Eyton, Thomas Campbell (DNB00)

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EYTON, THOMAS CAMPBELL (1809–1880), naturalist, twenty-third heir in direct male descent of the well-known Shropshire family, was born at Eyton 10 Sept. 1809. His father was Thomas Eyton, esq. (1777–1855), recorder of Wenlock, and high sheriff of Shropshire in 1840. His mother was Mary, daughter of Major-general Donald Campbell. He took up the study of natural history at an early age, and became the friend and correspondent of Charles Darwin, Agassiz, Asa Gray, Wallace, Professor Owen, and other naturalists. About 1842 he instituted and conducted the ‘Herd Book of Hereford Cattle,’ and continued its publication to 1860, when Mr. T. Duckham became its editor. In his own yacht and at his own expense, he conducted an investigation for the government into the oyster fisheries of the British islands, the results of which he published in ‘A History of the Oyster and the Oyster Fisheries,’ 1858, illustrated by finely drawn lithographs from his own dissections. In 1836 he published his ‘History of the Rarer British Birds,’ with woodcuts which have been compared with Bewick's for fidelity. These were the work of a local engraver on wood, named Marks. In the same year appeared his ‘Catalogue of British Birds,’ and in 1838 his elaborate ‘Monograph of the Anatidæ, or Duck Tribe.’ On coming into possession of the family estate in 1855 Eyton built a spacious museum at Eyton, in which he formed one of the finest collections of skins and skeletons of birds in Europe. The skeletons were mostly prepared and mounted by his own hands. Eyton was a keen sportsman, and hunted the Shropshire hounds for several seasons. All his life he was an active magistrate, and in 1859 was the pioneer of the volunteer movement in Shropshire, in the yeomanry cavalry of which county he had previously held a commission. In addition to the works mentioned Eyton published, through Mr. Hobson of Wellington, between 1871 and 1878: ‘Osteologia Avium,’ a voluminous work on the skeletons of birds, illustrated from the specimens in his own museum; ‘Eyton's Catalogue of Species of Birds in his possession’ (London, 1858), ‘A Synopsis of the Duck Tribe’ (Wellington, 1869), ‘Fishing Literature,’ ‘Fox-hunting Literature,’ ‘Observations on Ozone,’ ‘Notes on Scent,’ and catalogues of the drawings, engravings, and portraits at Eyton, and of the skeletons of birds in his museum. His last publication was a supplement to his fine work ‘Osteologia Avium,’ in 1878. He took especial pleasure to help fellow-students in natural science. Though a firm opponent of the Darwinian theory, his friendship with its author continued to his death; but he was much chagrined at finding some of his own observations on the habits of pigeons used by Darwin in support of the hypothesis of natural selection. Eyton died 25 Oct. 1880. He married, 13 May 1835, Elizabeth Frances, daughter and coheiress of Robert Aglionby Slaney, long M.P. for Shrewsbury, by whom he had seven children. A daughter, Miss Charlotte Eyton, was author of several works on scientific subjects, such as ‘The Rocks of the Wrekin,’ and ‘By Fell and Flood.’

[Art. by present writer in Shropshire Standard for October 1880; private information.]

R. A.