Evolution Began in Shrewsbury!
The 2014 Darwin Festival will be held between the 8th and 22nd February.
Charles Darwin is Shrewsbury’s most famous son and recently voted as one of the greatest Britons. Born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire on the 12th February 1809 at Mount House, he was the son of Robert, a well respected doctor, and Susannah a member of the Wedgwood family. His formative years were well spent and his love and curiosity of the natural world was positively encouraged and flourished. Darwin lived in Shrewsbury until he was 27.
Darwin attended school at 13 Claremont and was then privileged to go to Shrewsbury School. Although, as his headmaster Dr Butler revealed, he had little hope of filling his head with Latin or Greek. Indeed as early as nine the young Darwin had started observing and recording things he found in the natural world that surrounded him.
Darwin’s grandfathers were equally remarkable men – Erasmus Darwin and Josiah Wedgwood. Both were members of the famous Lunar Society.
Darwin would still recognise Shrewsbury today – as many of the medieval buildings, shuts and passages he knew still exist and his old school (now the library) even has a statue to the great man outside its entrance. The fields and river that surrounds the town are still open areas filled with flora and fauna to inspire the future generations.
‘I was Born a Naturalist’
Darwin himself declared that he was born a naturalist, but even he would acknowledge that his childhood experiences of growing up in Shropshire combined with his liberal upbringing helped to create the perfect inquisitive mind.
The Darwins were keen gardeners and the young Charles would often be found in the garden looking at bugs and beetles. He would also go to the River Severn that surrounds the town exploring the fields and floodplains, or go to the Dingle set in the heart of the Quarry Park.
Shropshire has rocks from more periods of geology than anywhere else in the world, a point not lost on the young Darwin. The coral reef that became Wenlock Edge still yields up marine fossils laid down when Shropshire was part of the Caribbean. The glacial meres and scars that shaped the Shropshire landscape and deposits they left (and the Bellstone in particular) convinced Darwin that the world is much older than the popular thinking at the time.
His curiosity, natural inquisitiveness and desire to understand his world made Charles Darwin the ideal candidate for his voyage of discovery on HMS Beagle.