one I could find is the one on the Guildhall which presumably dates from 1761 and is very much of its period which we are told was during ‘the mayoralty of George Wefton Efquire’. One or two are hard to read like the Sea Music sign which I believe is due to be splendidly restored.  The Overlord plaque on the Custom House is classic and restrained while the 1994 plaque further down the Quay also commemorating D-Day is abstract and artistic.

antelope-plaqueWording on the signs is also diverse and interesting. Some are technical ‘. . note the eye-bolt terminals’ or rather convoluted ‘. . . which formerly ran through this point in a direction slightly north of west to the shore.’ There are unexpected nuggets of information: ‘. . . these 83 foot boats, made entirely of wood . .’ or ‘. . . the crew was taken by horse brake to their station at Sandbanks, which is now the site of the Royal Motor Yacht Club’. One plaque is in Latin and another quotes from a document dating from 1579. Some are poetical: ‘. . . a time to love and a time to hate, a time of war and a time of peace’ or religious ‘. . . suffered six months’ imprisonment for conscience sake’. Some express themselves in a way we would not choose today: ‘. . . devoted to the use of the poor for 500 years’ and some allow a little partisan feeling to creep in: ‘King Charles II and unfortunate Duke of Monmouth . . .’.

Mixed bag or not, the streets of Poole are richer for their plaques and I am looking forward to finding out more about them. The talk is at 7.30 pm and all are welcome. (£2 to non-members of the Poole Museum Society).

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Quiz Solution

How far did you get with the answers to the quiz? Here is the solution and I hope it all works!

Connections

  1. Bus routes from Poole and their destinations.
  2. Four Marys: Mary Anning (fossil hunter) / Lady Mary Bankes (defender of Corfe Castle) / Mary Llewellin (first female mayor of Poole) / Mary Spencer Watson (sculptor of Dunshay).
  3. Inaccurate place names: Isle of Purbeck (not an island) / Maiden Castle (not a castle) / Luckford lake (not a lake) / Nine Barrow Down (has more than 9 barrows).
  4. Shopping centres: Castlepoint / Dolphin Centre / Sovereign Centre / Brewery Square.

conns-sequs

Sequences

  1. Christopher Spurrier, 1816 (owners of Upton House in reverse date order).
  2. Crawford (Tarrant villages in sequence eg. Tarrant Rawston, Tarrant Rushton etc.).
  3. Falkland Square (eg.) (Places and buildings named after national events in successive centuries).
  4. Picture of house boat (eg.) (Market Street / Street light / Lighthouse / House ?).

Connecting Wall

  1. GORSE DODDER LING BRACKEN (heathland plants)
  2. THICKFURZE HAM HAVEN TOTTENHAM (old forms of local place names: Heckford, Hamworthy, Sandbanks, Tatnam).
  3. FLAKE JIGGER QUINTAL TRAIN (Newfoundland salt-cod trade terms: a flake was a platform for drying cod, a jigger was a weighted fish hook, a quintal was a measure of salt fish, about a hundredweight and train was train oil or cod liver oil.
  4. WOOD POUND HENGIST BAD (add  …bury to get four ancient sites, Woodbury, Poundbury etc.)

wall

Missing Vowels

  1. Mottos: Who’s Afear’d? / Ad Morem Villae de Poole / Pulchritudo et Salubritas / For Fidelity and Freedom.
  2. Live entertainment: The air show / Poole Pirates / Beach polo / Boo Bamboo.
  3. Reading matter: Daily Echo / (A) good book / Poole Advertiser / social media.
  4. Poole pub crawl: Angel / Butler and Hops / Bermuda Triangle / Blue Boar.

Jenny

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Easy Peasy or Google Buster? Clues by order of the Quiz Wizard

WizardDid you find the Christmas quiz ridiculously easy or fiendishly hard? I must say that by the time it was compiled I no longer had any idea which it might be. Anyway, I have had notification from the Chief Christmas Quiz Wizard that I must issue some clues to help anyone whose quizzing faculties have been weakened by turkey, pudding, chocolate or alcoholic beverages. So here are the clues and in line with the pantomime season they are of course in rhyme. Sorry about that!

