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Geoscientist Online

From Somerset to the Pyrenees – In the Steps of the Reverend William Arthur Jones, Geologist and Antiquary

srtjAs noted in the book’s introduction, “a great flowering of interest in archaeology, local history, and the natural environment took place in early Victorian England”.  Jones, the youngest in a Unitarian family in Carmarthen, Wales, was born in 1818, nicely in time to participate in that flowering.  His diaries show that his broad interests, in geology and natural history, in particular, began before he went to Glasgow University, aged 20, to study for life as a minister in the Unitarian church. 

Having graduated, he moved to ministry in southern England, joining the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society in 1849, when he moved from Northampton to Bridgwater.  He became the society’s general secretary in 1853 and remained an office-holder until his death, in Taunton, in 1873.  His time in the Pyrenees, arising from a need to deal with illness in his family, lasted from October 1866 to July 1868.

As for most of us, the records of Jones and his families’ travels seem to be rather patchy, making this a difficult biography to compile because of the relative paucity of evidence and/or information.  He was a well travelled man in an age when travelling was difficult, although it became gradually easier as time (and his life) passed – when he went to Glasgow in 1838 he travelled from Swansea by sea via Liverpool and Greenock.  The book takes one through his life from his childhood and youth in Carmarthen, his university days in Glasgow, and on via Northampton, where he spent several years (including about six months touring northern Europe after his first wife died, they had been married for less than five months), to Somerset, were he lived for some twenty four years (including the time in the Pyrenees).

The book is well illustrated with pictures ranging in age from early- to mid- 19th Century sketches and photographs, to modern day images.  There are also half a dozen appendices, including a list of papers given/presented by Jones.  Sadly, however, there are no quotations or extracts from the papers, and the book contains no comment on technical or other issues in relation to any of them.  Summaries – the abstracts, if they exist – would have been interesting, along with, perhaps, a little more about perceptions in geology, natural history and archaeology when Jones was active.

FROM SOMERSET TO THE PYRENEES – in the steps of The Reverend William Arthur Jones, Geologist and Antiquary by David Rabson, 2015.  Published by: Somerset Archaeological & Natural History Society, Norton Fitzwarren, Somerset, UK.  ISBN: 978-0-902152-28-1.  Paperback.  109 pp.  List Price £14.95.