Yorkshire Dales

© Craven & Pendle Geological Society

Adam Sedgwick Memorial in Dent

Adam Sedgwick of Dent

The picturesque village of Dent was the birthplace of one of the pioneers of modern geology - Adam Sedgwick. His pioneering work in the Lower Palaeozoics laid the foundations for modern study.  Since 1985 Dent has had a "Sedgwick Geological Trail". This was setup to commemorate the bicentenary of the celebrated Yorkshire Dales geologist. Inside St. Andrew's church on the wall there is the following inscription:

A. Raistrick wrote:

“The whole monument is a moving and dramatic gesture by a people who rarely show their emotions, who fear and distrust high flown speech and polished phrases and who give their allegiance to things which endure. In effect they say what is perfectly true - that their fellow Dalesman, Adam Sedgwick is great enough to need no exposition of his greatness, his name lives among all generations.”

A little bit of history

Dent was originally a Celtic community. Eventually it was taken over by the Irish Norse Vikings. Although in 1066 the Normans conquered south and mid England they didn’t arrive in Dent Dale until much later. The church is in fact a Norman church and was built in the 12th century.

A gentleman Sidgwick came to Dent Dale in the mid 16th century. The family changed their surname to the more acceptable spelling of Sedgwick about 1766. Adam's father, the Reverend Richard Sedgwick, was educated at Dent Grammar School, Sedburgh School and St. Catherines Hall, Cambridge. He graduated in 1760, was ordained in 1764 and became curate at Amwell, Hoddesden, Hertfordshire. His first wife Catherine died and their only child died in her ninth year. He married again to a Margaret Sturgas who gave him 7 children: Margaret (1782), Thomas (1783), Adam (1785), Isabel (1787), Ann (1789), John (1791) and Jane (1794). Richard Sedgwick lived to be 93 years old after retiring to Flintergill, above Dent. His academic ability and drive was especially admired particularly by his son Adam.

Adam Sedgwick appears to have had a happy family life enjoying a great deal of freedom. He and Isabella were very close and he missed her when she died in 1823 at only 36 years old. He attended the local school and gained a reputation with the villagers as a bright dependable boy known with characteristic terseness as “Adam o’the Parsons”.

Adam Sedgwick went to the local Dent Grammar School and when the headmaster left he was taught by his father. During these early years he would come into contact with a John Dawson of Garsdale, a brilliant shepherd mathematician whose visits promoted lively intellectual discussions in the family. John Dawson later became physician and surgeon for the area in Sedburgh. Adam Sedgwick was sent to Sedburgh School at 16 years in 1799 under the Rev. William Stevens. Much of the success of Stevens’s pupils was due to the presence of John Dawson in Sedburgh. In 1804 Adam Sedgwick went to Cambridge and graduated in 1808 when he was classed as 5th Wrangler and in 1809 he was elected to a Fellowship in Trinity College.

Sedgwick Trail

There 12 localities altogether that focus on the fascinating geology surrounding the Dent Fault in Garsdale. You will be observing outcrops adajacent to the River Clough - a distance of some 600 metres. In this section, besides seeing the Dent Fault, you will also be bale to observe the relationship between the Carboniferous rocks and the Silurian rocks. The trail is based on material supplied by Dr. R. B. Rickards. Like many visitors to Dent I also had to have a photo taken next to the Sedgwick monument! (27 May 2006).

Distance: 1.5 kilometres
Time:  About 1.5 hours
Terrain: Rough, slippery, moderate gradients, boots.
Route: Private farmland, keep to marked route. No dogs
Location: Longstone Common
Map Reference: GR 695 912
Sheet Reference: Sheet 98 in O.S. 1:50 000 Landranger Series
Parking: Available