  • My connections to unravel
  • Choose a public form of travel.
  • Try the shops in each location.
  • Give four ladies admiration,
  • But these local places rated
  • You might find not quite as stated.
  • Sequences their clues deliver
  • Following the winding river,
  • Old events commemorated,
  • Owners of a mansion, dated,
  • Phrases over-lapped deduced
  • And the final clue produced.
  • In the wall, four names discover
  • And their modern forms recover.
  • All around, four more are growing
  • With some salt-cod terms worth knowing.
  • Use the final four remaining –
  • Buried, ancient sites obtaining.

Enlightened or further mystified? Some or all answers to Jenny at j.oliver48@btinternet.com . Answers will be supplied next week. Happy New Year.

Jenny

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Dorset & Poole ‘Only Connect’ Christmas Quiz

dolphin-centre-father-christmasIf you feel in need of a bit of a mental work out over the festive season, have a go at this local quiz. (I’ve already had my work out trying to compile it!) Glory, and perhaps a small prize, awaits the supplier of the first correct solution.

Connections – Can you resolve these local clues and say what connects them?

  1. Kinson 14 / Bournemouth 16 / Lytchett Matravers 10 / Bournemouth 32
  2. M. A., hunter / M. B., defender / M. L., mayor / M. S-W., artist
  3. Isle of Purbeck / Maiden Castle / Luckford Lake / Nine Barrow Down
  4. connections

Sequences – Three clues: what should come next and why?

  1. Poole Corporation 1961 / Llewellin 1901 / Doughty 1828 / ?
  2. Rawston / Rushton / Keyneston / ?
  3. 17th– Royal Oak Tavern / 18th– Port Mahon Castle Inn / 19th– Waterloo Road / ?

sequences

Connecting wall – Can you sort the words into 4 groups and say what connects the words in each group?connecting-wall

Missing vowels – Identify the words or phrases by replacing the missing vowels.

  1. Mottos: WHS FRD / DMR MVL LDPL / PLCH RTDTS LBRTS / FRF DLT YNDFR DM
  2. Live entertainment:     THRS HW / PLP RTS / BCHPL / BBMB
  3. Reading matter:          DL YCH / GDBK / PLD VRT SR / SC LMD
  4. Poole pub crawl:         NGL / BTL RN DHPS / BRM DTRN GL / BLBR

Good luck and happy Christmas      Jenny

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Poole in Flames

ship-sealThe 15th century was a time of recovery in Dorset as elsewhere after the ravages of the Black Death and later plague outbreaks and the destruction of the hundred years war. This recovery is the theme of a talk at Poole Museum next Wednesday 16th November at 7.30 pm from Mark Forrest of the Dorset History Centre (all welcome).

Town cellars 15th century front wall with earlier masonry

Town cellars 15th century front wall with earlier masonry in the foreground

As far as Poole is concerned, it was in the 15th century that the town constructed its defences, the ditch, walls and towngate, and that Scaplen’s Court was built on the site of an older house. The town cellars building was also partially rebuilt as can be seen in its walls to this day. The rear wall dates from the early 14th century while the roof and most of the front wall is over 100 years later. Some of the older masonry can still be seen at the eastern end of the later front wall.

These repairs may not just have been normal maintenance or a response to more prosperous times. There is evidence that Poole suffered a devastating French / Castilian raid in the early years of the 15th century, leaving wrecked and burnt out buildings and probably many dead. It may have taken decades for the town to recover. See: http://poolemuseumsociety.wordpress.com for the full story.

 

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Wallace – Collector and Scientist

ARW butterflyThis article is a taster for the talk at Poole Museum ‘Alfred Russel Wallace: the Poole Years’ by Mike Brooke on Saturday 23rd July at 2.30pm which accompanies the World of Wallace exhibition currently showing in the Museum. (Tickets for the talk are available at the Museum or via j.oliver48@btinternet.com ). The article gives a glimpse into Wallace’s eventful early career.

