The Chester Society of Natural Science, Literature and Art


The Chester Society of Natural Science  was inaugurated in 1871 by Charles Kingsley, then Dean of Chester Cathedral. (Yes, he was also the author of The Water Babies). Its original subject matter was Geological, Botanical and Zoological, but further scientific subjects were quickly added, and by the end of the 1890’s Photography literature and art had been added.  The Grosvenor Museum in Chester had been founded in 1885 and became the home of the Society, whose artefacts continue to form the basis of the collections.  From its earliest days the Society began to forge links with other scientific and natural history societies in a wide area.

I have not been able to find any evidence that Thomas was ever a full or associate member of the Society, but his connection with it is very clear.  By 1876-7 he was already guiding parties from the Society and its corresponding local groups in geological and botanical expeditions- see here.  I believe that Thomas’ connection with the Society was initially through George Dickson, Chester Nurseryman who was responsible for ‘headhunting’ Thomas for the Palé post, and who as an early member of the Society.

Once again Thomas’ habitual ability to be in the right place at the right time came into play.  Thomas McKenny Hughes, Woodwardian Professor of Geology at Cambridge University became the President of the Chester Society, as seen in the letterhead pictured above.  Probably the greatest area of geological interest and debate in the British Isles was right on Thomas Ruddy’s doorstep.  The identification of the relationship and dating of the Silurian and Cambrian rocks centred on the Bala beds of fossils, those very fossils which Ruddy had been collecting, identifying and scrupulously labelling over the last few years.  For forty years dispute had raged at the highest levels of Geological science between followers of Adam Sedgwick, mentor and Professorial predecessor of McKenny Hughes, and the man who had become his arch rival, Roderick Murchison.  No wonder that Professor Hughes and the members of the geological section of the Chester Society quickly identified Ruddy as a valuable resource of knowledge and presence literally ‘on the ground’ at that much discussed and disputed location.

For a detailed analysis of the Cambrian / Silurian controversy and Thomas Ruddy’s relationship see here .