Sunday, March 10, 2013

The man who invented the bank holiday kept a pet wasp

Caricature of John Lubbock
from Punch, 1882,
via Wikipedia.
Heritage! The Battle for Britain's Past is available on iPlayer for a limited time and well worth catching while you can. It details the nineteenth-century heroes who realised something must be done to stop the destruction of our old buildings and green spaces, and led to the establishment of the National Trust.

Among the heroes was John Lubbock MP (1834-1913), who I'd not heard of before. A pupil of Darwin's (having grown up near Down House), Lubbock later named an insect after him. Lubbock also introduced the first bank holiday, kept a pet wasp, got insects drunk to see if they recognised each other and claimed to have taught his dog to read.

He coined the terms "neolithic" and "paleolithic" and bought the site of Avebury to save the ancient stone circle there from destruction. Many of his prehistoric finds are on show in Bromley Museum, which I shall now be making a trip to.

Later, Lubbock became the first Lord Avebury - and his grandson sits on the Liberal Democrat benches in the House of Lords.

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