A Dinner with the Naturalists

Strafford Arms, detail of a drawing of the Strafford Arms, the Bull Ring, Wakefield, c. 1890, by Henry Clarke. Copyright, Wakefield Historical Society, 1977.

Strafford Arms, detail of a drawing of the Strafford Arms, the Bull Ring, Wakefield, c. 1890, by Henry Clarke. Copyright, Wakefield Historical Society, 1977.Strafford Arms, detail of a drawing of the Strafford Arms, the Bull Ring, Wakefield, c. 1890, by Henry Clarke. Copyright, Wakefield Historical Society, 1977, from the original drawings, now held by Wakefield District Libraries.Wakefield’s Strafford Arms was an impressive building in its Victorian heyday with a portico and balcony overlooking the Bull Ring. Wakefield Naturalists’ Society held its Annual Dinner there on Tuesday, 16th May, 1876. Described as ‘an intellectual entertainment’, the evening started with a ‘most substantial meal’ supplied by hosts Mr and Mrs Coggin and rounded off with at least nine toasts and responses; luckily the Wakefield Magistrates had already granted an extension of the licensing hours.

Barnsley Chronicle article, copyright British Library.

Although the Society was established in 1851 we have very few records covering its first hundred years, so an account of the evening in The Barnsley Chronicle gives a rare glimpse of the activities and ambitions of our founder members.

The Patrons

In a toast to ‘The Patrons of the Wakefield Naturalist Society’, Thomas Lister(1810-1888), naturalist, poet and postmaster, president of Barnsley Naturalists’ Society, said that the value of patrons wasn’t just in the support they gave to the Society but also in the access they allowed the naturalists to ‘the noble parks and woods which surround us’.

He found that many landowners gave ‘considerable protection’ to birds.

“He deprecated the practice of destroying every rare or beautiful visitor that came amongst us, most of them of great use in destroying insects and vermin. He advocated museums on a judicious scale, but opposed, as Waterton, the mania for killing for no other object of science or utility.”

The Consolidated Society

The chair of the meeting was, Joseph Wainwright, F.L.S. (c. 1813-1884), solicitor, who had been the president of Wakefield Naturalists’ Society since 1871. For the previous four years he’d also been president of the West Riding Consolidated Naturalists’ Society, the forerunner of the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union and the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

Also present at the meeting were Charles Hobson and Mr T G Porritt, the joint editors of the Consolidated Society’s publication, The Naturalist, which is still in print today, and Mr W. Talbot, author of The Birds of Wakefield.

Link

The Naturalist, archive 1865-2015 at the Biodiversity Heritage Library

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