Blue Plaque for William Lyons, #YearoftheSea

Posted by Tenby Museum on Jul 24, 2018 Blog No Comments

A new blue plaque has been erected outside Tenby Museum to celebrate the life of William Lyons.  The plaque was funded by a grant from the Royal Society.

William Lyons was born in 1766. He formed a fine collection of British marine and freshwater shells, which was donated to Tenby Museum by two of his daughters, Jane and Sarah, in 1878, the year of the museum’s formation.

The collection contains shells from all over Britain, including Tenby. One shell he found here was a small pearl-white bivalve. It was sent to Colonel George Montagu* who named it Mya striata but in 1822 Dr William Turton** placed it as a new genus stating, “We have dedicated it to our worthy correspondent, Mr W. Lyons of Tenby, who first presented it to the notice of the British naturalist.” The shell then became known as Lyonsia striata until William MacGillivray showed that it was identical with a northern European species which German naturalist Johann Friedrich Gmelin (1748 – 1804) had in 1781 described as Mya norwegica. In accordance with the rules observed for scientific names the correct form then became and still remains Lyonsia norwegica.

William Lyons died in 1849, aged 83. He left behind a widow, Sarah, who died in 1860 aged 92. They had 12 children. There is a memorial window to the family in St Anne’s Chapel in St Mary’s Tenby.   Sarah Lyons and daughters Jane and Catherine Ann are buried in the old cemetery on Narberth Road.

*Colonel George Montagu (1753 – 1815) is one of the British naturalists who established the foundation of modern scientific study. One of his most important works was Testacea Britannica: a Natural History of British shells, marine, land and fresh-water, including the most minute: systematically arranged and embellished with figures (1803).

**William Turton (1762 – 1835) was an English naturalist who published several illustrated shell books and a translation of Gmelin’s edition of Linnaeus’ Systema Naturae in 1806.