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Geoffrey Arthur Kellaway 1914 - 2013 (long version)

tfxhtyduOutstanding geologist who developed sources of clean hot water for the thermal spas of Bath, England

Geoffrey (Geoff) Kellaway was born in Bristol, England in 1914 and died aged 99 years in Brighton, Sussex on 18 September 2013. He graduated in 1936 from the University of Bristol with the top first class degree of the Science Faculty. Geoff was a Fellow of the Geological Society for 74 years. He was awarded the Society’s Wollaston Fund in 1950. The excellence of his research was recognised by DSc degrees from the universities of both Bristol and of Bath.

Before he graduated Geoff had already published three papers in the Proceedings of the Bristol Naturalists’ Society, the first in 1932. This first paper is a detailed account of the geology of Bristol, which was then being developed - Geoff taking advantage of the many excavations. He acknowledged help from J W Tutcher (1858-1951), a distinguished Bristol amateur geologist. Tutcher had evidently taught Geoff much about the local geology and encouraged him to write the paper. After graduation, Geoff was awarded a six-month Churchill Scholarship to study geological aspects of the permafrost of Alaska.

Geoff joined the British Geological Survey in 1937. His first assignment was the revision of the Yeovil Sheet of the (then) One-Inch geological map. He moved to the Chepstow Sheet in 1939. In 1940 Geoff was posted to the Northampton Ironstone field, no doubt a result of the wartime concentration of Survey work in areas of economic importance. One result of this was that he was third author of an important paper, with S E Hollingworth and J H Taylor on superficial structures in the area (Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, 1944, 100, 1-44).

He mapped on the Rutland and Northamptonshire sheets that were published between 1940 and 1946. Geoff moved back to the Bristol area in 1943 and for the next nine years he worked on the Six-Inch geological survey of the Bristol and Somerset Coalfields. He and F B A Welch authored the Bristol District Special One-Inch Sheet which covered the Bristol and Somerset Coalfields and was illustrated by a memoir (British Regional Geology: Bristol and Gloucester, Edition 2, 1948), a very readable and informative introduction to the complex geology of the region for a whole generation of amateur and professional geologists, and subsequently by the Bristol Memoir (Kellaway and Welch, 1993), completed six years after Welch had died and nineteen years after Geoff had retired.

Not the least of Geoff’s contributions was the collection of a large number of detailed sections of mineshafts in the coalfield, some of which were published in Survey Memoirs and others are in the Survey Archives. For many geologists Geoff’s and Frank Welch’s outstanding contribution was the mapping of the Bristol-Somerset and adjacent coalfields. They produced remarkably detailed maps and geological cross sections for the whole of this the most structurally complex coalfield of the UK. This was only made possible by detailed field observations combined with an analysis of complex mine plans and geological logging of a huge number of boreholes and mine shafts and adits.

Desmond Donovan writes:

“I don’t remember when I first met Geoffrey but I think it was after I returned from Army Service in 1946 when he was working on the coalfield revision. He was helpful to a young geologist and we became friends with several interests in common. Later when I was working on the Jurassic boreholes for the Survey I visited the London (Exhibition Road) HQ regularly and if Geoffrey was in the office he would show me his latest ideas on the Bristol area with enthusiasm. He had a large number of maps and diagrams prepared by the Survey drawing office.”

Funded by the Royal Society, he spent a further study period on the permafrost of Alaska and Canada in 1954. His knowledge of periglacial environments was used later in joint papers with other authors on swallow holes in the Chalk, Pleistocene structures in the Cotswolds and landslides in Bath.

Geoff was promoted to District Geologist /Senior Principal Scientific Officer in 1962. He retired from the Geological Survey, by then a component body of the Natural Environment Research Council, in 1974.

In retirement, Geoff undertook a major task which proved to be of great public service. Since Roman times the City of Bath has been famous for its hot springs, which have been used for the alleviation of rheumatism and other medical conditions. The hot springs have been under the care of the Civic Authority since 1590. In 1977 the discovery of the pathogenic amoebae Naegleria fowleri resulted in the closure of the spa water bathing pools and of the pipeline of thermal water to the Royal Mineral Water Hospital, and for the first time since the Roman occupation the thermal springs were not in use by man.

The following outline of Geoff’s contribution to overcoming these problems is summarised from a tribute to him from the Chief Executive (Dr Jo Farrar) and the Leader (Mr Paul Crossley) of Bath and North-East Somerset Council.

