Saturday, 17 August 2019

1930: Brian Bentham Dickinson

As I created this blog certain names kept recurring in the documents I was reading from the time.

One person who finally became President in 1930 but was a supporter of the Geographical Association from its origination, perhaps even its 'prime' instigator was B B Dickinson.

This coincided with a change in the way that GA Presidents were chosen: from high profile figures who might be champions of the subject towards acknowledging the long-term service of key officers of the Association.

Dickinson's name was on the bottom of the letter which announced the meeting in Oxford where the GA was founded.

Interestingly, H. J. Fleure, in his look back at the GA, talks about the fact that after a decade or so of appointing high profile Presidents it now "felt strong enough during the decade 1930-40 to choose presidents belonging to its inner circle from time to time".

Brian Bentham Dickinson was a master at Rugby School, at a time when it was Independent schools that were at the forefront of keeping the flame of Geography alight in schools, and looking to support the subject as an academic discipline.
He worked for many years in the classroom, and was also connected with the RGS. He was the Honorary Secretary of the GA from 1893 (when it was founded) until 1900.

He then had to wait 30 years before he became the President.

The year before he had been unwell, and 'Geography' had a piece explaining that he had recovered his health enough to take up the offer of being the President.

Following the Association's founding, Dickinson spent a lot of time working on a geography syllabus that could be the basis for improving school geography, and worked tirelessly for the Association in a number of different roles for the next few decades. Some of these are outlined in this description below, taken from a book on 'Modern Geography' by Gary Dunbar, where he is described as a "prime mover" in the formation of the Association.

1930, when Bentham took office, was a year of great change in the Association, as outlined in Fleure's retrospective of the first 60 years of the Association, and Balchin's Centenary History.

The Honorary Secretary (H. J. Fleure) was appointed to Manchester University (which meant another change in the location of Fleure's Library as space was offered by Spurley Hey.)
When I was a schoolboy, there was a school in Sheffield called Spurley Hey, and it seems there may have been several as he was the Chief Education Officer of the city at the time.
The printing of the GA's journals was also transferred to a new printer at this time: to Percy Brothers in Manchester. The building where they operated, later known as Hotspur Press is still standing, just behind Oxford Street station, where I usually alight when visiting the GA Conference.

There was also the start of some changes to the Primary curriculum in 1930. In several areas, Primary schools which had formerly dealt with pupils up to the age of 14 were made into junior schools for pupils up to the age of 11.

In 1930, his Presidential Address was called 'Reminiscences' and looked back at his time working with the GA, and his thoughts on how geography had developed. He referenced many previous Presidents.

Dickinson died in 1941.

In this obituary, printed in 'Geography' in 1941, he was remembered therefore (quite rightly) as someone without whom the GA may not even exist.

DICKINSON, B. BENTHAM. “B. BENTHAM DICKINSON.” Geography, vol. 26, no. 1, 1941, pp. 39–39. JSTOR,

Fleure's 60th piece reference

Fleure, H.J. (1953) "Sixty years of geography and education", Geography, vol.38, pp.231-264

FRESHFIELD, DOUGLAS W. “VALEDICTORY ADDRESS.” The Geographical Teacher, vol. 6, no. 1, 1911, pp. 5–9. JSTOR, - RSGS journal article on the 125th Anniversary of the GA

Image: Copyright - Royal Geographical Society - taken from Balchin's Centenary of the Royal Geographical Society.

If you know more about B B Dickinson and his work for the GA, please get in touch.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Lantern Slides and Diagram Maps

These were an important part of the 'Pictorial Method' which was discussed at the meeting where the GA was created. They had been around for some time before the GA was formed, being in use from around 1850. They were used with a powerful lantern, which projected an image onto a screen or wall at a larger scale for an audience to view.
I have some smaller format lantern slides, which date from the middle part of the 20th Century, so they don't have any great age, but are of interest nevertheless.
In the late 1890s, the Royal Mail introduced postcards, and these were also used by teachers as a resource for a while.