On 9th October 1852, the Hampshire Advertiser reported that the brig Jordeson, just docked at Deal, brought news of ‘the total destruction by fire of the English vessel Helen, bound from Para, South America.’ Captain Venables of the Jordeson had rescued the crew and single passenger of the Helen in mid Atlantic after 10 days in open boats, exposed to the fierce sun. However, their ordeal was not over. Supplies on board the Jordeson were low and the extra mouths to feed meant that food had to be severely rationed. In fact they might have starved if they had not managed to obtain supplies from a passing ship. As a final trial, the ship had to battle storms in the channel before finally docking at Deal.

Alfred Russel Wallace as a young man

Alfred Russel Wallace as a young man

The sole passenger from the Helen was 29 year old Alfred Russel Wallace, returning to England after four years exploring the Amazon basin, observing and collecting natural history specimens. When fire broke out he had managed to save only a few of his possessions in a tin box but had lost all of his precious specimens of the last two years, which he believed to be worth £500, including his private collection with hundreds of new species of insects and birds. He had also lost most of his notes and drawings. It was a disastrous end to the trip.

Wallace’s family were not well off and he was obliged to earn his way from a young age. His formal education at Hertford Grammar School lasted only to the age of 13 and consisted mainly of learning facts by rote. He was however a keen reader with a practical and enquiring mind. After leaving school he worked in various jobs including land surveying with his brother William, a life which suited him. He developed an interest in astronomy and botany and started a collection of plant specimens. In 1844, he took a teaching post in Leicester which gave him the opportunity to learn mathematics and to use the Leicester Library where he read some of the major scientific works of the day. He also met Walter Henry Bates, a keen entomologist, specialising in beetles, who inspired him to start his own insect collection.

ARW beetlesIn 1847, inspired by ‘A Voyage up the Amazon’ by W.H. Edwards, Wallace and Henry Bates planned a trip to South America to observe and collect the wildlife. They were assured by Edward Doubleday of the British Museum that there were many new and rare species to find and that they could cover their expenses by selling what they collected. They also found an excellent agent in Samuel Stevens, himself a keen collector. The Victorian passion for collecting was partly based on the ‘cabinet of curiosities’ fashionable in the previous century. With the spread of exploration, trade and empire, scientists and the general public alike became increasingly fascinated by foreign artefacts and exotic wildlife. Cases of stuffed birds, trays of butterflies and beetles and tableaux of animals in lifelike poses were to be found in many private houses, institutions and museums. Rare species were much in demand and could command high prices.

Wallace and Bates sailed from Liverpool in April 1848. Wallace was 25 and Bates a couple of years younger. Both largely self taught, they epitomised the enterprising amateur naturalists exploring the world in the early 19th century. In Para they were excited by the abundance and variety of the local fauna. They quickly established a routine, hunting birds in the early morning and then insects until two or three in the afternoon. In the evening they preserved their specimens. Ironically, to a modern way of thinking, Victorian naturalists spent a lot of their time killing wildlife, although they did also observe the habits of the living creatures around them.

ARW Amazon

After a successful few months, the pair decided to separate to cover more ground. Wallace travelled further up the Amazon to the Rio Negro and Uaupes regions, observing the people and the wildlife and pondering ideas about the evolution or ‘transmutation’ of the different species. He also used his surveying skills to map the area. In 1849, Wallace’s brother, Herbert came out to Brazil to work with him but after a year it was clear that he was not cut out for the life, being of a more literary than scientific turn of mind. Herbert prepared to return to Para and England while Alfred set off on another trip up river. Sadly, Herbert caught yellow fever in Para and died after a few days, a fact not known to his brother for several months. In 1852, weakened by bouts of fever, Wallace finally decided to return to England and so embarked on the unfortunate Helen for what would prove to be a near fatal voyage.

