A Fine Herbarium: The Reverend Hore Collection.

Rev. William Strong Hore's collection of bound cryptograms in bespoke wooden cabinet

Rev. William Hore’s collection of Cryptograms © MBND.

Tucked away in the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon, in a beautifully made cabinet, is the personal herbarium (dried plant specimens) of the Rev. William Strong Hore. An inscription reads “The Hore collection of cryptogams, presented by his sisters, 1906”. The term Cryptogam is Greek for hidden reproduction, – as Cryptogams, also known as lower plants, essentially reproduce by means of spores rather than flowers and seeds. The Hore collection comprising 14 volumes of British seaweeds, 4 volumes of Australian seaweeds and 2 volumes of foreign seaweeds, was donated to the North Devon Athenaeum by the Misses Hore after the death of their brother in 1882. The fragility of the specimens means they are kept away from permanent display, but in this cabinet resides one of the museum’s real treasures.

The Church and graveyard of St Michael at Shebbear.

St Michael Church, Shebbear © Wikicommons.

'For men of the clergy, the study of natural history was seen as a way to expound divinity through nature'.

William Strong Hore, born in Stonehouse, Plymouth in 1807, graduated from Queen’s College, Cambridge in 1830, was ordained in 1831 and spent the next 18 years in the service of the church in South Devon. It was during his time at Stoke Damerel that he was visited by his university friend Charles Darwin, who a few days later boarded HMS Beagle. Hore’s final posting was as Vicar of Shebbear from 1855 until his death in 1882.

Fascination with the natural world was a fashionable pastime in the 1800’s. Whilst the men of science theorised, classified and debated, others in society, including women were collecting, pressing, and recording significant collections. Rev. Hore’s collection is particularly extensive and is indeed referred to as “a fine herbarium”. For men of the clergy, the study of natural history was seen as a way to expound divinity through nature, although in the mid 1800’s creationism was coming under attack (notably by Hore’s friend Charles Darwin). Hore and Darwin had studied together at Cambridge University, pursuing a general education that could lead to a career in the church. As it turns out, Darwin was more interested in natural history but Hore spent the rest of his life in dedication to both pursuits.

Pressed seaweed specimens from the Rev. Hore collection. © MBND.

Hore was an avid botanist and well respected in scientific circles. He had a particular interest in seaweed and made extensive and valuable collections whilst living in South Devon. He was in regular communication with the leading botanists and algologists of the day and actively distributed specimens from his collection. More than one hundred of his specimens are lodged at nationally important herbaria including the Natural History Museum, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh and Trinity College in Dublin. He is credited with the discovery of Long-headed Clover (Trifolium molinerii) which is now largely confined to areas on the Lizard Peninsula and two species of red seaweed, Griffithsia devoniensis and Polysiphonia foetidissima (now known as Vertebrata foetidissima). He was also the first to record the presence of the red seaweed Bornetia secudiflora on British shores.

Introduction page to Dr Harvey's Australian Algae book. Penciled inscription reads 'Rev. W.S. Hore, ten pounds'.

Introductory page to Dr. Harvey’s Australian Algae book © MBND.

‘...named in honour of William Hore - Horea (now known as Gloiocladia)'.

Of particular significance in Hore’s herbarium is the collection of pressed seaweeds. It contains over 600 specimens, some collected by the Reverend himself, others contributed by an impressive list of renowned algologists. One of Hore’s more frequent correspondents was William Henry Harvey a leading authority on seaweed and author of many early scientific texts on marine algae within which Hore is listed as one of the collectors to whom Harvey was indebted for the provision of specimens.

In 1853, Harvey embarked on a three-year voyage of the southern oceans and the Hore collection contains three beautiful bound volumes of specimens collected during this voyage (Dr Harvey’s Australian Algae). It is understood that around 50 sets were distributed by Harvey in the 1850s. Hore was obviously enthusiastic, paying ten pounds for his Australian collection. In 1855, Harvey named a new genus of red seaweed from Western Australia in honour of William Hore – Horea (now known as Gloiocladia). A beautifully pressed specimen of Horea halymenioides is on the inside cover of the book. We are fortunate indeed to have a set as part of the wider seaweed collection at the museum. More than 150 years after William Hore was part of a thriving community of natural history enthusiasts in North Devon, our coastline continues to draw in those with a love for the marine environment.

Image of red pressed seaweed Horea halymenioides

Horea halymenioides specimen  © MBND.

Notes and Further reading:


Stanfield, S. Darwin in Plymouth.  http://lostworldread.com/downloads/darwin_in_plymouth.doc.

Hunt, S. (2005) Free, bold, joyous: the love of seaweed in Margaret Gatty and other mid-Victorian writers. Environment and History, 11 (1). pp. 5-34. ISSN 0967-3407

The Devonshire Association. 1952, Flora of Devon. Volume II, Part I. The marine algae. Torquay.

Moore, P.G. (2009). Popularizing marine natural history in eighteenth- and

nineteenth-century Britain. Archives of natural history 41.1 (2014): 45–62



Stiles, P. (2009). Vivarium. https://www.peterstiles.co.uk/articles/catalogue-notes/vivarium-2009/



Written by Sarah Hotchkiss

Editor Adam Murray

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