Residing in a beautifully made purpose-built cabinet is one of the museum’s treasures. This is the personal herbarium of the Rev. William Strong Hore. The Hore Collection comprises fourteen volumes of British seaweeds, four volumes of Australian seaweeds and two volumes of foreign seaweeds. The fragility of the specimens means they are kept away from permanent display.
William Strong Hore (1807-1882) was at University with Charles Darwin and for many years Vicar at Shebbear. Like other Victorian clergymen, he saw natural history as a way to expound divinity. He had a particular interest in seaweed and collected extensively; he actively distributed specimens from his collection, many of which are lodged at nationally important herbaria. Of particular significance is the collection of over 600 pressed seaweeds, some collected by the Reverend himself, others contributed by renowned algologists, including William Harvey, a leading authority on seaweed and author of many early scientific texts.
The Hore collection includes three bound volumes of specimens collected during Harvey’s voyage to the southern oceans, Dr Harvey’s Australian Algae, for which Hore enthusiastically paid £10. 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.
The Victorian passion for investigating the shoreline was shared by novelist George Eliot, who explored rock pools at Ilfracombe. More than 150 years later our coastline continues to entice lovers of the marine environment.