John Skinner was a troubled individual who sought solace in the pursuit of antiquarianism, linguistic research and diary-writing. A country parson in a rural Somerset parish, Skinner was isolated and often at odds with his parishioners. He took his own life in 1839 but in his will he bequeathed 146 manuscript volumes consisting of diaries, notes and essays to the British Library. These show him to have been an indefatigable traveller, especially in the southern counties, illustrating his tours with naïve watercolour sketches of places visited and antiquities discovered.
This view shows a stone monolith on Carn Brea hill near Redruth, Cornwall, which Skinner identifies as a ‘Druidical remain’. Skinner’s conclusions have been criticised as speculative, however, and he is better remembered as a diarist than as a scholar.
- Article by:
- Ann Payne
- Antiquarianism, Country
Ann Payne, former Curator of Manuscripts at the British Library, outlines how topographical views were often the result of artists touring in Britain and beyond.
- Article by:
- Rosemary Sweet
- Country, Antiquarianism
Writing local histories was a favourite hobby of many in the 18th century who had spare time, money, and a desire to find out more about their towns and country. Rosemary Sweet examines some of the motivations of local historians and the usefulness of their work for historians today.