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Essex Field Club
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Essex Field Club

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Noteworthy naturalist

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Thomas Vincent Holmes (1840-1923) Geologist and third President of the Essex Field Club

T.V. Holmes was born on 18th May 1840 at St. Lawrence Jewry in the City of London. A photograph, taken of him about 1908, shows a smartly dressed gentleman sporting a bushy beard, having a high forehead and a fine countenance. Oddly his friend C.D. Sherborn, recollected many years later, that on field trips T.V. (“Rabbity”) Holmes “wore long kid gloves, the fingers of which were often worn out”. He was described as having “a peculiar geniality of disposition”. He was of a studious nature and a great reader throughout his life. Holmes was born in the City of London and retired to Greenwich. As a peripatetic geologist he worked in many areas, but mainly in Yorkshire and the Carlisle area. He died aged 82, of senility and cardiac failure, at his home, 28 Crooms Hill, Greenwich, on 24th January 1923 and was laid to rest with his recently deceased second wife in Greenwich Cemetery, Shooters Hill (1st Con grave no. 2163).

Holmes’s father was John Holmes, a lace manufacturer, who died in 1860. His mother was Hannah Drew. She died in 1877. Thomas was their first child. T.V. Holmes had a younger brother and sister. Holmes married twice, firstly to his cousin Mary Jane Winder (1836-1871) and secondly to Eliza Clarricoats (1846-1922). T.V. Holmes had eight children; three with his first wife and five with his second.

Holmes was a geologist. He was privately educated at a school in Mitcham, Surrey before studying at King’s College. He was a member of the Church of England. Holmes was employed as an Assistant Geologist with the Geological Survey from April 1868 until July 1879. His main work centred on the geological mapping of the Carlisle area and the Yorkshire coalfield. He retired, aged 39, for “a more leisured life” although he was “for long a familiar figure in the ranks of amateur geologists” and maintained to the end his keen interest in local geological problems. He was an accurate observer and he “did much useful work in recording new exposures in the south-east of England”. Holmes held high office in both the Geological Society and Geologists’ Association. He was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society in 1877 and served on its Council. Holmes was President of the Geologists’ Association 1889-1891, led many geological field trips and was elected to Honorary Membership of the Association in 1914.

Thomas Vincent Holmes made many very important contributions to the study of Essex geology for almost 30 years from 1883 until 1910. He published excellent, concise, clear and well illustrated papers on many aspects of Essex geology. His major contribution was his observation of Thames Gravels overlying the Boulder Clay at Hornchurch in 1892. Holmes also led, or reported upon, some 21 geological field trips to Essex and its borders between 1883 and 1904. He also advised, in the 1890s, on the possibility of finding workable coal deposits in Essex. Holmes took an interest in Deneholes. These completely man made medieval excavations for the extraction of chalk for agricultural purposes first attracted his attention in 1878 when he investigated the Blackheath subsidence, which started near his Greenwich residence. He later did much work on the Hangman’s Wood deneholes at Grays with William Cole. Charles Dawson the Pitdown hoaxer plagiarised their work.

Holmes joined the Essex Field Club in 1882 and in 1885 he and his second wife took out life membership. He served as President 1885-1887. Holmes made several important donations to the library. He was a prolific contributor to the Club’s publications, submitting no less than 78 diverse items to the Essex Naturalist dating from 1887-1915 covering topics from geology, birds, plants, insects on railway lines to oysters and the typhoid bacillus.

W. H. George. 2006. Thomas Vincent (“Rabbity”) Holmes (1840-1923) and his contribution to the Geology of Essex and the Essex Field. Essex Naturalist Vol. 23 (New Series) pp. 104-114.

His estate was valued at £11,653.85 net for probate.

Account provided by Mr William George
page last edited on Mon Jan 26th 2009 by site user 68