“During the period 1977 to 2002 Geoff fulfilled the role of geological adviser to the Council. It is for his expertise, dedication and interest in the Bath Hot Springs that the Council and the people of Bath owe a huge debt of gratitude. During the period 1978 to 1987, Geoff led a multi-disciplinary investigation to find a source of clean water for use in the Pump Room and to enable the Council to realise its vision to restore Spa bathing to the City. The culmination of these efforts was the skilful drilling of an inclined borehole to intercept the flow of thermal water from the King’s Spring where it was proved to be a secure and hygienic source of thermal water.

He helped the Council to revise the Act of Parliament that protects the Bath Hot Springs from damage. His expertise was pivotal in helping the Council to ensure that increased quarrying operations on the Mendips could not have a detrimental impact upon the continued flow of the Hot Springs. Geoff promoted a symposium at the Royal Society to present the results of the multidisciplinary research and edited a definitive review of the research in “The Hot Springs of Bath”. His interest in the hot springs continued undiminished and, originating from the successful proposal to build a new “Millennium Spa” in Bath, he led a further multi-disciplinary investigation into their origin, between 1999 and 2002.

Bath and North-East Somerset Council have been incredibly fortunate to have found a scientist of Geoff’s eminence, energy and commitment to help it to ensure that it fulfils its responsibilities as custodian of the Bath Hot Springs. Without his efforts this historic city would not have a modern spa facility where people can bathe in the United Kingdom’s only Hot Springs.”

Clive McCann writes:

” In 1998 Geoff asked my brother, David, and me to advise on the design of a geophysical investigation of the structure of the Carboniferous Limestone thermal aquifer in and around Bath. With Andrew Mann we supervised a new seismic reflection survey of the urban area of Bath, the reprocessing of existing seismic data of the Radstock basin and the interpretation of gravity and magnetic data. Geoff took a keen interest in the results, leading to excellent and vigorous discussions on the conclusions which could be drawn from the combined data about the origin and routes of the thermal waters to the springs in Bath and Bristol. We were able to publish two papers based on the geophysical data and drawing on the ideas and models which Geoff had previously published. (

McCann, C., Mann, A.C., McCann, D. M. and Kellaway, G.A., 2002, Geological Society Special Publications, 193, 41-52. & McCann, C., Mann, A.C., McCann, D. M. and Kellaway, G.A., 2013, Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology, 46, 267-279


Ramues Gallois writes:

“For those who knew him but did not work with him, Geoff is best remembered as a free thinker whose geological imagination frequently took him down paths that might or might not lead to useful conclusions. He spoke enthusiastically and persuasively about his current ideas, but few made it into print. For those who worked with Geoff the abiding memory will be of his enthusiasm, intellect and his encyclopaedic memory of the rocks and sections that he had worked on. A good example of this last was his recognition of over 1000 errors in the page-proofs of the Bristol Special Memoir, a large number of which were mistakes in the descriptions of borehole/colliery sections.”

Geoff was happy to hold his own in a geological controversy. His 1971 Nature paper on “Glaciation and the Stones of Stonehenge” challenged the idea of human transportation of the stones in favour of a glacial origin and led to a “lively” public debate, particularly with Professor Glyn Daniel (Cambridge University)!

In 1953 Geoff wrote a play “Only a question of time” to be performed at that year’s Geologists’ Dinner using papier-mâché puppets. The text of the play, and the puppets, survive in the archives of the British Geological Survey!

Geoff married Bronwyn in 1939, who died aged 84 years in 1999. He is survived by his two daughters, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

The following websites give a partial list of Dr. Kellaway’s publications.

Other publications not listed on the websites are:

  • Kellaway, G.A. 1996, Discovery of the Avon-Solent Fracture Zone and its relationship to the Bath Hot Springs. Environmental Geology, 28, 34-39.
  • Kellaway, G. A., 2001, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia – A geologists’ view. The Survey of Bath and District, 15, 21-29.
  • McCann, C., Mann, A.C., McCann, D. M. and Kellaway, G.A., 2002, Geophysical investigations of the thermal springs of Bath, England. In: Hiscock, K.M, Rivett, M.O. and Davison, R.M. (eds). Sustainable groundwater Development. Geological Society Special Publications, 193, 41-52.
  • McCann, C., Mann, A.C., McCann, D. M. and Kellaway, G.A., 2013. Insights into the origin of the thermal springs of Bath and Bristol, England from geophysical data. Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology, 46, 267-279.

By Clive McCann, with contributions from Andrew Morrison (Archivist of the British Geological Survey), Geoff’s daughters (Zoe and Ros), Jo Farrar, Paul Crossley, Mark Williams, Desmond Donovan, Ramues Gallois, David McCann and Ted Nield.