Geological collection

Vice-Admiral Wauchope's geological collection

Amethyst from the North PenninesAdmiral Robert Wauchope's geological collection, given through his nephew, Captain Agnew, helped to establish the Penrith Museum in 1883. Though born in Edinburgh, Wauchope eventually came to live at Moorhouse Hall near Warwick-on-Eden, Carlisle, and finally at Dacre Lodge near Penrith. He had an interest in geology when the science was still in its infancy.

Wauchope's naval life during the time of the Napoleonic wars was eventful, and often hazardous. It is described in his 'memoirs' - 'A Short Narrative of God's Merciful Dealings'. (He became a devout Christian in mid-career). Time spent on the island of St Helena in 1816-1819 (where he briefly met Napoleon in exile) included some geological collecting. Wauchope was the inventor of the 'time ball' - a signal hoisted daily at Greenwich to enable nineteenth century sailors to synchronise their ships' chronometers. He retired in 1838 as 'Admiral of the Blue'.

The Wauchopes (the Admiral, his wife Anne and their only son William) spent part of 1842-1844 at Lisieux, Normandy, where they collected many fossils. Their stay was cut short by the death there of William in 1844, aged 14. William and his parents are buried in the churchyard at Dacre, Penrith.

Two pamphlets written by Wauchope near the end of his life attempted to align Noah's flood in the Bible with developing ideas about the Ice Ages. He accepted the biblical age of the earth - around 6500 years. This was proving increasingly difficult to reconcile with time-spans suggested by scientists of his day, including Darwin. (Scientific evidence now indicates the earth is around 4.5 billion years old.)

His memoirs - originally issued in limited quantity for family consumption - have been re-printed in several editions in the USA. This perhaps reflects their appeal to the many in that country who hold 'creationist' biblical views.

Last updated: Thursday, 22 September, 2022.