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Geological Society of London

BENETT, Etheldred (1775-1845)


Reference code(s): GB 378 LDGSL/544

Held at: Geological Society of London

Title: BENETT, Etheldred (1775-1845)

Date(s): [1814-1825]

Level of description: Series

Extent: 3 files

Name of creator(s): BENETT | Etheldred | 1775-1845 | fossil collector and geologist


Administrative/Biographical history:

Etheldred Benett was born on 22 July 1775 at Pyt House, Tisbury, Wiltshire, the eldest daughter of Thomas Benett. The geologist and botanist Aylmer Bourke Lambert, her brother's wife's half brother, encouraged her and her sister Anna Maria to study natural history. Whilst her sister concentrated on botany, Benett took up the newly fashionable study of fossils.

By at least 1809, Benett had begun to acquire a significant collection of material. Her independent wealth (she never married) meant that she was able to collect high quality specimens from the many working quarries in the area, as well as from her holidays to the Dorset coast. Such was the importance of her collection that it became the first port of call for geologists studying the Wiltshire area. In addition Benett was in regular correspondence with geologists such as James Sowerby, George Bellas Greenough, Gideon Mantell and William Buckland, sent duplicate specimens to museums all over the country (including the Geological Society) and published books on her collection.

Her unusual first name and her achievements in what was perceived to be the masculine science of geology, meant that she was regularly mistaken for a man. For instance in 1836 the Natural History Society of Moscow made her a member but the diploma was ascribed to 'Dominum [Master] Etheldredus Benett'.

Benett died on 11 January 1845, and her collection was sold. The most important material is now held by the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia although a small portion of her collection remains in Leeds City Museum.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Miss Etheldred BENETT, comprising:

Large ink drawing of a fossil alcyonium, [1814-1817]; Bound volume, 'Sketches of fossil Alcyonia from the Green Sand Formation at Warminster Common and in the immediate vicinity of Wiltshire', 1816; Watercolour painting of a meteorite that fell in County Limerick in September 1813, [1825].


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

The original arrangement of the LDGSL series was not hierarchical. Material by the same creator/author was not collected together, instead each file or distinct item was given a different reference (not always sequential). In order to make them easier to find, where possible the papers relating to Benett are placed together, however there will be other material relating to her elsewhere in the collection (see below).

Conditions governing access:

Access is by appointment only, daily readership fee is applicable unless you are a member of the Society. Please contact the Archivist for further information.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copies, subject to copyright and the condition of the original, may be supplied. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Archivist.

Finding aids:

An online, detailed catalogue will be available shortly.


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Two of the items were presented to the Society by Etheldred Benett, 1816-1817. The third was given by George Bellas Greenough in 1827, see individual entries for more detail.


Existence and location of copies:

George Bellas Greenough's copy of 'Sketches of fossil Alcyonia from the Green Sand Formation at Warminster Common...' to be found at LDGSL/983.

Related material:

Other material by Etheldred Benett held by the Geological Society comprises:Section showing the different beds of stone in Chicksgrove Quarry in the Parish of Tisbury, Wiltshire', [1815], see: LDGSL/3/21; Corrected section of the strata in Chicksgrove Quarry, Wiltshire, [1816], see: GSL/MUS/1/3/17; for letters from Etheldred BENETT, 1813-1842, see: GSL/MUS/1-2, 6, GSL/L/R/1/203, GSL/L/R/3/83; 'Sketches of Bones supposed to resemble those of the German Caverns', handwritten text copied by Etheldred Benett 'from Lethieulliers catalogue' with two sketched plates of some of those bones and teeth, [1816-1820s], see: LDGSL/983a.

Correspondence with Benett can be found in the George Bellas Greenough and Gideon Mantell papers held at University College London Special Collections and the National Library of New Zealand: Alexander Turnbull Library, respectively.


Archivist's note: Source: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Description by Caroline Lam

Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: August 2012; June 2014

Fossils | Palaeontology
Geologists | Scientists | Scientific personnel | Personnel | People by occupation | People

Personal names
Benett | Etheldred | 1775-1845 | fossil collector and geologist

Corporate names

Wiltshire | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe