Two hundred years ago …

Friday 13th August 2021

John Gibson

Two hundred years ago the Yorkshire Philosophical Society didn’t exist.  But things were afoot …

In July of 1821, John Gibson, a manufacturing chemist from Essex, was visiting friends in his native Yorkshire, probably including Dr Harrison of Kirkbymoorside (where Gibson was born).  Walking along the road – most likely what is now the A170, near where it crosses Hodge Beck – Gibson passed some road repairs: a group of workmen filling up potholes and ruts from a pile of bones and limestone fragments at the roadside.

Gibson was a keen fossil-collector, and immediately recognised that among the bones were those of hyenas and bears: not animals generally found in Yorkshire.  Questioning the roadmenders, he established that these came from a nearby quarry, close to the church of St Gregory, Kirkdale.

The quarrymen informed him that they had broken into a cave filled with such bones, and had been shipping them out by the cartload for road-mending and suchlike, presumably as being useless as building stone.

Gibson, no doubt, filled his pockets with specimens and sped back to Dr Harrison, whose anatomical knowledge would confirm the identification of the bones.  Then he told a few people of his discovery.  One thing led to another …  (to be continued)

Thanks to Dr Peter Hogarth, our Hon Librarian & Archivist, for this first in an occasional series of articles leading up to the bicentenary of the foundation of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society.