The photography of Francis Frith was influential at the time, and Peter Fox (who will appear in a future post) has suggested that he was one of the early 'promoters' of Geography. To begin with, the GA encouraged the sharing of lantern slides, but also realised that there was a market for some ready-made sets of slides. This was done using a company, which was set up for the purpose.

The Diagram Company was set up in the early 20th century.

They produced sets of Lantern slides, and associated lesson materials.
This relationship with the GA continued until the late 1930s, when the company was closed.

Peter Fox wrote about this period in an article for 'Geography' in 2005, which also identified a range of other images which were used at the time.
At the 125th Anniversary conference in Sheffield, an exhibition of lantern slides was available for delegates to browse and a set of cards has also been made available for purchase from the GA shop featuring images from the archive.

Descriptions by Douglas Freshfield:

Peter Fox article:
FOX, PETER S. “Images in Geography — Great Expectations.” Geography, vol. 90, no. 1, 2005, pp. 3–17. JSTOR,

LYDE, L. W. “THE TEACHING OF GEOGRAPHY AS A SUBJECT OF COMMERCIAL INSTRUCTION.” The Geographical Teacher, vol. 4, no. 4, 1908, pp. 163–168. JSTOR,
Image: Slide from GA Collection - used in the 125th Anniversary collection.

1930s: Land Utilisation Survey

The GA established a Regional Survey Committee in the 1920s and running into the 30s when it worked on finalising the Land Utilisation Survey.
This was instigated by Laurence Dudley Stamp, who was to become GA President later.

He had previously completed other land use work, and was interested in the publication of a map of Northamptonshire, published by the OS after the work of a geography teacher called Mr. E. E. Field.

Dudley Stamp according to 'Billy' Balchin, "was quick to realise the potential value of a national Land Utilisation Survey for GB as a whole and immediately proposed through the GA committee the establishment of a central organisation at the LSE"

This had representatives from the GA, OS, Ministry of Agriculture and Education Authorities. The GA couldn't afford to fund the survey, and in 1930, it became a separate Association under the Directorship of L Dudley Stamp.

During the 1930s, the survey continued, with the rural areas being easier to complete. The Six Inch survey was completed first, followed by the One Inch survey, funded by county sponsorships and help from individual LEAs (remember those?)

The survey was carried out by teachers, pupils, Scouts and Guides, students, WI members and even nuns. Those involved were convinced that if the land could be used better, Britain would be better - some great pre-War optimism.
Once the surveys were undertaken, the maps were returned to the office. They were transcribed by hand, and Dudley Stamp went out to many parts of the country to check them for accuracy. The Survey was funded by the royalties from Stamp's books. As the maps from the survey were published, Stamp wrote memoirs for each county that had been covered.

Stamp estimated, according to Rex Walford, that a quarter of a million schoolchildren were involved in the Land Utilisation Survey. It was later repeated under the helm of Alice Coleman (more on that to come in a later blog post), and finally in 1996 (more on that to come later too). James Fairgrieve (another former President was also involved according to Fleure's reports on the Survey in 1953
The layer was made available online, so it can be accessed.
It can be seen in the Visions of Britain website.

Here is the layer for Ely, for example.

Some sections of the country have a more 'hand-drawn' look to them.

A later survey was featured in a piece by Rex Walford which I have blogged about and will appear here in time.

Rex Walford (2001) - Land Utilisation Survey is featured in detail on pp. 108-112

Stamp, L. Dudley. “THE LAND UTILISATION SURVEY OF BRITAIN.” Geography, vol. 16, no. 1, 1931, pp. 44–51. JSTOR,

Fleure, H. F:  (1953) "Sixty years of geography and education"

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

1930s: Geography and Films

During the 1930s, a new classroom aid appeared in the shape of educational films.
The 1928 conference saw the arrival of some work in this area as having great potential.
This was spearheaded by a future GA President: James Fairgrieve.
Fairgrieve worked with volunteers to explore the potential of cinema, even hosting an event at the Annual Conference in 1928.

People like Jon Grierson started to make documentary films, which had more geographical potential than other films. Films like 'Night Mail' (1936) were the result of his work. These were less than 30 minutes and were useful in the classroom. Modern teachers like short clips rather than feature length films (unless it's the last week of term).

Fairgrieve worked widely with London based teachers to promote the use of films.

Radio broadcasts were also started around this time too. I remember tuning in to the assembly at Primary school, and having the programme lead what we did.

In 1931, Fairgrieve wrote about the use of films.

This was well before Bernard Clarke and the rest...


“How B.B.C. Lectures and Films Are Utilised.” Geography, vol. 15, no. 8, 1930, pp. 672–672. JSTOR,

Fairgrieve, J. “USE OF BROADCASTING IN TEACHING GEOGRAPHY IN SCHOOLS.” Geography, vol. 16, no. 1, 1931, pp. 34–44. JSTOR,

Monday, 12 August 2019

1930: Moving to Manchester

MANCHESTER: 1930 - 1946

In 1930, Professor H J Fleure took up the newly-established Chair of Geography at the University of Manchester and the GA moved with him. This meant finding a new place for the 4000 volumes that were now in the Association's Library, along with the Assistant Secretary who ran it and dealt with correspondence.

The Chief Education Officer in Manchester, Spurley Hey generously gave the GA free office and library accommodation in the Manchester High School of Commerce, which was gratefully accepted. Miss R M Fleming wanted to stay in Aberystwyth, and was replaced by Miss M. E. Owen. She proved herself to be just as efficient and skilful in her work.

When this became unavailable, temporary accommodation was provided at 103 Princess Street, Manchester, close to where the GA currently has its conference every three years or so.

This was a challenging time for the Association, with economic recession, and less demand for specialist teachers.
Despite that, the library's new location and premises allowed it to become a reference library, and use of it increased steadily.
T. C. Warrington took over as Honorary Librarian after stepping down as Headteacher of Leek Grammar School.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

1929: Colonel Sir Henry G Lyons FRS

Colonel Henry Lyons was another President with a varied CV.

He was born in 1864, and died in 1944, so also had a long life - as have many Presidents it seems.
He was educated at Wellington College, and then went to the Military Academy at Woolwich, before being elected to the Geological Society. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers (a few GA Presidents had served with them) and was posted to Cairo.

The Royal Society obituary describes the source of his interest in geology:

He attributed his first interest in science to an acquaintance made during holidays in 1879-1880 with a neighbour at his Dublin home, who was then being ‘crammed’ for Sandhurst and taking Geology as a subject. The two boys collected fossils from blocks of Carboniferous Limestone lying on the canal wharves, and, with his interest thus aroused, young Lyons spent all his spare time at Wellington in reading Lyell’s Elements of Geology and then the same author’s Principles, being encouraged in these voluntary studies by the science master, Rev. B. A. Irving

He retired having been promoted to Colonel, and returned to the UK.
Lyons was a Director of the Science Museum .
It seems he was a particularly impressive Director. The Science Museum's Facebook page describes his impact:

A strong believer in the needs of the ordinary visitor being more important than those of the specialist, Sir Henry Lyons was hugely important to broadening the Science Museum’s appeal and popularity.
Lyons introduced the first interactive exhibits and the first ever gallery designed specifically to engage children with science and technology.
Between 1921 and 1932 – a year before he retired – the number of visitors to the Science Museum per year increased from about 400,000 to nearly 1.25 million. Today, just under 3 million people visit the Museum each year.

He took over as Honorary Treasurer of the GA in 1926 following the death of E. F. Elton, who had held the post since 1908. He retired from the council when he joined the Science Museum, and the post passed to Sir William Himbury, the Chief Officer of the British Cotton Growing Association.

