Spring is with us and the East Surrey Walkers quarterly walks programme is underway details are available via our website.
Our walks frequently reveal sites that tweak our interest and induce us to try and find find out more. information. On a recent walk, near Abinger I came across a large memorial standing in open countryside. The memorial is to Samuel Wilberforce. I knew something of William Wilberforce the architect of reform leading to the abolishment of slavery but nothing of Samuel.
Research revealed Samuel to be the third son, of four, of William. He was born in 1805. I discovered that Samuel became well known as one of the foremost public speakers of his day. He was well known as “Soapy Sam” and best remembered for his opposition to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
During speeches Samuel apparently had the habit of wringing his hands in the manner of hand washing this gesture was included in a cartoon published in Vanity Fair it is believed this led to the nickname Soapy Sam.
Samuel’s education included a significant grounding in religious teachings. He gained a place at Oriel College, Oxford and joined The United Debating Society (the forerunner of The Oxford Debating Society) this gave him his grounding in public speaking. Samuel left Oxford in 1826 with degrees in maths and classics. During the next three years he travelled on the continent and married the daughter of a rector.
In 1829 he was ordained as a priest his theological career progressed rapidly and he held many senior ecclesiastic appointments including appointments to Prince Albert and Queen Victoria. He was influential at the Royal Court.
Samuel became an effective public speaker his oration was both religiously and politically based. He held a number of controversial views including the politics of Catholic Emancipation. He is best known for his opposition to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution particularly that humans and apes shared common ancestors. Samuels’s opposition was not, as may be assumed, based on religious beliefs but on scientific arguments presented by certain of Darwin’s scientific colleges who refuted the theory.
Why is there a Memorial in Abinger?
In July 1873 Samuel was on his way to visit William Gladstone at Holmbury St. Mary he was involved in a riding accident the injuries sustained led to his death. The memorial marks the location of the incident.
ESW will be delighted to welcome you on their walks – do visit the web site to make you selection. There are walks to suit all abilities.