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Hudleston [formerly Simpson], Wilfrid Hudlestonlocked

  • R. J. Cleevely

Hudleston [formerly Simpson], Wilfrid Hudleston (1828–1909), naturalist and geologist, was born on 2 June 1828 at St Martin, Coney Street, York, the eldest son of John Simpson (d. 1867), a Knaresborough physician, and his wife, Elizabeth Ward, the heir of the Hudlestons of Cumberland through her mother, Eleanor Hudleston. After early education at St Peter's School, York, Wilfrid Hudleston Simpson moved to Uppingham School and subsequently entered St John's College, Cambridge. Following his BA graduation, in 1850, he began reading law and was called to the bar in 1853, but never practised.

At Cambridge a youthful interest in ornithology led to an association with Alfred Newton and participation in expeditions to Northumberland, Cumberland, and north-west Ireland. The 1850s were spent on other bird collecting expeditions to Scandinavia (1855), Algeria (1857), Greece and Turkey (1859–60), and Switzerland (1861). In 1862–7 Simpson studied the natural sciences, initially at Edinburgh, and subsequently at the Royal School of Chemistry in London. A chance meeting with Marshall Hall at Chamonix in 1866 and the influence of Professor John Morris persuaded him to pursue geology rather than chemistry. In 1867 his family assumed the surname of Hudleston by royal licence, and inherited the estates of his mother's family.

Hudleston was elected a fellow of the Geological Society in 1867, served on council for five terms until his death, was secretary in 1869–90 and president from 1892 to 1894. He was also very active with the Geologists' Association, which he joined in 1871; he was secretary from 1874 to 1877 and president (1881–3), and his inclination for field studies resulted in his writing numerous accounts of its excursions. Early papers on the Yorkshire oolites (1873–8) and Corallian Rocks of England (1877), the first major work on the subject, published with his friend J. F. Blake, established Hudleston's geological reputation. He was also one of the editors of the Geological Magazine in 1886–1901. Among other offices, he was president of the Mineralogical Society (1881–3), and of section C (geology) of the British Association for its meeting in Bristol, 1898. All his presidential addresses were succinct reviews that made a significant contribution to their subject. In 1894 he evaluated the work of the Geological Society, a task which had the potential to upset many egos, and which Hudleston himself compared to 'a man trying to lift up a beehive' (Hudleston, 142). However, he accomplished the appraisal with such perfect judgement that others believed it should be repeated every decade. He was also active in a number of other smaller scientific societies. Apparently he fulfilled his duties as a landowner and magistrate in Dorset and the West Riding with the same thoroughness.

Hudleston's publications in the early 1880s either described the geology of particular districts, satisfied his own predilection for 'chemical geology' (Woodward, PRS, viii), or were concerned with palaeontological descriptions. His monographs and papers on Mesozoic gastropoda, often based on his own collection, are still the only significant British work in this field. Although he was awarded the Geological Society's Wollaston medal in 1897 for his valuable contributions to all aspects of geology, particular reference was made to the value of his Palaeontographical Society monograph The Inferior Oolite Gasteropoda (1897). Later, Hudleston's knowledge of Jurassic faunas, together with evidence from east African geology, disproved theories on the marine origin of the Lake Tanganyika mollusca (1904). An interest in marine mollusca had prompted a joint venture with Henry Woodward and C. E. Robinson during 1886 and 1887, to study their ecology in the English Channel. Later, in 1893, Hudleston was one of the ten founder members of the Malacological Society. Shortly before his death he provided the site and capital for the establishment of the Dove Marine Biological Laboratory at Cullercoats, Northumberland.

Private resources allowed Hudleston to indulge his varied scientific interests: 'He stood out as one of the few left of “a good old school”, men of fortune, who … did no amateurish work … and turned attention … to questions of importance … in the advancement of science' (Watts, 136). His professional contemporaries all attested to the untiring energy that was seen in his official service for many scientific societies. The list of his publications indicates his diverse interests and overall capability. Hudleston amassed a fossil collection that, apart from confirming his meticulous curation, was probably unsurpassed at that time for recording the precise provenance of its specimens. Together with an extensive field knowledge, it allowed him to make a significant contribution to British Jurassic palaeontology especially through his papers (1880–81), monographs (1887–97), and contribution to the Catalogue of British Jurassic Gasteropoda (1892). His acute critical facility and geological insight often enabled him to interpret difficult strata, for example in the north-west highlands and in India.

Hudleston did not marry until late in life, although he had two illegitimate children (William and Florence Herbert) with Emma Tuck (otherwise Emma Herbert or Emma Rix). In 1890 he married Rose Matilda Heywood, second daughter of William Heywood Benson of Little Thorpe, Ripon. She accompanied him to India in 1895, when they visited the north-west frontier, crossed the Punjab, and reached the eastern end of the Salt range. A keen sportsman, in 1897 Hudleston bought the East Stoke estate in Dorset for the shooting. Tall, spare, and strongly built, Hudleston enjoyed good health throughout his life. His last years were spent at West Holme, near Wareham, where he died on 29 January 1909 after suffering a heart attack on returning from a walk.


  • [H. Woodward], ‘Eminent living geologists: Wilfrid Hudleston Hudleston’, Geological Magazine, new ser., 5th decade, 1 (1904), 431–8
  • W. J. Sollas, Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, 65 (1909), lxi–lxiii
  • W. W. Watts, ‘The jubilee of the Geologists' Association’, Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, 21 (1910), 119–49
  • A. Bernie, ‘The inaugural chairman: W. H. Hudleston’, Bulletin of the Malacological Society of London, 23 (Aug 1994), 10–11
  • H. W. [H. Woodward], PRS, 81B (1909), vi–x
  • Mineralogical Magazine, 15 (1908–10), 265
  • Geological Magazine, new ser., 5th decade, 6 (1909), 143–4
  • H. S. Torrens, ‘Wilfred H. Hudleston’, Geological Curator, 2 (1977–80), 510, 513
  • W. H. Hudleston, Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, 49 (1893), 142


  • Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery
  • Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, Glasgow
  • U. Cam., Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences


  • Maull & Fox, photograph, GS Lond., Portrait Album, vol. 6, p. 43
  • photograph, repro. in Woodward, ‘Eminent living geologists’
  • portrait, repro. in Woodward, ‘Eminent living geologists’

Wealth at Death

£160,903 6s. 10d.: resworn probate, 3 April 1909, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

private collection
Geological Society of London
J. Venn & J. A. Venn, , 2 pts in 10 vols. (1922–54); repr. in 2 vols. (1974–8)
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London