Local Heroes:

J W Stather, Tom Sheppard and the East Riding Boulder Committee

by Mike Horne FGS


Thomas Sheppard and J W Stather

Extracts from the archives and publications :-

Extract from The relationship between provincial museums and local scientific societies. T Sheppard.1906. Transactions of the Hull Scientific and Field Naturalists Club vol ? p1-6, reprinted in Hull Museum's Publications. The text of his Presidential Address.

"... perhaps it is not too much to say that were it not for the fact that the local scientific societies took an active interest in the public museum at a time when possibly for ulterior motives it was suggested that the collection in the Literary and Philosophical Society's possession should be handed over to the town, the Municipal Museum in its present form might never jave existed at all. The Club over which I now have the honour of presiding, which with the help of the Hull Geological Society, waited upon the Technical Instruction Committee when the matter was being considered, and unquestionably the claims then put forward by the deputation from these two societies which attended at the Town Hall, carried weight with the Committee in their decision..."

Extracts from Methods of Collecting by T Sheppard FGS (Read at the Hull Conference, 1913). The annual meeting of the Museums' Association held in Hull 14th to 18th July 1913. Reprinted in Hull Museum's Publications.

"... A long time ago, when I was a schoolboy, the Hull Museum occupied the ground floor of the adjoining building. It was owned by the Hull Literary and Philosophical Society. Ordinary admission could be obtained by an order from a member; on Saturday afternoon by payment of one penny. The former was quite beyond my reach, the latter I acquired at times. I often spent a Saturday afternoon in the museum, and as I was frequently the only occupant, and as many of the specimens were not in cases, I suppose that I was initiated into the mysteries of the methods of collecting! Still I will not go so far as to say that a well-known professor of Leeds University [P F Kendall] was justified in greeting me the other day with the remark, "Well, Sheppard, and how's thieving?"
"I remember when this museum used to contain a fair proportion of specimens labelled as "lent by" Mr., Mrs., or Miss, Captain, Colonel or Doctor So-and-so. When the roof of the building was removed for the purpose of erecting the picture galleries, the men went on strike and for several months the "elements" played havoc with the specimens below. I suppose that during that time the "lent by" labels were washed off; anyhow when I finally re-arranged the collection there was not one left. ... Today we have hundreds of pounds' worth of objects on loan, and their owners regularly call to see them, and I can assure them that as long as they live they will find their objects properly labeled; afterwards, I can give my word, the specimens will be properly labelled too..."
"Fifteen years ago there was a Renaissance in Hull. An exhibition of pictures ... was arranged.... About the same time funding available ... was put aside for the purposes of building an art gallery. The question of the upkeep of the gallery then arose and at this junction the museum came to the rescue. Someone discovered, however, that there was a fund which might be devoted to museum purposes, under the Technical Instruction Committee, derived from the "whisky fund" ... of something like £250 a year. The idea was conceived of building three picture galleries above the museum ... and the erection of the picture galleries very effectively and permanently spoiled the lighting of the museum below.
"At the time there were influential Natural History and Geological Societies in Hull, as there are today; and the announcement having been made that the museum was to be taken over by the Corporation, some of the members felt that it should be looked after as such, and not merely be used as a pedestal for picture galleries. I may have been among them .
"However, after what seemed to be a very long delay, applications were invited for the post of curator, and one of the experts and myself were the selected candidates. Possibly because I knew least about museums, I was appointed. We then had a gross income of £250 a year -- from which rent (£100), wages, salaries, heating, lighting, etc., had to be paid and cases to be made; and we purchased specimens with the balance! ...
"In this way the Hull Municipal Museum came to be, and there is little wonder that at the end of the first year the expenditure exceeded income. This has been a chronic complaint ever since ...


Yorkshire Naturalists at Leeds. The Naturalist 1915, p14.

"The retiring President, Mr Thomas Sheppard FGS, FSA (Scot), occupied the chair ... delivered his Presidential Address on "Yorkshire's contribution to science".


Notes and Comments. Recognition of Natural History Work. The Naturalist 1915 p245-

"July 3rd can be recorded as a real field day for Yorkshire naturalists, who packed the great hall at the University to witness the impressive ceremony ... Prof P F Kendall presented Mr Sheppard...":- "Mr Sheppard is well known throughout Yorkshire as an untiring and prolific worker in the fields of Geology and Archaeology, whose exposition on the lecture platform, lucid and precise, lose nothing of force from the wit ever enlivens them. Engaged in youth in the clerical work of a great railway administration, he yet early won distinction in the investigation of the traces of the Ice Age that are so amply displayed in this county. His versatile mind now finds scope for wider activities in the control of three splendid museums in the city of Kingston-upon-Hull... The range of his original work in geology is wide and its presentation deep. Possessing the pen of a ready writer, his books have had a noticeable effect in awakening and maintaining interest in his favourite studies".