His Presidential Address was called 'The Geographer and his Material'. it was delivered in January 1929 at the London School of Economics (as were many Addresses during the first part of the Century, before the change to the Easter conference). He started by sharing the great honour that he felt at being the President, and spoke glowingly of the impact of Vaughan Cornish's presidency.

He talked about the role of specialist knowledge and skills in supporting the teaching of geography.

Here he is on Cartography, for example...

Because of a change in the time when the President made his address from the very start of the year to later in the year, Lyons ended up doing two addresses.

His 2nd was in 1930.
He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society.
His obituary was published in various journals.

I like this description of him from one of them.

He died, aged 80 in Great Missenden, later home of Roald Dahl.


I amended this entry to reflect his

Correspondence in SPRI archive: (I really need to take a trip there)
Ernest M. Dowson. “Colonel Sir Henry Lyons, F.R.S.” The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, vol. 31, 1945, pp. 98–100. JSTOR,

I know little about Henry Lyons' time as President, so if anyone has further information please get in touch.

Image - there is one linked to here, I am still looking for a CC licensed one

Presidential Address
Lyons, Henry G. “THE GEOGRAPHICAL ASSOCIATION. THE PRESIDENT'S ADDRESS.” Geography, vol. 15, no. 5, 1930, pp. 353–359. JSTOR, JSTOR,

 Fleure, H.J. (1953) "Sixty years of geography and education", Geography, vol.38, pp.231-264

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Quote of the Day

"It ought to be our common aim to make education responsive to the needs of our national life, and since these continually change and develop, so ought the content of our education to be continually changing and developing."
Cyril Norwood, GA President 1946
Harrow address 1930

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

1928: Dr Vaughan Cornish

1928 saw another President with a notable geographical pedigree take office.

Dr. Vaughan Cornish is someone I have been aware of for many years, and who has been described as one of the most prolific geographers of all time.

He was born in Debenham in Suffolk in December 1862, the third son of a vicar.

He was unusual when compared to many other of the early GA Presidents in that he never held a university post of any kind.

He was later selected by Carl Sauer as one of six geographers whose readings would provide a 'truly liberal geographic education', and was a worker of wide interests and versatility
Andrew Goudie (also GA President)

The other reason I am familiar with Cornish is through his association with Sidmouth, a town I have visited regularly for many years.

When I was working for the Geographical Association, I was interested to see what was down in the GA collections and archives in the basement. In my lunch hour, I used to poke around in the filing cabinets partly to see what potential there was to unlock value in the objects the GA holds, but also to seek inspiration for my own projects. I came across some lantern slides, which I don't think were from the original collections from the original founding of the Association, as they were too new, but nonetheless interesting.
One of the things I did find in one of the rooms was a series of large framed prints.
These were beautiful, and featured a range of subjects, including wave forms. They had lovely hand written captions and were signed by Cornish.

Image: Alan Parkinson - shared under CC license

Waves were one of the areas that Cornish had explored in detail. He studied waves, wave forms, and processes.
He was also the first British geographer to study dune formation and form, including desert dunes and sand dunes. It was this that drew him to the attention of Andrew Goudie (a future GA President).

In the late 1890s and the start of the 1900s, Cornish was active in delivering lectures.

These are described in a large section of Emily Hayes' PhD - this has been blogged about previously.

There were also some prints of images of the Kingston Earthquake, which I knew that Cornish had experienced in Jamaica in 1907.
I have a few of his books, including 'The Beauties of Scenery'. This describes his ideas on the aesthetics of landscape, and the involvement of people.
My copy is pictured here, a hardback 3rd edition from 1944. The book has the subtitle 'A geographical survey', and was started in 1920, following Francis Younghusband's Presidential Address to the RGS, when he said that it was the duty of geographers to undertake the analytical study of beauty in scenery'.

