Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Southwell, Thomas

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1560768Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement, Volume 3 — Southwell, Thomas1912James Hooper

SOUTHWELL, THOMAS (1831–1909), naturalist, born at King's Lynn on 15 June 1831, was son of Charles Elmer Southwell, chief cashier at the Lynn branch of Gurney's bank (now Barclay's), by his wife Jane Castell. After private education at Lynn, Southwell entered the service of Gurney & Co. there (14 Sept. 1846). In 1852 he was transferred to Fakenham, and in November 1867 to the headquarters of the bank at Norwich, from which he retired in 1896 after fifty years' service.

Almost all his life was spent in Norfolk and all his leisure was devoted to the natural history of the county. He was also an authority on the topography and archæology of the fen district adjacent to his birthplace. When the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists' Society was founded in 1869 Southwell became an active member; he was president both in 1879 and 1893 and his contributions to the 'Transactions,' over one hundred in all, covered a wide range, and are mostly of permanent value. From his earliest years he showed a keen interest in birds. 'I have myself,' he wrote, 'talked with men who have taken the eggs of the avocet and black-tailed godwit, and who have seen the bustard at large in its last stronghold. The bittern was so common in Feltwell Fen that a keeper there has shot five in one day, and his father used to have one roasted for dinner every Sunday. I have found the eggs of Montagu's harrier, and know those who remember the time when the hen harrier and short-eared owl bred regularly in Roydon Fen, and who have taken the eggs of the water-rail in what was once Whittlesea Mere.' He devoted much attention to the preservation of birds. For the educational series of the Society for the Protection of Birds he wrote papers on the swallow (No. 4), and the terns (No. 12). His most useful achievement was the completion of the 'Birds of Norfolk,' by Henry Stevenson, F.L.S., of which the earlier volumes had been published (1866–1870). Stevenson died on 18 Aug. 1888, and in 1890 Southwell brought out the third volume, thus completing 'a model county ornithology,' from letters and manuscripts left by the author, but largely supplemented by information supplied by himself.

In 1881 Southwell published 'The Seals and Whales of the British Seas' (sm. 4to), papers reprinted from ' Science Gossip.' From 1884 onwards he contributed annually to the 'Zoologist' a lucid report with authentic statistics on the seal and whale fisheries. He had been elected a fellow of the Zoological Society on 22 Feb. 1872, his proposer being Professor Alfred Newton [q. v. Suppl. II]. He closely identified himself with the work of the Norwich museum, serving on the committee from 1893, when the old museum was transferred to Norwich castle. He compiled an admirable official guide in 1896, and contributed an article entitled 'An Eighteenth Century Museum ' to the 'Museum Journal' in 1908. Southwell died at 10 The Crescent, Norwich, on 5 Sept. 1909. He married, on 15 June 1868, Margaret Fyson of Great Yarmouth (d. 10 July 1903), and by her had two daughters, who survived him.

Besides the works mentioned and many other contributions to periodicals, Southwell published a revised edition of the Rev. Richard Lubbock's 'Fauna of Norfolk' (1879; first published in 1845), and 'Notes and Letters on the Natural History of Norfolk, more especially on the Birds and Fishes' (1902), from Sir Thomas Browne's MSS. in the British Museum and the Bodleian Library.

[Eastern Daily Press, 6 Sept. 1909; Field, 11 Sept. 1909; Trans. Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists' Soc, ix. 134 (with portrait); Annals of an East Anglian Bank, 1900, p. 347; Ibis, 1910, p. 191; private information.]

J. H.