Extracts from Evolution of the Drama in Hull and District T Sheppard 1927, "being the Twenty-third Presidential Address delivered to the Hull Playgoers' Society by the author on Wednesday December 16th 1925".

"I am greatly indebted to numerous societies and journals for the use of blocks, though the greater part of these have been made specially for this work; to Mr J B Fry for seeing the book through the press, and to Mr G K Beaulah, another of my staff, who is largely responsible for the Index"...

A Fragment of the Past [by Miss Agnes Canham]

... Till the President came forward
Crying Sheppard to the Rescue.
(Oh Good Shepherd -- Tender Shepherd)
Dived into his spacious pocket,
Paid the three and ninepence owing,
Thus another year was started ...

...When they held Committee meetings,
At "La Boulevard de Sheppard"
In his private house he held them,
Such enthusiastic meetings,
All the ladies flocked together
Vast supplies of fruits and sweetmeats,
Disappeared as if by magic,
And the clamour of their voices,
Talking frocks and reputations,
Both of which they tore to tatters
(Not their own, but other people's),
Could be heard from here to China,
O'er to Greenland's icy mountains
Whilst the only interruptions
Were the clink of many glasses,
And the hoarse cries from the men folk
Saying "Steady with the Soda"....


Bibliography [of the] geology of the North of England 1932. T Sheppard, Naturalist 1933, pp 109-116 + 137-143.

"At the request of Dennison Roebuck, I undertook these annual bibliographies, which had previously been prepared for the Naturalist by Dr A Harker FRS. I now find I have prepared this work for 41 years... On advice I am relinquishing many pieces of work of this character and am pleased to say that these bibliographies will be complied by Dr H C Versey of the Leeds University. "


Bibliography of Yorkshire Geology 1932 T Sheppard Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society. 22, 229-237.

"On advice, I am relinquishing many pieces of work of this character and I am pleased to say that in future these bibliographies will be compiled by Dr H C Versey ..."


Editorial T Sheppard 1932. The Naturalist. (page not numbered)

"Over 40 years ago and when still in my 'teens I acceded to a request by the late W Denison Roebuck, the Editor, to assist in the writing of short notes for The Naturalist but more particularly in perparing the annual bibliographies relating to the Geology of Northern England, formerly compiled by Dr A Harker...This bibliographical work has since been done for the Yorkshire Geological Society, British Association for the Advancement of Science and Revue de Geologie.

"Having opportunities in those days for cheap rail travel, I attended more excursions with different societies than most people of my age...

"The change that we made in the character of the Journal caused an increase in the circulation, and with the aid of the "Northern News" and "Notes and Comments" columns, an effort has been made to keep the readers of The Naturalist up to date with current literature and events.

"I still have an interest in the work and shall continue to help the Journal to the best of my ability, but on advice, I am having to relinquish this work which has occupied every moment of my 'spare' time since 1892."

[note - the ealiest credited contribution to The Naturalist I can find is in 1895]


Extract from The Naturalist 1933, p 47.

"The Naturalist has appeared regularly each month, and despite some reduction of pages through financial considerations... many of the illustrations which have greatly enhanced its pages, have been paid for by the authors of papers, while some have been included at the generosity of the Hull Corporation The Executive regret to record the resignation of the Editor Mr Thos. Sheppard..."


Extract from The Naturalist 1933, p 47.

"Mr T Sheppard has handed over to the University of Leeds his collection of author's reprints and pamphlets relating to the geology, natural history and archaeology which principally relate to Yorkshire" and archives relating to various Yorkshire scientific societies and the notebooks and records of the late J W Taylor.


HGS Minutes 17th November 1938.

"The President [T Sheppard] spoke of the loss of Mr Stather & his great work for the Society".


In Memoriam J W Stather FGS. T Sheppard, The Naturalist 1938, pp 182-183.

"He was a great friend of the late G W Lamplugh, one-time amateur geologist of Bridlington..."

..."Mr Stather took the lion's share of the work " of the Yorkshire Boulder Committee.

..."Local geologists will miss his cheery presence".


Jubilee of the Hull Geological Society. Anon. The Naturalist 1939 pp75-76.

"The Society has been fortunate in its first half century to have at its disposal the enthusiasm and wise guidance of J W Stather, the carefulness of W H Crofts, the acumen of F F Walton and especially the unbounding energy and vigour of T Sheppard." ...

"Sir Albert [Seward, President of the British Association] ... suggested that he [Sheppard] should write his reminiscences and tell the world how he managed to procure so many valuable specimens. The book might be used as a textbook for the moral guidance of the young."...

"Mr W S Bisat representing the Yorkshire Geological Society, also replied, pointing out that the Hull Society gave the lie to a recent statement by a prominent geologist that amateurs are almost extinct 'monsters' ."