Here's a list from his Wikipedia entry - I have copies of the books in bold. The GA holds copies of some others in their archive / Fleure Library.
  • The Panama Canal and its Makers (1909).
  • Waves of the Sea and other Water Waves (1910).
  • The Travels of Ellen Cornish: being the Memoir of a Pilgrim of Science (1913).
  • The Waves of Sand and Snow (1914).
  • Naval and Military Geography (1916).
  • Imperial Military Geography (1920).
  • A Geography of Imperial Defence (1922).
  • The Great Capitals (1923).
  • National Parks and the Heritage of Scenery (1930).
  • The Poetic Impression of Natural Scenery (1931).
  • The Scenery of England (1932).
  • Borderlands of Language in Europe (1933).
  • Ocean Waves and Kindred Geophysical Phenomena (1934).
  • Scenery and the Sense of Sight (1935).
  • The Preservation of our Scenery (1937).
  • The Farm upon the Cliff (1939).
  • The Scenery of Sidmouth (1940).
  • Historic Thorn Trees in the British Isles (1941).
  • A Family of Devon (1942).
  • The Beauties of Scenery (1943).
  • The Photography of Scenery (1946).
  • Geographical Essays (1946).
  • The Churchyard Yew and Immortality (1946).
  • Kestell, Clapp and Cornish (1947).
  • Sketches of Scenery in England and Abroad (1949).
Cornish's images were widely exhibited too - one of the images that I came across had this label on the back:

Image: Alan Parkinson - shared under CC license

Cornish also studied the aesthetics of landscape, and the work on the beauty of landscape is one of the areas that he is best known for.
A biography and appreciation of Cornish was written by a future GA President (who will appear in a future post) Andrew Goudie, and can be read on JSTOR (a free account can be created for those who want to read it).

Cornish's acceptance of the invitation to be President was announced in 'Geography' in 1927.

Cornish's Presidential Address in 1928 was on the theme of Scenery of course, and was called 'Harmonies of Scenery: An outline of Aesthetic Geography'. It is beautifully written and contains a great deal of sense on how the landscape could be viewed.

Cornish laid out his theory of aesthetics, which started with the Scenery of Civilisation, drawing on his childhood in Debenham, Suffolk, in a parish which was "Nature adapted to Man's needs and flourishing under his care".

"Rural England owes much of its Arcadian charm to the fact that form and movement and colour are a decorative scheme which harmonises with the quiet continuity of the least changing of industrial pursuits. It is a country of gentle undulations where rivers flow quietly in winding curves, a land well timbered by deciduous trees of rounded form, of fields divided by a bushy fence, all in a climate of soft skies, where the song of birds is heard throughout the year...."

However, this Arcadia is easily broken...

" buildings of harsh form or staring colour, or by clatter of mechanical noise..."

In 1930, Cornish was still active in the GA, and was involved in some work around potential plans for National Parks. 
At this time, he was a Director of Technical Education in Hampshire, but resigned in 1933 to concentrate on his work.

He gave his ownl land, near Salcombe to the National Trust.

As mentioned earlier, Cornish was also a great proponent of National Parks. These finally came into being after an Act of 1949, and the Peak District was the first in 1951. In 1930, Cornish proposed his own National Park areas, some of which eventually became National Parks. He was well ahead of the game with Broadland for example.

His support for coastal protection was also well known.
This was outlined in a piece in 'Geography' at the time.

I came across a blog post from his home village of Debenham, which referenced a number of obituaries printed in The Times.

Obituary - Death of Dr. Vaughan Cornish (from The Times, 3rd May 1948)

We regret to record the death of Dr. Vaughan Cornish, which occurred at Camberley on Saturday at the age of 85 years. Dr. Cornish was a member of a well-known local family whose association with the district began in 1792. He was a great traveller and geographer and was particularly proud of his connection with Salcombe Regis. When the Sidmouth Council purchased the greater part of the land on the eastern side of Salcombe valley to prevent the establishment of a holiday camp there, Dr. Cornish gave a good deal of his land on the western side of the valley to the National Trust in order that its natural beauty should be preserved for all time.

