A visit to Lichfield and Erasmus Darwin Museum


Our main reason for coming here to Birmingham was to visit the house museum of Erasmus Darwin, the grandfather of Charles Darwin. Rather than stay in Lichfield, which is a small town, we came to Birmingham, where we will have a second day to explore.We took a train to Lichfield and back.

Stephen has become rather fascinated by Erasmus Darwin after reading his biography. He was actually quite an amazing man, a well respected doctor and inventor, with many and varied interests. He married twice, and also had two illegitimate daughters by a housekeeper when he was between marriages. He believed in the education of women, including in the sciences, but not in true emancipation, of course. He set up a school for girls to be run by his illegitimate daughters, I guess a way of giving them a useful occupation.

A couple of his inventions were the trap for water closets that meant they no longer connected to the sewage directly, having a water cap. Water closets had been in use for some time, but this was a definite improvement. He also worked out that carriages needed to have a special front axle for turning to make the wheels move at different angles and speeds. Carriages used to tip over frequently and he used his invention on his own carriage. This invention is in use to this day, especially useful for large vehicles such as buses. He didn’t patent any of his ideas and inventions, believing that they should be the benefit of all humanity. He and his LunatikSociety (as they called themselves, actually the Lunar Societybecause they met on the night of the full moon so that they had moonlight for travelling to each other’s houses) also believed in the abolition of slavery. He may have been influenced by his medical training in Scotland. As a group, they worked together on inventions and ideas.

Erasmus was overweight and not good looking at all, according to contemporary accounts, yet seems to have been very successful with women, perhaps because he considered them to be as intelligent as men, although his ideas still included that women should be there to take care of the children and household matters, and perhaps that the education of women would make them better companions for intelligent men like himself.

And this is the man who had a great deal of influence on his grandson, indirectly as they never met. Erasmus wrote books where he explored the idea of natural selection and he believed that the evolution of life took millions of years.

At one time it was thought that Lichfield would be much more important than Birmingham, but the advent of the Industrial Revolution changed all that. Consequently, Lichfield is a beautiful small town with many historic buildings, including a truly splendid cathedral.

Afternoon tea at the Cathedral Tearooms

We enjoyed our outing very much and arrived back in Birmingham in time for a browse in Waterstones (one of the few bookstore chains still successful). We had a light meal at a small pub near our accommodation.

On our first day I bought some milk for morning cups of tea and stored it in the communal fridge. It was well labelled as being ours. Yesterday morning we found that someone had opened and used our milk, despite it being clearly labelled. I put a note on it asking politely that it not be used, but when we got home yesterday evening, it had been used again. Rather than rely on notes and labels, I took it to our room and stored it on the windowsill near the open window overnight. It was OK to use this morning, but we threw the rest away.

Breakfast is included at our backpackers, but it is quite meagre, just toast and various jams, and some bowls of fresh fruit. This morning we picked up some fruit and went out to a local café where we had mugs of hot chocolate and bacon and egg sandwiches. I had hoped for coffee, but it was a very basic café and hot chocolate seemed safer.

We topped up our phones this morning, using vouches from our provider.

We caught a bus, just one stop but it saves our legs a bit, into the centre to explore the Art Gallery and Museum, the Library, and the Birmingham Cathedral. I’ve had coffee in the Edwardian Tearooms in the Gallery, and worked on this blog whilst Stephen went through the history of the Industrial Revolution. He gave me the highlights. The building is very beautiful inside and it is free. Perhaps they make money from the tearooms and shop to help with upkeep.

The ceiling of the Gallery Tearooms.


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