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Who was Scrope?

Tom Winnifrith
Thursday 30 August 2012

The building behind my restaurant in London ( the excellent Real Man Pizza Company ) where I am sitting right now is a rather grim Peabody housing block called Scrope Buildings. Who or what was Scrope? It sounds like a cross between Grope and Scrotum and as we are not that far from Islington I suppose that is possible. George Julius Poulett Scrope (1797 – 1876) who was one of those folks who made the Victorian age so fascinating.

Born George Poulett Thompson, he was educated at Harrow ( he overcome that hurdle which has made men like Zak Mir and Dru Edmonstone barely literate and numerate) and then went to Oxford but quickly left to go to an inferior seat of learning in the Fenland swamps. At “the other place” he became fascinated by geology and particularly volcanoes.

After leaving the University in the swamps, he married an heiress the daughter of William Scrope of Castle Combe, Wiltshire and promptly took her name. 12 years later he became MP for Stroud, holding his seat until 1868. But his main interest was still volcanoes and in 1825 he published his opus magnus, Considerations on Volcanoes and a year later he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. This work was later republished in 1862 with the title Volcanoes. In 1827 he published his second great work Memoir on the Geology of Central France, including the Volcanic formations of Auvergne, the Velay and the Vivarais. Snappy title. This was republished in 1858 as The Geology and extinct Volcanos of Central France. He also wrote a number of other books including The History of the Manor and Ancient Barony of Castle Combe (1852).

And his memory lives on via a grim social housing block in Clerkenwell. Of course there might be another famous Scrope who is blessed with this memorial. But the Volcano loving MP does seem a fascinating sort of fellow, from another age.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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