Back in England, Wallace’s position seemed rather grim. The specimens sent back to England early in the trip would only cover his expenses, providing no profit, and the loss of his notes and drawings was a major blow. However, the insurance which Samuel Stevens had advised him to take out did provide £200 compensation and there were the letters which he had written home during the trip. Armed with these, his recollections and the notes that he had saved, he wrote ‘Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro’, part travel book, part naturalist’s guide. Published in 1853, it did not make much of a profit but passages were quoted quite widely in the press:

ARW Amazon 2‘Every night, while in the upper part of the river, we had a concert of frogs, which made most extraordinary noises. There are three kinds, which can frequently all be heard at once. One of these makes a noise something like what one would expect a frog to make, namely a dismal croak; but the sounds uttered by the others were like no animal noise that I ever heard before. A distant railway train approaching, and a blacksmith hammering on his anvil, are what they exactly resemble. They are such true imitations, that when lying half-dozing in the canoe I have often fancied myself at home hearing the familiar sounds of the approaching mail train, and the hammering of the boiler-makers at the iron-works.’

Wallace made some useful contacts in London. He had gone out to the Amazon an unknown, but now he was in a position to meet eminent scientists like the biologist, Thomas Huxley. He attended meetings of the Zoological Society, Entomological Society and the Linnean Society and visited the British Museum and Kew gardens for his research. He also read a paper on ‘The Rio Negro and the Head Waters of the Amazon’ at a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society and presented his map of the area. When he came to plan his next trip, he was able to ask the President of the Royal Geographical Society, Sir Roderick Murchison, if he could arrange a free passage for him to Singapore.

Sir James Brooke

Sir James Brooke

The destination that Wallace had chosen was the Malay Archipelago which he thought would be a rewarding place to study. He set off in the spring of 1854 for what was to be a trip of great significance to his own career and to the development of science. Over the next eight years, Wallace travelled to the different islands in the group, observing and collecting. In Sarawak he was welcomed by the Rajah, Sir James Brooke, a colourful British adventurer who had been appointed Rajah by the Sultan of Brunei after helping restore that monarch to his throne.

Wallace’s next objective was Sulawesi, via Lombok and Bali and from Sulawesi he took trips to the Moluccas and New Guinea. Later, he visited Java and Sumatra. Some of the smaller islands had never been visited by a European collector before and everywhere, Wallace found a wealth of new and interesting species. In each new location, he was quick to establish an efficient routine of collecting and preserving specimens but he was also interested in the lives and customs of the native people amongst whom he was living. In all, he travelled over 14,000 miles and collected around 125,660 specimens of which about 5,000 were new to European science. Several of these like the flying frog of Sarwak and the beautiful golden birdwing butterfly of the Maluku islands, would later be named after him.

ARW lineDuring his travels he began to notice that neighbouring islands contained ‘two different faunas rigidly circumscribed which differ as much as do those of Africa or South America’. He concluded that the eastern islands of the group had once been much further away from the western islands and closer to Australia. The boundary between the areas of different fauna was later to become known as Wallace’s Line. Wallace’s daily observation of different species also gave him a lot of material upon which to base his ideas about evolution. In 1855 he produced an ‘Essay on the Law which has regulated the Introduction of New Species’ which concluded that each new species to emerge required the presence of a ‘pre-existing closely-allied species’. He did not, however, attempt to explain the mechanism by which a new species was created. It was a bout of fever, leaving him too weak for the daily routine of collecting, which gave him the leisure to come up with a possible solution, as he later described:

‘At that time I was suffering from a rather severe attack of intermittent fever at Ternate in the Moluccas, and one day while lying on my bed during the cold fit, wrapped in blankets . . . the problem again presented itself to me, and something led me to think of the “positive checks” described by Malthus in his “Essay on Population”, a work I had read several years before, and which had made a deep and permanent impression on my mind. These checks – war, disease, famine and the like – must, it occurred to me, act on animals as well as on man. Then I thought of the enormously rapid multiplication of animals, causing these checks to be much more effective in them than in the case of man; and while pondering vaguely on this fact there suddenly flashed upon me the idea of the survival of the fittest – that the individuals removed by these checks must be on the whole inferior to those that survived. In the two hours that elapsed before my ague fit was over I had thought out almost the whole of the theory, and the same evening I sketched the draft of my paper, and in the two successive evenings wrote it out in full, and sent it by the next post to Mr. Darwin.’

