Arthur William Mera (1849-1930) Stock Exchange clerk & amateur entomologist
Arthur William Mera was born on 16th July 1849 at Pentonville and baptised there on 25th December 1849. He died on 21st July 1930 at 5 Park Villas, High Road, Loughton. A seated photograph of Mera, in later life, shows him as a smartly dressed white bearded gentleman, wearing a bowler hat, waistcoat, watch chain, pin stripped trousers, and well-polished walking boots. He was born in Pentonville (1849), London but also resided at Clerkenwell (1851), Kensington (1861), Hammersmith (1871), Forest Gate (1888) and Loughton (1930).
Arhur Mera’s grandfather, (James) Louis Mera (1766-26th May 1830) was born in France and married Sophia Gray in Dublin in 1797. They had 8 children including Arthur’s father Henry Hubert Mera (4th December 1810-24th January 1862) who was born in Withyam, Sussex and died in Notting Hill, London aged 51. He was a clerk to wholesale draper. Arthur’s mother, Sarah Paine (1809-1st July 1879), was born in Harwich. They married on 19th October 1833 and had 7 children in 15 years; Jane Mera (1834-1902); Tome Mera born 1835; Phoebe Victoire Mera (1836-1924); Beatrice Mera (1837-1838); Henry Arnold Mera (1840-1914); Alice Katherine Mera (1844-1929) and finally Arthur William Mera (1849-1930). Arthur married Frances Alice Wright (30th December 1866-31st August 1897) on 8th September 1888 at Forest Gate. She was born in Ipswich and sadly died in childbirth, aged only 30. Arthur and Frances had 5 children, Arthur Louis Mera (1889-1973); Frederick George Mera (1890-1943); Henry Charles Mera (1893-1917) who died on 14th April 1917 in Arras, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France aged 23 and is buried there; Edward William Mera (1895-1950) and Alice Phoebe Victoire Mera (1897-1914). All their children were born in Forest Gate, West Ham.
Arthur is described as a Stock Exchange clerk, presumably working at the London Stock Exchange. He was baptised and married according to the rites of the Church of England. He was always connected with London and south-west Essex. Arthur was essentially a field naturalist with a practical knowledge of the habits and haunts of British butterflies and moths from the age of 7. Arthur’s entomological work was carried out in Hammersmith marshes in the 1860 as well as Wimbledon Common, Combe Wood, Epping Forest & Chattenden Roughs in Kent. His summer holidays included visits to Clacton, then a village reached bv road from Colchester. Arthur was elected a member of City of London Entomological and Natural History Society in 1887, and remained a member of its successor society until his death. For several years he was President of the City of London Society and delivered annual addresses reviewing entomological work of the year. Mera was sad to witness the gradual disappearance of his old haunts due to rapid population growth, urban development and industrialisation. When he died Arthur was the oldest member of the London Natural History Society and also one of last of exclusively “British” lepidopterists of the Victoria Era. Arthur was not a prolific author but published short notes on current topics including the earliness or lateness of seasons, abundance or scarcity of insects and so forth. He was interested in variations and bred local forms and races in large numbers. His last major paper, published in the London Naturalist for 1925 dealt with increasing melanism in British Lepidoptera during the preceding half century. He joined the Essex Field Club in 1922 and published two articles in the Essex Naturalist . The first was about the Cole collection of lepidoptera and the second on butterflies in Epping Forest. Arthur’s fine collection was acquired, after his death, by the EFC where it is still safely housed. His collection was exhibited at the Essex Field Club and an article about it, compiled by W.S. Gilles, was published in the Essex Naturalist Volume 22 (1932 ) pages. 125-128. The main collection was then housed in 2 cabinets of 20 & 40 drawers and the insects were recorded as being generally in excellent condition. The specimens were pinned in the old-fashioned “low setting”. Gilles recorded that a fair number of rare and interesting species in the Mera collection were acquired by purchase from Stevens’ Auction Rooms. The collection includes specimens from the Bristol district, Brentwood, Cannock Chase, Cornwall, Deal, Epping Forest, Felixstowe, Forest Gate, Mucking, the Shetlands, , Taunton and Wanstead Flats. Gilles ended his appraisal by stating “It remains for me only to conclude by congratulating the Essex Field Club on having acquired this valuable and representative collection, the work of a life time. It may be well to mention also that the Club has received Mr. Mera’s notebook, in which records are to be found of all species going back to the 60s of last century.”
Mera, A.W. (1923). The Cole collection of British Lepidoptera Essex Naturalist Vol. 20 pages 172-176.
Mera, A.W. (1928). Stray notes on the butterflies of Epping Forest. Essex Naturalist Vol. 22 pages 201-202.
Simes, J. A. (1931). Obituary Arthur William Mera London Naturalist,: Journal of the London Natural History Society for the year 1930 pages 37-38 + plate 1.
Wealth at death: Probate 21st August 1930 to Arthur Louis Mera clerk & Frederick George Mera civil servant £22,209.17.