Fearnsides Family

Joshua Fearnsides was the son of William and Hannah (nee Ward), born in 1840. The 1871 census shows William and Hannah living at 171 Bank Top, Soothill. They have 4 children, Annie M. 34, Alfred 33, Joshua 31 and Jane 26. William is a butcher and farmer of 33 acres. Alfred is also a butcher and Joshua is a grocer.

Joshua married Maria Green in the 4th quarter of 1878 in Wakefield. The 1881 census shows them living at Addingford Hill. They have a son, William George age 1 (born 10th November 1879) and a domestic servant, Betsy Croft 18. Their second son, Edwin Greaves Fearnsides was born 17th June 1883 and baptised at Horbury Wesleyan Methodist Chapel.

The 1901 census finds the Fearnsides living on Shepstye Road, Horbury. Joshua is now 62 and a retired grocer. William George is a Geological student. The family has a third child, Marguerite age 5. Sadly, Margeurite died 21st December 1903. There is a different domestic servant, Louisa Sykes 19.

Fearnsides family grave in Horbury Cemetery.

William George Fearnsides married Beatrice Mary Adelaide Watts on the 2nd August 1911 at St George's Parish Church, Bloomsbury, London. She was the daughter of William Whitehead Watts, Professor of Geology. William George was a Geologist, lecturing at Cambridge University & a member of The Royal Society. This is a biographical extract from The Royal Society website:

“The unique position which Fearnsides occupied among the great Cambridge geologists of this century arose from his eminence in both the academic and applied fields of geology. Throughout his long life, he combined a vital curiosity in everything around him, acute observation, a quite exceptionally retentive memory and an unusual flair for the correlation of observation and knowledge in diverse fields. His exuberant personality and his remarkable physical and mental vigour had already made him something of a legendary figure in his own lifetime.” 

The University of Sheffield website carries this information on him: 

"FRS, MA (Cantab.), FGS, MIME. Professor of Geology at the University of Sheffield from 1913 until his retirement in 1945, following which he was made Professor Emeritus. Fearnsides was appointed as the first Sorby Professor of Geology, a position he would hold for over three decades. He was educated at Wheelwright Grammar School, Dewsbury, from where, on a West Riding scholarship, he proceeded to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he was subsequently awarded a College scholarship and where he gained first class honours in both parts of the natural sciences tripos in 1900 and 1901. He was elected a Fellow of the College (1904-15) and appointed College and Taylor Lecturer in Natural Science (1908-13), and University Demonstrator in Petrology (1909-13). Member of the Council of the Royal Society (1936-7), member of the Council of the British Association (1935-45), Consultant Geologist to the West Midlands Division of the National Coal Board (1947-58), and member of the Council of the Geological Society of London at various times between 1913 and 1947, becoming its Vice-President (1938-40, 1945-7) and President (1943-45)." 

There is a special collection of books housed in the library at the University of Sheffield, which William Fearnsides collected during his time at there, called "The Fearnsides Collection". William also wrote "Geology in the Service of Man" with O. M. B. Bulman and published in 1950. He was awarded the Murchison Medal in 1932.

William and Beatrice Fearnsides had two children, Marguerite in 1913 and Elizabeth in 1916.

William George Fearnsides photographic portrait by Walter Stoneman 1932. National Portrait Gallery.

Penguin fisrt edition of William George Fearnsides' book.

A photographic portrait of William George Fearnsides in later life. Royal Society Publishing.

William George Fearnsides died on the 15th May 1968 and although remembered on the family memorial in Horbury, was actually buried at Mill Road Cemetery, Cambridge. He gave a plot of land in Northgate known as Fearnsides Fold. On one of the bungalows is an inscription which reads, "This site was presented to the Council by William George Fearnsides, MA (Cantab) FRS Hon Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, June 1962."

The Fearnsides' former home, Addingford Hill, Shepstye Road.

The plaque on one of the bungalows at Fearnsides Fold, Northgate.

Edwin Greaves Fearnsides also attended Wheelwright Grammar School, Dewsbury. He gained a double first in natural sciences at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and studied medicine at the London Hospital and in Berlin, winning high distinctions and graduating as M.B, B.Ch, in 1908; three years earlier he had taken the London B.Sc. degree. He then served as a clinical assistant at the Hospital for Sick Children and spent several years on the resident staff of his own Hospital. He was one of the early Beit memorial research fellows and contributed to Allbutt and Rolleston's System of Medicine. Specialising in neurology, he was elected assistant physician to the Hospital for Paralysis and Epilepsy, Maida Vale. He was commissioned in the R.A.M.C. in 1916 and served first at Rouen and then at the Springfield Military Hospital. Later he superintended the Home of Recovery at Golders Green and acted as neurologist to the R.F.C. Hospital for Officers, holding the rank of major in the R.F.C.

He published papers on neurological matters such as 'neurosyphilis' and 'intracranial aneurysms’.

Edwin Greaves Fearnsides died on 26th June 1919 at Four Mile Bridge, Anglesey, as a result of a boating accident.

The "North Wales Chronicle" dated 4th July 1919 reported the tragedy:

BOATING FATALITY NEAR HOLYHEAD A LONDON DOCTOR DROWNED: A distressing boating accident took place on Thursday last at Four Mile Bridge, near Holyhead, as a result of which Dr Edwin Greaves Fearnsides lost his life. It appears that the doctor, in company with his fiancée Miss Christine Margaret Wells, of South End, Woolgate, Rotherham and her brother Mr George Ernest Wells of 5 Oriel Road Sheffield, were out boating near the bridge over which the roadway crosses. The boat got into a strong current, which runs at a certain point and turned over, precipitating the occupants into the water. The tide was running very strong at the time and Dr Fearnsides was drawn by its force, and before assistance could be obtained he had disappeared. Miss Wells and her brother were able to reach the shore in a very distressed condition. Though efforts were made to recover the body it was not until the following day that it was found. The deceased was a specialist attached to the hospital for epilepsy at Maida Vale, London and was 23 years of age. The County Coroner (Mr Jones Roberts) held an inquest without a jury on Monday and returned a verdict of ‘Accidentally drowned’.

1. Ancestry.com
2. The Royal Society
3. University of Sheffield
4. The Royal College of Pysicians – Munk's Roll
5. "North Wales Chronicle"


Helen Bickerdike  December 2017