HGS correspondence

Hull Geological Society, Royal Institution, Hull.
28 April 1938.
Dear Mrs Stather,
I am writing on behalf of the Geological Society to express the deep sympathy of the members on your bereavement.
Mr Stather filled a position in the Society which must forever remain empty, not only by virtue of his long association with the Society, of which he was a founder member almost 50 years ago,and his many contributions to its literature, but also he will be sadly be missed by all members, each one of whom looked up to Mr Stather as the embodiment of the spirit of the Society,
His memory will always be treasured by those who had the privilege of knowing him,

I am, yours truly,



The Naturalist 1942, p78, anon -


"The Museums Journal ... contains an editorial in appreciation of the servives of the Museums Director at Hull, who has just retired on age limit ... It states 'Mr Sheppard's influence in the museums' world is not confined to Hull. He was President of the Museums Association in 1893 [sic] and served on its Council on many occasions. In 1939 he was elected to Honorary Membership of the Association... He is a man of boundless energy and imagination, a man who has brought to light more finds than any other Curator, a man who has made publicity an art - in short - just Tom Sheppard."


HGS correspondence.

Kullaberg, 443 Beverley Road, Hull.

27h August 1943.

Dear Mr Sheppard,

I received your letter of the 26th instant and I am sorry to hear that you were too unwell to get to the Committee Meeting on Saturday last.
I feel that if you had been present, I should probably have got a little more support for some of the views I put forward respecting the Society and its future, and I hope that you will be able to join us at some of the winter meetings.
Your view that the collection of East Yorkshire Geological specimens can never be replaced is, I am sure, well founded, but the offer of the Society to do what is possible to that end was made purely as a return for the generosity of the Museum Committee in allowing the use of their rooms for the geological meetings.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,


HGS Minutes Saturday 15th January 1944 at Wilberforce House starting at 2-15pm.

"Present: Messrs Sheppard, Watmough, Davy, Gibson, Taylor, Mason & Green.

"The Minutes of the previous meeting were read, confirmed and signed by Mr Sheppard in the absence of the President owing to fog on the river

"The Secretary reported that the December meeting was cancelled owing to the illness of Mr Stainforth.

Mr Sheppard read a paper by Mr C W Wright on the amateur geologist.

"The Secretary thanked Mr Sheppard for kindly reading the paper."


In Memoriam Thomas Sheppard 1876-1945. H C Versey Naturalist 1945, pp74-75.

"... his keenness as a collector and a flair for showmanship led to his appointment as the first curator of Hull Municipal Museum at the age of 24..."

"... a pleasant companion in the field and always ready to encourage and assist the young enquirer ..."


HGS Minutes 10th February 1945.

Mr Fry to give his paper to the Stainforth Memorial Meeting on "How members can help the new museum".

The Secretary read a paper by Captain C W Wright entitled "Regional differences in the Cretaceous fauna of the north and south of England".

HGS correspondence

13th February 1945.
"Dear Major Wright,
"Your paper which was presented to the meeting of the Society on Saturday afternoon proved of great interest to members and aroused a full discussion ..."

HGS Minutes 15th March 1945. Stainforth Memorial Meeting

"The members moved a resolution of sympathy on the death of Mr Sheppard. & appreciation of the great services rendered by him to the Society during his long association therewith & that a letter, expressing these feelings be sent to Miss Sheppard".

HGS Correspondence

To Miss Sheppard, 716 Anlaby Road, Hull
12th March 1945
Dear Miss Sheppard,
The members of the Hull Geological Society at their meeting on Saturday last passed a resolution of sympathy with you in your bereavement and asked me to express the appreciation of the valuable services rendered by Mr Sheppard during his long and active membership of the Society.
He will be greatly missed from the Society whose interests he had so much at heart and will always be remembered by those who had the pleasure of associating with him.

Yours sincerely

Hon Secretary.

HGS correspondence

716 Anlaby Road, Hull.
March 18th [1945]
Dear Mr Green,
Will you kindly convey to the members of the Hull Geological Society my appreciation of their resolution of sympathy in the death of my brother?
He was always proud of his association with the Society, and during his last illness he often talked about the happy times he had in the years when he was able to take an active part in their proceedings. I am glad to feel that he will be missed and I thank you very sincerely.
Yours gratefully,

Mary Sheppard.

HGS Minutes 14th April 1945.

"The Sec. read a letter he had sent to Miss Sheppard on the death of her brother Mr T Sheppard , & her reply".


Thomas Sheppard 1876-1945 W H W 1949 The Transactions of the East Riding Antiquarian Society 28, 65-69.

"... A persuasive geniality was his outstanding characteristic. He converted many hardheaded vendors into generous donors and made the giver of a single coin or fossil feel that he was making a real contribution to science. ...

"...Ever the seeker of publicity in every form for the benefit of Hull Museums it is probable that his future reputation rests most securely on a work he always spoke of with great modesty, that is his edition of J R Mortimer's Forty Years' Researches in the Burial Mounds of East Yorkshire."


compiled by Mike Horne, 2007.

updated January 2008

Copyright - Hull Geological Society 2020

Registered Educational Charity No. 229147

Copyright Hull Geological Society.