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William Smith Meeting 2015: 200 Years of Smith’s Map

23 - 24 April 2015
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Event type:
Conference, Field Trip, Lecture
Organised by:
Geological Society Events, History of Geology Group, William Smith Bicentenary
Geological Society, Burlington House, London
Event status:
To register, please complete the paper registration form and bring it with you on Thursday 23 April to register onsite at Burlington House

The History of Geology Group (HOGG) is organising the first of 2 Geological Society Flagship William Smith Meetings in 2015 to celebrate publication of the first geological map of a nation 200 years ago.

William Smith (1769 –1839) was an English geologist who created the first nationwide geological map. In 1794, working as a surveyor on the construction for the Somerset Coal Canal, Smith recognised that each stratigraphic horizon contained a unique assemblage of fossils. This enabled him to work out the order of strata from the fossils they contained. From 1799 he mapped local strata, eventually creating the first geological map of England and Wales, published in 1815. In the interim, his ideas were widely disseminated throughout the geological community.  Like many new theories they took time to become accepted. In 1831 the Geological Society of London awarded Smith the first Wollaston Medal and the President, Adam Sedgwick, referred to him as ‘the Father of English Geology’.

This two-day conference features Keynote Lectures from Professor Hugh Torrens and Professor Simon Knell and 18 talks by experts on William Smith’s maps, his careers, and his contemporaries in England and Europe. 

This bicentenary meeting aims to address:

  • Smith’s achievements and his impact on the state of geology in his time
  • His fossil collection
  • His contemporaries
  • His relationship with the Geological Society of London
  • His various careers including canal builder, land drainer, mineral surveyor and lecturer
  • Smith’s map, ‘Delineating the Strata of England and Wales with Part of Scotland
  • Contemporary concepts of geological survey and map design
  • Past and present research into surviving Smith maps, sections and documents.

Confirmed Keynote Speakers

  • Professor Simon Knell
  • Professor Hugh Torrens


Pre-Registration is now closed.  If you wish to register and attend the conference on 23-24 April, please complete the paper registration form and bring it with you on the morning of 23 April to register onsite at Burlington House.

The William Smith Lecture 2015 will be given by Simon Knell (University of Leicester) on 24 April 2015 at 4pm. If you have registered for the full meeting then this lecture is included, but it is also available to Fellows who do not wish to attend the full meeting.  This lecture is free to attend for Fellows. If you wish to attend the William Smith Lecture, please pre-register by emailing Jess AriesPlease note: Attendance at this lecture is subject to space in the lecture theatre and will be provided on a first come, first served basis.


The final programme is now available to download. Please note: the order of sessions may be subject to change.


During the meeting there will be an exhibition of a number of artefacts of interest.  There will be a number of Smith's maps on show, including a map that has only recently been found after many years.  For more information on the artefacts on show, please email John Henry, one of the convenors for this meeting.

Information about the Extra Activities

Please note: Registration for ALL extra activities is now closed.

Behind the scenes tour of the Natural History Museum:


When: Wednesday, 22 April 2015;

Where: Natural History Museum, South Kensington

For more information:

Visitors will be shown original William Smith geological maps & sections and his collection of fossils and rocks. This will be a private, behind the scenes tour in small groups of 20. 

Two tours lasting 40 minutes will be conducted, starting at 1:00pm and 3:00pm. 

Conference Dinner:

When: Thursday, 23 April 2015

Where: Geological Society, Burlington House, London

The conference dinner will be held in the Lower Library of Burlington House.  The dinner will be a hot buffet including 2 glasses of wine per person.  Registered delegates may invite a guest.

Please note: There will be opportunity to buy additional wine (house red and white wine available only) at the cost of £10 per bottle (CASH ONLY BAR).

Field Trip: 

When: Saturday, 25 April 2015

Where: Smith Archive at Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and Smith’s birthplace and the Smith Heritage Centre in Churchill village.

For more information:, 

Meeting arrangements

The hire coach will travel west along the A40, A44 and minor roads to the village of Churchill, famous as the birthplace of William Smith (1769-1839). It was in Churchill that Smith’s interest in fossils, the land and drawing was noted by his Uncle William, who encouraged him to translate his aptitudes into surveying. It was the surveying by Edward Webb of the common land of Churchill for enclosure, that provided the opportunity of an apprenticeship.

In Churchill we will visit (1) the site of the house in which Smith was born, (2) the Smith monument erected by the Earl of Ducie in 1891 with its controversial (?) commemoration to ‘The Father of British Geology’, and (3) the Smith display in the Heritage Centre (the former old church chancel).

If time permits we will travel a short distance to Stow-on-the-Wold to view the Manor House on the Square where Smith was a pupil and employee of Edward Webb, land surveyor, and mentor from whom he learned his initial skills in surveying and engineering.

Lunch, which is included, will be taken at the Crown Inn at Church Enstone on the return trip to Oxford.  The afternoon will be spent examining the Smith Archives in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, under the guidance of Archivist, Ms Kathleen Santry.  The hire coach will then return to Thornhill Park and Ride, leaving the museum at approximately 17:00, but see note above if you wish to linger independently in Oxford.

The final details will include the lunch menu choices. The conference organisers will contact field trippers a month before the trip with menu options.

The party will meet the hire coach outside the Thornhill Park and Ride on Oxford’s eastern outskirts (OS-SP566074, postcode: OX3 8DP) at 9:30am. There is a frequent express coach service between London and Oxford at 12-15 minute intervals throughout the day stopping at Thornhill P&R.

Travel arrangements

There is a frequent 24 hour express coach service between London and Oxford at 12-15 minute intervals throughout the day provided by two firms which stops at Thornhill Park and Ride where there is extensive car parking at £2 for 11 hours. The coach routes begin at Victoria Coach station and have several pickup points in central London and at Hillingdon Underground Station. Both companies stop at Marble Arch (south side nearest speakers’ corner, stop 14) and Hillingdon Underground. Journey time from Marble Arch is approx 80 minutes to Thornhill and from Hillingdon, approx. 40 minutes. The website schedules for both companies give start times from the termini only; the coaches arrive at Marble Arch and Hillingdon at approx. 10 and 50 minutes, respectively, after departure from London’s Victoria Bus Terminal. The coaches have electricity, wifi and toilets and are far more economical and convenient than the train. For details of fares, stops, time-tables, please check and

Using the park and ride avoids the traffic congestion and steep car parking charges in Oxford Centre and allows more time in the field.

The hire coach will return to Thornhill Park and Ride after the visit to Oxford University Museum of Natural History, but for those wishing to stay on in Oxford for the evening, the Oxford bus terminal at Gloucester Green is a 10 minute walk from the Museum and the return ticket to London applies from all stops in Oxford to all stops in London at no extra cost. 


The History of Geology Group (HOGG) plans to reproduce a Limited Edition of William Smith's 1815 memoir that accompanied the publication of his famous map.

In true Smithian tradition HOGG is seeking subscribers whose names will then be included in the volume. The deadline for expressing your interest in subscribing to this edition has now passed. For more information about this publication, visit HOGG website.

Further Information

For more information, please see the History of Geology Group website

The second 2015 William Smith Meeting will be on 5 November 2015. Visit the event page for more information.   


William Smith Bicentenary

More events celebrating the Bicentenary of William Smith's map

Geolsoc Contact


Burlington House

Convenor Contact

Cherry Lewis

Cherry Lewis

David Williams

David Williams

John Henry

John Henry