Founded 1907

Consett and Vale of Derwent Naturalist Field Club

Club History


The Beginnings of the Club

2007 was the centenary year of the Club and reproduced below are some excerpts from the Club’s first minutes of 1907, recorded by the Club’s Secretary Thos. N. Henderson

Thomas Nattrass Henderson

The Club's first secretary Thomas Nattrass Henderson taken in 1888 aged 23
 (photograph courtesy of Graeme Henderson)

“A Public meeting was held in the Park Rd. P.M. Classroom on Monday April 29th 1907 under the Presidency of Mr. J. Brown of Sydney House Consett. To take into consideration the forming of a Field Club”.
It was moved by Mr. Jas Caygill & seconded by Mr. J.K. Armstrong that a field club be formed & that it be called the Consett & Derwent Valley Naturalist Research Field Club”.

Early grouping of the club

The photograph above is an early record of the clubs members. The club secretary T.N.Henderson is 4th from the left in the back row with the moustash.
(Photograph courtesy of Graeme Henderson)

After the names of Vice Presidents, Secretary, Treasurer, Auditors and Committee members are elected, the admission fees and details of the 1st walk are recorded:

That the members subscriptions be one shilling and six pence per year,

that Ladies be admitted as members free,

that boys under the age of 16 years of age be admitted free, above 16 & under 18 years nine pennies,

that the first Ramble be on Saturday May 11th To Shotley Bridge, Newlands & Ebchester, meet on the Bridge at 3 o’Clock

that Mr Jas. Caygill be appointed leader for Ramble on Saturday May 11th”.

The minutes of the next meeting showed that a request from the Blackhill and District Naturalist Society to amalgamate was refused and that five further rambles and three excursions were organised, these were:

  • “That the first excursion be to Lanchester Roman Camp on June 29th
  • “That the second excursion be to the Sneeps (Snapes?) on July 13th
  • That the third excursion be to Ebchester woods on Aug. 24th
  • “That the first ramble be to Knitsley & Howns Gill May 26th
  • “That the second ramble be to Allansford and Mosswood on June 1st
  • “That the third ramble be to Whittonstall on July 27thth”
  • “That the fourth ramble be to Leadgate & Ebchester by Pond Dean on Aug. 17th
  • “That the fifth ramble be to Knitsley & Woodlands on Sept. 7th

A later meeting in September records “that we have eight meetings during the winter months”. These were held in the Consett Co-operative Society Club-room at a cost of 3/~ per meeting. 

Another meeting in the following year records the Councils thanks to Mr. Armstrong of Iveston “for his kindness in allowing the member of the Club to view Constables batton (?) and curious old horse shoes”. 

In March 1908 it was decided that there would be a further eight rambles on Wednesday afternoons as well as the six on Saturdays. Excursions became more adventurous, with trips to Corbridge & Chesters, Alston & Nenthead, Natural History Museum at Newcastle Upon Tyne and Jesmond Dene and finally Tunstal Waterworks!

One of the walks made in the 1908 season was from Allansford to Greenhead via Comb Bridges, this walk was reproduced in 2000 by local historian Ray Thompson who guided a group of almost 30 people along the same route.

The walk was lead by one of the founder members and later President James Caygill. James was a man of wide interests and learning who produced a three-column account of the walk for the local newspaper (probably the Consett Guardian).

The image above (courtesy of Powdene Publishers) shows the group of ramblers on the Allansford to Greenside walk in March 1908. The gentleman in the centre of the group (with the bowler hat) is Mr. James Caygill. The location of the photograph was Comb Farm and the ladies in the doorway live in the farm.

In February 1909 it was decided that the Club “write to the society of Camera Club for some studies of the Derwent Valley with a view to having a Concert and Lantern Entertainment”. A further item in the minutes records “that a letter of condolence be sent to the West Stanley Colliery expressing our deep sympathy with the bereaved families”.

Interestingly a series of exhibitions were held in the Consett Co-operative Halls. In 1911 this included a photographic competition, each entrant had to pay 1/~ entry fee but got a season ticket to the exhibition in return.

There was also “a prize be offered for pencil sketches, subject to be from nature, confined to children under 12 years of age, residing within a three mile radius”. A Later entry in 1912 recorded “that there be a prize for the best essay on natural history for children under 12 years of age and confined to one page of foolscap”.

 Any one wishing to join the Club had to be nominated and seconded by other Club Members.

 A later entry in 1918 describes the subjects of some of the winter lectures: 

  • Cattle
  • Migration of birds
  • Insect friends and foes
  • The wonders of plant life
  • Geological evidence of evolution
  • Darwin
  • The naturalists dream
  • The wonders of the microscope

In 1926, in addition to the committee members a list of ‘Sectional Leaders’ was produced, these were members with particular experience and knowledge of these subjects: 

  • Botany
  • Geology
  • Ornithology
  • Entomology
  • Archeology
  • Zoology

This image is of the Club members, date unknown (? 1930's)

Club members c1930 

More pictures from past walks and meetings of the Club can be seen on the Picture Archive page.

Digital Archive

All our walks produce a wealth of photographs, these are often just stored away and never seen again. We are in the process of scanning these hundreds of slides into a digital format so they are preserved for posterity.  Here some members of the Club have allowed their own pictures to be displayed. These pictures cover many years of walks, some of the galleries have been sorted into the decade they were taken.

The First Meeting

These are facsimiles of the minutes from that first meeting of the society - click on each image to see the full size page.