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

What followed is famous scientific history. When Darwin received the letter, he was dismayed to realise how closely Wallace’s ideas mirrored his own unpublished work. He consulted his friends, Sir Charles Lyall and Dr. Joseph Hooker who proposed a compromise. At a special meeting of the Linnean Society on 1st July 1858, part of Darwin’s work and a letter outlining his theory was read, followed by Wallace’s essay. Wallace did not hear about the meeting until later but his only regret was that he had not been able to correct and proof-read his work. At the time, the theory did not create much response, but the following year, Darwin produced his book ‘On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection’ which produced an increasing storm of controversy.

One of the main confrontations between supporters of Darwin’s (and Wallace’s) ideas and those who opposed them took place in Oxford at a meeting of the British Association on 30th June 1860, as reported in the Athenaeum:

‘The Bishop of Oxford came out strongly against a theory which holds it possible that man may be descended from an ape,—in which protest he is sustained by Prof. Owen, Sir Benjamin Brodie, Dr. Daubeny, and the most eminent naturalists assembled at Oxford. But others—conspicuous among these, Prof. Huxley—have expressed their willingness to accept, for themselves, as well as for their friends and enemies, all actual truths, even the last humiliating truth of a pedigree not registered in the Herald’s College. The dispute has at least made Oxford uncommonly lively during the week.’

Birds of Paradise

Birds of Paradise

By the time Wallace returned to England in 1862 (bringing with him two birds of paradise never before seen alive in Europe), enough time had passed for the public and the scientific community to get used to the ideas if not accept them. His return was very different from his previous return from Brazil. His name was now well known and respected in scientific circles and he had a store of notes and specimens to work upon and information to present. In December 1863, for instance, he gave a paper to the Leeds Literary and Philosophical Society ‘On the Varieties of Man in the Malay Archipelago’ in which he contrasted the Malays in the western islands with the Papuans in the east, as being very different in appearance and character. He suggested that the islands could be divided ‘by a vertical waving line through the Moluccas. . . This division was in harmony with that which had been shown to exist in the animal productions of the same region.’

ARW Malay AIn 1866, Alfred Wallace married Annie Mitten, the daughter of a keen botanist, William Mitten. They were to have three children, Herbert, Violet and William, although Herbert died as a child. After spending some time sorting out his collections, he wrote possibly his most important book ‘The Malay Archipelago’, published in 1869. The Times’ review described it as ‘a careful and deliberately composed narrative, the fruits of 60 or 70 journeys made within the Malay Archipelago, journeys which occupied nearly eight years of time, and extended over a distance of 14,000 miles.’ Mr. Wallace had delayed publication while he sorted his collection of specimens ‘and scientific readers will all agree that this judicious delay has greatly enhanced the value of his work. Every page contains matter of interest; we shall there fore only attempt such a cursory survey of the numerous topics discussed as may induce those of our readers who have not seen the book to get it for themselves.’ One can imagine that Wallace was pleased with this review.

Wallace was to go on to publish a total of 22 books and innumerable papers, articles and essays. He remained an enthusiastic supporter of Darwinism and embraced many other interests including land nationalisation, socialism, and spiritualism. In 1882 he was present at Darwin’s funeral and acted as a pall-bearer, sharing the honour with two dukes, an earl and several eminent scientists. In 1885, he went on an extended lecture tour of the United States and Canada, even meeting the American president, Grover Cleveland. It was a far cry from the circumstances of his early life. He never became a wealthy man but a Civil List pension gave him some financial security. It was a kindly, enthusiastic and enquiring man who came to spend his retirement in Poole.

Jenny

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