First published on my Waterton’s Walton blog.
Charles Waterton is a famous figure who was an inspiration to naturalist Charles Darwin who revolutionised science. On one occasion Darwin himself was Waterton’s guest at Walton Hall. Waterton is, in his own right, internationally significant in the history of science.
England’s most important historical attribute is that it was the world’s first industrialised society. Waterton helps place Walton right in the middle of the Industrial Revolution, a global historical turning point that began in the north of England and set off reverberations down the ages and across continents and impacts on daily life even today.
Waterton’s philosophy was a direct reaction to the negative impact of this revolution in human progress. It provided a message about how we can better manage this progress for the benefit of both humankind and the natural environment. It is therefore a message directly relevant to the challenges of our own time. Walton was one of the first places in the world where there were serious attempts to mitigate some of its negative consequences.
It was on his estate at Walton Hall that he created the world’s first nature reserve. This made Walton an important place in the history of environmentalism and as such it can be seriously argued that Walton was the village where nature and industry first met.
What happened in Walton in the early days of industry is something that has modern relevance. It is also something that could link the hard-working ordinary people of Walton’s industrial past to profound events that transformed our world. Due to its place in the industrial revolution Walton could exemplify the transition from an agricultural to an industrial society. This is of equal significance to the period when agriculture first emerged in the Fertile Crescent of the Near East which led to the development of the first cities. The transition from agriculture to industry is surely of equal interest as the transition from hunter gatherer to agriculture based societies.
It is the presence of Charles Waterton that helps differentiate Walton from other ex-mining villages and is something that makes the history of the village of much wider public interest.