Charles Darwin was born and raised in the family home in Shrewsbury and also attended school in the town.
Charles Darwin was born in the Mount on 12 February 1809. The large Georgian house was built by his parents, Robert and Susanna Darwin. It has been used as offices but is currently being renovated and is due to open to the public in 2009.
Charles Darwin was christened at St Chad’s Church, which is now used as a venue for an annual Darwin Festival.
Statue of Darwin outside Shrewbury School © Jon King
In 1818, aged just 9 years, Darwin was sent to Shrewsbury School, an Anglican boarding school in the centre of town. He boarded despite it being less than a couple of kilometres from his home, and only a few months after losing his mother.
Darwin hated the harsh environment of the school but made some good friends there. Charles, aged 12, wrote in a letter to a friend, ‘I only wash my fe[e]t once a month at school, which I confess is nasty, but I cannot help it, for we have nothing to do it with’.
His older bother, Erasmus, also attended the school and the brothers were renowned for their chemistry experiments, conducted in a self-equipped ‘Lab’ in an outbuilding of The Mount.
The school building has been renovated and now accommodates the town’s library with an imposing statue of Darwin outside.
The bellstone © Jon King
Darwin’s first introduction to geology was a granite boulder, called the Bellstone, situated in a courtyard in the town centre. As a child he was told that this sort of stone was only found much further north in Cumbria or Scotland and there was no explanation for how it ended up in Shropshire.
It was only when he studied geology at Edinburgh that Darwin learned that during the last ice age moving glaciers had transported massive rocks across the country.
An annual toast is now held at the Bellstone on Darwin’s birthday, 12 February.
Darwin’s mother and father were buried in St Chad’s Church in the village of Montford about 10 kilometres from Shrewsbury. Darwin’s father, Robert Darwin was buried here in 1848.