UK Black History
UK Black History

UK Black History

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John Edmonstone - The Taxidermist.

At Adeptales, we like to shed light on those who are often forgotten especially those who inspire others to accomplish great things.

Here we learn about a formerly enslaved man who went on to mentor and teach Charles Darwin.

John Edmonstone was born on a plantation in Guyana. The plantation was owned by a Scottish politician named Charles Edmonstone.

It was common for enslaved people to take the last name of the owners of the plantation.

Charles Edmonstone often had visitors over, and one of his guests was his future son in law Charles Waterton.

Charles Waterton was an expert in natural history. He would often collect and preserve animals to be studied. Through his work, he developed a new way to preserve bird skins.

John Edmonstone was assigned to work with Waterton and followed him on his travels. Whilst they travelled through Guyana, John absorbed this method of taxidermy like a sponge.

In 1817, Charles Edmonstone returned to Scotland and brought John with him where he became a free man. John moved to 37 Lothian Street which was a few doors down from 16-year-old Charles Darwin.

John earned a living by working in the zoological department at the University of Edinburgh.

Charles Darwin had recently moved to Edinburgh to study medicine in 1825, however, he did not have the stomach for it.

I mean a lot of operations happened WITHOUT anesthesia during that time so I don’t blame him.

Darwin realised he was more passionate about natural history and attended classes.

As they were neighbours; Darwin approached Edmonstone to teach him about taxidermy for one hour per day.

This amounted to 40 lessons in total.

“He gave me lessons for payment, and I used often to sit with him, for he was a very pleasant and intelligent man.” Darwin wrote in his autobiography.

Not much is written about John after that, unfortunately.

There was a blue plaque unveiled in his name on 37 Lothian Street where he used to live, which bizarrely disappeared.

Do you know of other stories of Edmonstones that we don’t know of

#johnedmonstone #guyana #scotland #taxidermy #blackbritishhistory #adeptales #stayadept #blackhistory #mentor #teacher #charlesdarwin #theoryofevolution #soadept


So good seeing Fanny Eaton on today's UK #googledoodle. It's about time she received her flowers! We have a Storytime on her too!

Fanny Eaton - 23 June 1835 - 4 March 1924

When we think of Black British models, we think of British-Jamaican stars such as Naomi Campbell, Jourdan Dunn, and Leomie Anderson. However, if we go back to the nineteenth century, we had the first Black British Jamaican model and artist's muse by the name of Fanny Eaton.

Fanny Matilda Antwistle was born in St. Andrew, Jamaica. Her mother Matilda Foster was a free woman who had previously worked on British owned plantations.

Matilda and young Fanny left Jamaica around the 1840’s.

When Fanny became of age she cohabited with James Eaton who was a horse cab driver. They had ten children together between 1858 and 1879.

Also, it would have been likely that James’s family would have frowned upon an interracial marriage (and it was also illegal.)

Unfortunately, James died leaving Fanny to raise her surviving children.

Fanny started working as an artist’s model as a way to look after her children as she struggled to find work by other means.

Fanny was recorded in the Royal Academy as a model and paid 15 shillings at a time for every sitting.

Are there more stories of hidden Black British figures that we should be told about?

#fannyeaton #art #herstory #blackhistorymonth #royalacademy #tatebritain #fitzwilliammuseum #model #adeptales #stayadept #blacksupermodel #naomicampbell #jourdandunn #leomieanderson #blackwomenrock #melanin #queen #blackhistory #blackbritishhistory #jamaica