Richardson, Richard (DNB00)

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RICHARDSON, RICHARD (1663–1741), botanist and antiquary, born at North Bierley on 6 Sept. 1663 and baptised at Bradford on 24 Sept., was the eldest son of William Richardson of North Bierley (1629–1667), who married at Elland in Halifax on 2 Aug. 1659 Susannah (d. 1708), daughter of Gilbert Savile of Greetland in that parish. The father died intestate, with assets not quite sufficient for the payment of his debts, but Richard, out of the landed estate, provided for his sister and younger brother.

Richard was educated at Bradford school, and on 20 June 1681 matriculated from University College, Oxford. He is said to have taken the degree of bachelor of physic at Oxford, but this statement appears doubtful. On 10 Nov. 1681 he was entered as a student at Gray's Inn, and probably divided his time for some years between London and the university. He matriculated at Leyden on 26 Sept. 1687, and lived for three years in the house of Paul Hermann, the eminent professor of botany. Boerhaave was among his fellow-students. His Latin thesis ‘De Febre Tertiana’ for a doctor's degree at Leyden on 13 March 1690 was printed, with a dedication to Richard Thornton, ‘amico et consanguineo suo.’ When he returned to England and settled on his property, he practised as M.D., but most of his professional services were rendered gratuitously.

With the ample means at his command, Richardson travelled much in England, Wales, and Scotland in search of rare botanical specimens, particularly of the cryptogamia class, and liberally patronised less wealthy collectors, like Samuel Brewer [q. v.] and Thomas Knowlton [q. v.] His garden on his estate at North Bierley was well stocked with curious plants, both indigenous and exotic, and his was considered the best collection in the north of England, if not in the whole country. He planted a seedling cedar of Lebanon, sent to him by Sir Hans Sloane, at Bierley Hall; the tree is conspicuous in the engravings of that place; and he constructed the second hothouse that was made in England. He also formed a very valuable library of botanical and historical works, which passed to his descendant, Miss Frances Mary Richardson-Currer [q. v.] of Eshton Hall, who inherited both the Richardson and Currer estates. She owned the two manuscript indexes which he drew up, one in 1696 and the other in 1737, of the plants in his garden. The earlier was ready for the press.

Richardson lived in close intimacy with Ralph Thoresby, and corresponded with Sir Hans Sloane, Dillenius, Gronovius, Petiver, and other prominent botanists and antiquaries. The bundles of his correspondence which belonged to Miss Currer occupied thirteen folio volumes, and would have filled eight thick octavo volumes of print. Many other letters are among the Sloane MSS. at the British Museum and the documents at the Royal Society. Numerous letters to and from him are printed in Nichols's ‘Illustrations of Literature’ (vols. i. iii. and iv.) and in Sir J. E. Smith's ‘Selection of the Correspondence of Linnæus and other Naturalists’ (ii. 130–90). Dawson Turner edited for Miss Currer, in 1835, a privately printed volume of ‘Extracts from the Literary and Scientific Correspondence of Richard Richardson, M.D.’ He was elected F.R.S. in 1712, and contributed to the Royal Society's ‘Transactions’ several papers on antiquities in Lancashire and Yorkshire (for the titles see Watt's ‘Bibliotheca Britannica.’). Richardson's letter to Hearne, on some antiquities in Yorkshire (1712), is printed in Hearne's edition of Leland's ‘Itinerary’ (ed. 1712, ix. 142–9); he permitted Hearne to print several manuscripts in his possession.

Richardson died at Bierley on 21 April 1741, and was, as he had directed, buried in Cleckheaton chapel in Birstal, which he had rebuilt. A monument with a Latin inscription was erected to his memory. He married, at Luddenden chapel in Halifax on 9 Feb. 1699–1700, Sarah, only daughter and heiress of John Crossley of Kershaw House, Halifax. She died in childbed on 21 Oct. 1702, and was buried in Bradford church on 25 Oct. An infant son did not long survive (Sir W. Calverley's Notebook, Surtees Soc. lxxvii. 85, 88). His second wife, whom he married at Kildwick in Craven on 27 Dec. 1705, was Dorothy, second daughter of Henry Currer. She was born in 1687, died on 5 Jan. 1763, and was buried in Cleckheaton chapel. Of her twelve children, seven survived.

Dillenius, in the preface (p. vii) to the third edition of John Ray's ‘Synopsis Methodica Stirpium Britannicarum,’ distinguishes Richardson and Sherard as the two men who, by repeated botanical investigations through England, had most enlarged the list of its plants, and fixed the habitats of specimens previously unsettled. Dillenius also makes grateful mention in his ‘Historia Muscorum’ (1741, Pref. p. viii) of Richardson's services in collecting mosses. Linnæus called a plant after him.

A portrait of Richardson belonged to Miss Currer. A print from it, by Basire, is in Nichols's ‘Illustrations of Literature’ (i. 225); another print from it, by Graf and Soret, is prefixed to his ‘Correspondence’ (1835); and a third, by W. O. Geller, is in James's ‘Bradford’ (p. 388).

[Foster's Alumni Oxon; Foster's Gray's Inn Reg. p. 331; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. i. 231–52; Pulteney's Botanical Sketches, ii. 185–7; James's Bradford, pp. 324–7, 388–93, and Continuation, App. pp. i–iv; Whitaker's Craven, ed. 1878, pp. 121, 122, 212–13, with view of Bierley Hall and pedigree; Whitaker's Leeds, pp. 357–8; Stewart's Cat. of Library at Eshton Hall, pp. 94, 431, 437.]

W. P. C.