Saturday, 23 November 2013

John Lubbock 1st Baron Avebury

I have been entertained for several years by one of my favorite bloggers Footnote Maven whose Genealogy blog Footnote Maven became the beginning of a transatlantic friendship and I have been entertained to read of a household which revolves around an i pad using feline.
As the Downe Kent Online Parish Clerk I have transcribed parish registers and other material. The High Elms Estate was acquired by Sir John William Lubbock 3rd Baronet  and when Charles Darwin moved to Down House he became a close friend of the Lubbock family. By the time he discovered Charles and Emma Darwin were to acquire Down House, Lubbock's estate was over 3,000 acres and included land adjacent to Down House. Darwin was to acquire this land and plant woodland and lay out his favourite walk for contemplation.
John Lubbock his eldest son was born in 1834 and sent to Eton but was denied a University education by his father. He became one of the youngest friends of Darwin who bought him a microscope and encouraged his study of science. However his father insisted that he enter the family banking firm (later merged with Coutts & Co.) but despite his banking career he developed lifelong interest in evolutionary science (mentored by Darwin), archaeology and biology. He achieved eminence in each of these fields as well as in banking and politics. He also organised race meetings on the High Elms Estate which attracted 40,000 race goers. The land now occupied by a golf course was used for horse racing;hard to imagine from the present day land use.
To describe John Lubbock as eccentric would be an understatement! The man who later entered politics brought to the British Holidays of Christmas Day and Good Friday the addition of a Bank Holiday in August.
He moved in 1861 to "Lammas" on the Camden Park Estate in Chislehurst where he acquired a black cocker spaniel  puppy called Van.  Convinced that his puppy was as intelligent as a child and using a 10 inch piece of cardboard inscribed with the word "Food" which covered the empty dog feeding bowl, Van had to bring the card to his master to be fed. Convinced that he was able to read Lubbock soon introduced "Water" "Bone","Tea" and "Out" to his pet's supposed vocabulary. He fared less well with attempts to teach counting to the dog! Attempts to educate his wife's pet collie failed totally perplexing him. The death of Van led Lubbock to adopt a pet ape who he claimed talked to him.
His study of bees lead to the introduction of a bee hive inside his sitting room at High Elms House close to an open window to allow exit and entry. This gave him opportunity to observe colony activity night and day. In the same room he had an ant colony ;he is credited with the scientific discovery that ants are sensitive to the near ultraviolet range of the electromagnetic spectrum. He marked ants with coloured paints and even named them. He is probably the only privy Council member in history to have had a parliamentary box occupied by ferrets! He had them originally in a sack but they escaped to the consternation of passengers on the railway and he placed them amongst his parliamentary papers only to discover them destroyed.
"Earth and sky,woods and fields,lakes and rivers,the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters and teach some of  us more than we can ever learn from books".
Lubbock entered politics and successfully enacted The Bank Holidays Act 1871 and the Ancient Monuments Act of 1882 along with another 28 Acts of Parliament. He adopted Avebury in his title due to his efforts to conserve the ancient monument and is credited with introducing the terms "Paleolithic" and "Neolithic" to the worlds of archaeology and science. The terms are found in his book "Pre-Historic Times as illustrated by ancient remains,and the customs of modern savages." He was elected to Parliament for the Maidstone constituency and later for London University, and London County Council. His other enactments included regulation of working hours and public libraries. He was also an advocate of proportional representation and was a founder of the Electoral Reform Society.
Lubbock opened his home in Camden Park to the rising scientific men of his day known as "The X Club" promoting theories of natural selection and academic liberalism. Whereas in his lifetime Darwin used the term transmutation commonly to describe his evolutionary theory as a series of  random and accidental variations;Lubbock,Huxley and Spencer developed a model of evolution which is much more ordered and progressive than that envisaged by Darwin himself. This model of evolution is that which is widely accepted today.
In Downe itself Darwin and Lubbock were patrons of the school room. They wished to open the room to labourers on winter evenings as a reading room. This was opposed by the Reverend George Sketchley Finden but Lubbock prevailed. Lubbock said,
"A wise system of education will at last teach us how little man yet knows,how much he has till to learn"
Within banking Lubbock introduced the concept of cheque clearing so that the country man could have his cheque cleared equally with his city counterpart ; we owe to him the public Library system and without him Bank Holidays would not exist.
Now almost forgotten John Lubbock eccentricities aside contributed a great deal to banking. To read more see Wikipedia entry