He was a great lover of natural beauty and in spite of his wanderings it was always to Salcombe Regis he returned for refreshment and he never tired of singing its praises. With his first wife he was in Jamaica at the time of the great earthquake there and has broadcast about his experiences at the time.

During recent years Dr. Cornish has published many books, chief among them being "The Scenery of Sidmouth" which is a classic in the description of the local land- and seascape. His most recent book "Kestell, Clapp and Cornish," was lately reviewed in these columns, and as a great deal of it is autobiographical we commend it to our readers at this time.

Dr. Vaughan Cornish was buried at Salcombe Regis yesterday afternoon.

A second obituary was also published.

Obituary - Death of Dr. Vaughan Cornish (from The Sidmouth Observer, 5th May 1948)

One of Britain's best-known geographers, Dr. Vaughan Cornish, D.Sc., F.R.G.S, of "Inglewood," Gordon-road, Camberley, died on Saturday at the age of 85, in a Camberley nursing home. Dr. Cornish, who is survived by his widow, was famous among geographers for his studies of land and water waves. In later years he gave much of his time to the appreciation and preservation of the natural beauties of Britain. He had lived in Camberley since 1913.

He was a student of geography in all its aspects, and he was an author of ability who illustrated his works with his own sketches and photographs.

Dr. Cornish was born at Debenham Vicarage, Suffolk and was educated at St. Paul's School and at Victoria University, Manchester. He graduated with honours in chemistry in 1888 and later took the degree of D.Sc. He became Director of Technical Education to the Hampshire County Council, but after his marriage he entered the field of geographical scientific research. In 1900 the Royal Geographical Society presented him with the Gill Memorial for his research work into all types of waves, both on land and sea, on snow and sand and natural materials.

A world tour by Mr. and Mrs. Cornish in 1903 was the occasion for a great deal of important scientific work, and was followed by visits to many parts of the world. They were injured at Kingston, Jamaica, in January, 1907, when an earthquake wrecked the city and killed many of its inhabitants. A few months later they returned to Kingston to study earthquake effects.

During the first world war Dr. Cornish lectured to naval and military officers on strategic geography and subsequently published a number of books. He remained an active author until recently.

The funeral took place on Tuesday at Salcombe, Devon.

I will be going to pay my respects to Cornish once again this summer.

One final point, from Andrew Goudie's piece is that he described himself in Who's Who as a geographer.


Source: Goudie, Andrew. “Vaughan Cornish: Geographer (With a Bibliography of His Published Works).” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, no. 55, 1972, pp. 1–16. JSTOR, JSTOR, 

From his Wikipedia page
Also provided the image of Vaughan Cornish.

I amended the entry to show that he was the GA President. I think he would have appreciated that.

Cornish, Vaughan. “ON RHYTHMIC MOTION IN RIVERS. A STUDY IN SCENERY.” The Geographical Teacher, vol. 13, no. 4, 1926, pp. 276–284. JSTOR,
Emily Hayes: 'Geographical light: the magic lantern, the reform of the Royal Geographical Society and the professionalisation of geography c.1885-1894


Matless, David. “Nature, the Modern and the Mystic: Tales from Early Twentieth Century Geography.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, vol. 16, no. 3, 1991, pp. 272–286.


Cornish, Vaughan. “NATIONAL PARKS-THE CLAIM OF THE COAST.” Geography, vol. 15, no. 5, 1930, pp. 384–387. JSTOR,

Goudie, Andrew. “Vaughan Cornish: Geographer (With a Bibliography of His Published Works).” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, no. 55, 1972, pp. 1–16. JSTOR,
If anyone has further information on the contributions made by Vaughan Cornish to the Association, please get in touch.

1930: Brian Bentham Dickinson

As I created this blog certain names kept recurring in the documents I was reading from the time. One person who finally became President ...