On this day … 26 February 1876

The Preston Guardian carried a report on the inaugural meeting of the Preston Scientific Society. By its second meeting, the rival Preston Chronicle was optimistic for the future of the society, ‘Judging from the class of gentlemen brought together, it has about it all the elements required to guarantee its success and stability’. Already 65 members had enrolled and at that second meeting, held in the Medical Society’s rooms in Cross Street, the society had clearly decided it was going to devote itself to serious science.

Members of Preston Scientific Society
Preston Scientific Society members in the Society Rooms on Fishergate in 1922

A Dr Arminson read a paper on diatoms, with the assistance of the latest imaging technology then available:

Two dozen slides of photographs of diatoms, as magnified by the microscope were exhibited by the aid of Mr. Watson’s oxyhydrogen lantern, and the working of this excellent instrument was never seen to greater perfection. The audience repeatedly expressed their gratification by a general applause. Messrs. Birchall, Atherton, and Pateson, had the management of it.

Specimens of living diatoms, obtained from a pond in Penwortham, were afterwards shown in about half a dozen first-class microscopes, and their motion in a drop of water was very clearly seen.

Members of Preston Scientific Society on a trip to Windermere
Preston Scientific Society outing to Grange, Cartmel and Lake Side, Windermere in 1899

In July members set off to explore Clapham Cave, fortifying themselves not with a packed lunch, but with ‘a substantial luncheon’ and an ‘excellent tea’:

The first excursion of this society took place, when about 20 members and friends, including a sprinkling of the fairer sex, met at the Preston Railway Station, and proceeded by the 10 am train, via Lancaster, to Clapham, for Clapham Cave and Ingleborough … Upon arrival at Clapham Station, the party was quite prepared to partake of the substantial luncheon which was provided at the Flying Horse Shoe Hotel, after which they proceeded towards [the cave] …

The Cave being reached, preparations were made for entering, and after each had been provided with the necessary candle, the guide led the way, the rest closely following in Indian file, bidding a short farewell to “warmth and sunshine.” …

A supply of magnesium wire had been provided, by means of which various portions of the Cave were illuminated, and the effect was most beautiful, especially when the light was reflected back from the myriads of crystallic facets that here and there studded the sides of the Cave …

After an hour spent in these subterranean wanderings, daylight was again reached, and the party separated into detachments, each making its own course back to the hotel, where all met at an excellent tea.

The society is still flourishing, now renamed the Preston Society, and now devoted solely to natural history. It donated its collection of more than a thousand photographs, of immense value to Preston’s local historians, to Lancashire County Council. They can be viewed on line at https://redrosecollections.lancashire.gov.uk/quick-search?q=preston%20scientific%20society&WINID=1677329305357.
Two examples from the collection are featured here.

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