Charles Darwin was born at 'The Mount' in Shropshire, UK on 12 February 1809 and probably did more than any other man to shape modern thought. At the time of his birth it was thought that the Earth had suddenly been created in 4004 BC and that its form and the creatures that lived upon it had not changed since its creation. At the time of his death on the 19 April 1882 most thinking men appreciated that species had evolved over many millions of years by the process of natural selection. This transformation was as a direct result of the work of Charles Darwin. In his books 'The Origin of Species' (1859) and 'The Descent of Man' he set before the Victorian public his lifetime's research.
In addition to his considerable contribution to the sum of human knowledge in botany and biology, he also laid the foundations for disciplines such as ecology, anthropology and ethnology. This is all rather strange as Charles Darwin, by all accounts, wasted his time both at Shrewsbury Shropshire School and at university, Edinburgh and Cambridge. Through a stroke of good fortune he was invited to join HMS Beagle on a voyage of discovery as companion to Captain Fitzroy. It was on this voyage that Darwin decided to become a naturalist, a decision that changed the world.
His father, Dr. Robert Darwin, built the mansion where Charles Darwin was born, in 1809. Dr. Darwin was a local doctor of St. John's Hill but he also acted as a money lender to some of the best County families of the day and at the time of his death held mortgages far beyond the confines of Shropshire. He married Susannah Wedgwood elder daughter of Josiah Wedgwood and with his wife's handsome dowry purchased land on the Shrewsbury hill we know as The Mount. Dr. Robert Darwin first built a small house, 'Mount Cottage' (1790) and lived in it whilst planning and building his estate, a substantial house and grounds overlooking the river Severn known as 'Darwin's House'. A London journalist writing in 1871 described the estate, 'their gardens and ground became known for the choicest shrubs and flowers'...'petted and reared animals roamed the grounds of beauty of The Mount pigcons was well known in the town and far beyond'. When Dr. Darwin retired in 1832 he devoted himself to natural history. He had some difficulty getting about as by 1844 he was said to weigh 22 stone. Dr. Darwin was chairman of the trustees of Millington's Hospital and at some point a doorway was cut in the wall opposite his drive so he could more easily attend meetings. James Millington, a wealthy draper of Dog Lane (now Claremont Street) founded Millington's Hospital in 1748; it was endowed for the purpose of providing cottage homes for twelve poor people and a school for twenty boys and twenty girls from Frankwell.
Natural history seems to have been a family passion for Charles Darwin's paternal grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, who had been in his day a well-known figure - surgeon, naturalist and poet and his most famous book, 'Zoonomia', had contained evolutionary ideas. It is fascinating to speculate that the young Charles Darwin, must have been inspired not only by the interests of his father and grandfather but also by the variety of flora and fauna to be found along the banks of the River Severn and meadows that run adjacent to The Mount in Shrewsbury, UK.
Following the voyage of the Beagle, Charles Darwin returned to England in 1836 and set about recording his ideas about the changeability of species. Although he lived in London, he was a frequent visitor to The Mount and it is believed that some of this early work on 'The Origin of Species' was done here. In 1839, he married his cousin Emma Wedgwood and eventually moved to Down House, near Orpington, Kent. In 1859 'Origin of Species' was published and the world changed. We are proud of our most famous son and pleased to have had the opportunity to erect and information plaque on the wall by the entrance to Darwin's House.