Rare original William Smith map goes on show at Scarborough Art Gallery to mark his 250th birthday

Jonathan Larwood  photographed on the balcony of The Rotunda Museum in Scarborough designed by William Smith. Jonathan Larwood is the owner of a rare and particularly well-preserved map created by the father of English geology, William Smith which can be seen at Scarborough Art Gallery this autumn.
Jonathan Larwood photographed on the balcony of The Rotunda Museum in Scarborough designed by William Smith. Jonathan Larwood is the owner of a rare and particularly well-preserved map created by the father of English geology, William Smith which can be seen at Scarborough Art Gallery this autumn.

A rare and particularly well-preserved map created by the ‘father of English geology’, William Smith, can be seen at Scarborough Art Gallery this autumn.

The map, which has been generously loaned to Scarborough Museums Trust by its owner, Jonathan Larwood, can be seen at the gallery from Saturday September 14 to May next year.

The opening date coincides with the Yorkshire Fossil Festival Friday September 13 to Saturday September 14.

This year marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of William 'Strata' Smith (1769-1839), known as the ‘father of English geology’.

In 1815, Smith produced a geological map of England, Wales and Scotland. The first attempt to visualise the earth’s layers, and using an innovative colour and shading system to represent rock layers, it is often referred to as 'the map that changed the world'.

Smith lived in Scarborough for ten years from 1824, and was responsible for the design of the circular Rotunda, one of the world’s first purpose-built museums, which was dedicated to geology. The Rotunda is now also in the care of Scarborough Museums Trust.

Around 400 copies of Smith’s map were originally published in 1815, of which less than 10 per cent are believed to be still in existence. The map owned by Jonathan Larwood is a travelling version and in remarkably good condition.

Simon Hedges, Scarborough Museums Trust’s head of curation, exhibitions and collections, said: “The map Jonathan is so kindly loaning us was bought by his father back in the 1950s – he was a collector of geology maps, and this was one of the first he purchased.

“We don’t know of another ‘travelling map’ still in existence – it has its original cover, section cases and journal. It’s in three folding parts and has benefited from being folded up as the colours are still so vivid – of all the surviving Smith maps, this one is probably in the best condition.”

The map will be seen alongside a new exhibition, Strata, by contemporary artist Kathy Prendergast. Curated by award-winning art and science organisation Invisible Dust for Scarborough Museums Trust, Strata comprises Prendergast’s hand-coloured maps, and teaching maps created by female geography students from Bedford College, now Royal Holloway, University of London,

William Smith’s map is at Scarborough Art Gallery from Saturday September 14 to May next year.

Strata is at the gallery from Saturday September 14 until January 5.

The gallery is open Tuesdays to Sundays (plus Bank Holiday Mondays) from 10am to 5pm. Entry is free with an annual pass, which costs £3 and gives the bearer unlimited access to Scarborough Art Gallery, the Rotunda Museum and Woodend café gallery for a year.