Book looks at history of rare plants in the dale
JUST who discovered the rare plants of Upper Teesdale?
That’s the question posed in a new book titled Who discovered the Teesdale rarities? by Dr Frank Horsman.
Now retired, Dr Horsman, who lives in Leeds, and has a life-long interest in botany, said his interest in the flora of the upper dale was triggered by rediscovering one of the rare plants.
“I have a special interest in the botanical exploration of the British Isles. I did my Ph.D at Durham University and my book is based on my Ph.D.”
Dr Horsman states that the botanical pioneer of upper Teesdale was Revd Ralph Johnson (d. 1695) vicar of Brignall.
“He was an expert in birds, fish and, later, in plants,” he said.
“He was a friend of John Ray (d. 1705), the greatest English naturalist of the 17th century. Johnson discovered a number of the Teesdale rarities, including the shrubby cinquefoil which is now often seen in gardens.
“He contributed to Ray's ground-breaking book on birds, having made very many observations on the birds of Teesdale. He is overlooked. His marked grave can be seen in Brignall churchyard.”
Dr Horsman says there was a resurgence of interest in the flora of the upper dale more than a century after Johnson’s death, with the arrival of another clergyman, Rev. John Harriman (d. 1831) as curate at Eggleston.
“He brought to notice the botanical discoveries made by Dr. William Oliver (d. 1816) and John Binks (d. 1817), both of Middleton-in-Teesdale,” explained Dr Horsman.
Oliver arrived as GP in Middleton-in-Teesdale in 1783 and started to discover the Teesdale rarities.
Later, he was assisted by John Binks (1817), a lead-miner and botanist who also discovered some of the area’s rare plants.
“Oliver's role in recognising the botanical importance of upper Teesdale has been totally overlooked, as has the role of Edward Robson (d. 1813) a Quaker botanist of Darlington,” added Dr Horsman.
“Details of Oliver’s findings, and those of Binks, were passed by Revd Harriman to Robson who communicated them to the authors of the classic English Botany who published them.”
Who discovered the Teesdale rarities by Dr Frank Horsman is available for £19 plus £3.20 post and packaging is available by emailing: frank firstname.lastname@example.org.