The Collinson Collection

The Collinson Collection consists of three volumes of detailed watercolours of the flora of Northumberland and Durham.  The albums are catalogued as being by Richard Collinson, and his name appears on their title pages.

Richard Collinson was the son of the vicar of Gateshead.  He joined the Navy at an early age and left the North East, later becoming well known for his work in Arctic exploration and ending his career as Admiral Sir Richard Collinson. He is probably most famous for being in charge of a squadron that, while searching for the Franklin Expedition, was the first to traverse the Northwest Passage.

Richard Collinson may have given the albums to the library, but the identity of the artist is not known.  Collinson himself was away at sea when some of them were prepared and was only 12 years old when the earliest dated one was drawn.

Against some of the species is the name of the donor, or collector of the flower.  The name Miss Collinson appears against a few, indicating a connection by family or friendship.  Two names are represented by initials: these are M.D. and F.D.

A large number of flowers originated in the Whitburn region.  Although it is tempting to suppose ‘M.D.’ to be Charles Dodgson’s sister (one of Whitburn’s most famous residents), she was not born when the first drawings were made.  The most likely candidates are the Misses Margaret Dale and Frances Dale, who (according to directories) lived in Whitburn over the whole period covered by the albums.