Erasmus Darwin House holds a number of objects which belonged to Erasmus and his family, which are on loan from organisations such as Lichfield City Council, Stoke on Trent Potteries Museum, Holburne Museum and English Heritage. His work covered a variety of subjects, from science and inventions to medicine and the education of women, and the collections reflect this, covering topics such as these and more!
Our most prized object is Darwin’s Common Place Book which gives us great insight into the mind of this amazing man. It is a large notebook on loan from English Heritage which contains Darwin’s own notes on his medical cases, his thoughts on such things as meteorology and botany, and some fantastic drawings of his inventions. A group of volunteers have recently completed a demanding project to transcribe the book for our visitors.
‘It was a privilege to transcribe Darwin’s original hand written notes… it felt like he was in the room and speaking the words!
A copy can now be found on the lectern in the Inventions Room which compares Darwin’s original page to a translated page, so now we can better understand his passion for medicine and engineering!
You will also find the Common Place Book as part of the British Museums Teaching History in 100 Objects project which provides resources for teachers who want to use museum objects as a way to interpret history.
Object in Focus
Sculpture of Anna Seward
Born on the same day as Darwin, Anna Seward was an 18th century romantic poet often referred to as The Swan of Lichfield.
She lived in the Cathedral Close with her father, Canon Thomas Seward and mother Elizabeth. Anna was entirely home schooled and in 1754 they moved into the Bishops Palace where she lived until her death in 1809.
She did not like the institution of marriage and stayed single throughout her life, turning down many proposals.
When Darwin moved to Lichfield in 1756 he was introduced to Anna. The pair connected in their love of poetry and Darwin became her mentor. She conversed with members of the Lunar Society as well as participating in Lichfield’s literary circle which included Johnson and Boswell and was closely associated with the Lichfield Botanical Society. She wrote the first biography of Erasmus Darwin in 1804. A plaque to Anna Seward can be seen in Lichfield Cathedral.
This maquette of Anna was sculpted by local artist Peter Walker in 2011 and is on display in the Parlour on the writing desk alongside our print of a young Anna.
Please do not turn up at the museum with a donation for the collection as we are unable to accept everything that is offered. With limited space and storage, we cannot take everything. We have an accessions policy within museum accreditation. If you have an item that you think maybe of interest to the museum please email the office and we will pass the information to the curator for consideration.