The Papers of the Sedgwick Club

Scope and Content

The Sedgwick Club Archive contains administrative documents including minute books, 1880-1926; financial records, 1880-1989; handwritten copies of papers given at meetings, 1880-; excursion scrapbooks, 1882 to 1950; social events records including menu cards; copies of club photographs 1900-1974 [most of the originals are still on display in Cambridge University Department of Earth Sciences] and digitized access copies of all group photographs.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Sedgwick Club was founded in memory of Professor Adam Sedgwick in 1880 and still meets today. At the first meeting on Saturday 13th March 1880 in rooms at St John’s College, it was resolved that a club should be formed; ‘the object of the club be to promote the study of geology by the reading and discussion of papers thereof’.

The club was originally very exclusive with only 10 members (increased to 12 plus upto 6 women in January 1896). Temporary members had to be introduced and then balloted for- which had to be unanimous.

Almost every year after its foundation the Sedgwick Club run yearly field excursions and from these trips sets of notes, photos, sketches, maps and diagrams were created. Many of the albums also contain telegrams sent to the group detailing sporting outcomes including the Oxbridge boat race and cricket matches.

The annual field trip has been subsequently replaced by the "Magical Mystery Tour" in modern times, which involves a weekend excursion at the beginning of Lent term (October) to an unknown location.

In the early days of the club's history papers were read at meetings by undergraduates. This was later extended to include research students, faculty members and in recent times outside speakers. These were deposited in the Sedgwick Club tin trunk, which is still in use today. The papers appear to be quite long, and according to the minutes there appeared to be a high level of discussion which followed them.

Many famous people have passed through the Club. Miss Gertie Elles is famous for her study of Graptolites and how they could be used to demonstrate how detailed morphology, on well controlled palaeontological sequences, could be made to reveal refined stratigraphic results. Miss Elles took part in many of the Club's annual field trips and appears throughout her life in many of the journals and photo albums. Other distinguished members include: Dr John Edward Marr, famous for his work on the Lake District; Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes who supervised the building of the Sedgwick Museum; Dr Alfred Harker a petrologist whose collection is the backbone of the Harker Collection of Rocks and Minerals held in the museum; Professor William Watts, President of Imperial University of Science and Technology 1934-1936; and Sir David Attenborough, broadcaster and naturalist.

In 1996 the Club performed an exchange with a student group of Geologists in Suriname called GEM. Unfortunately GEM were unable to return the visit and the scheme collapsed. However, the plaque to commemorate this visit is displayed in the Department of Earth Sciences John Watson Building Stones Gallery to this day.

In the Michaelmas and Lent terms the Sedgwick Club hosts a series of weekly talks about different aspects of geology. The talks are held in the Harker Lecture rooms in the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge.

Current club membership gets members free entry to talks and exclusive access to a Facebook group where details of Sedgwick Club social events (curries, pizza nights, nights out) are posted. Members can also attend the Magical Mystery Tour weekend.

The club has a website which was created in 1998 by Liam McGee, and later redesigned by Bob Myhill. The current design is by Simon Matthews (2013).


There was no clear original order of the Club records. They were found in chronological order in map cabinets by the Archivist in 2010.

The collection has been provisionally arranged into 4 series to reflect the records and work undertaken by the Sedgwick Club in the past and today.

  • SGWC 1 Administration and Committee
  • SGWC 2 Events
  • SGWC 3 Publications
  • SGWC 4 Photographs

Access Information

The papers are open for consultation by researchers using Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences. However, as the papers have not been appraised, there may be some closures.

The Geological Conservation Unit [Brighton Building] is open from Monday to Friday, 10:00-13:00 and 14:00-17:00. A prior appointment made at least two weeks in advance, and two forms of identification are required.

Please contact the Museum at to ask about the collection or to make an appointment.

Other Finding Aids

The DDF Archive Inventory spreadsheet is available which contains basic box listing entries for the legacy records of the Sedgwick Museum and Department of Earth Sciences.

Please ask staff for further information.

Alternative Form Available

There are digital copies of all the Sedgwick Club group photographs (taken yearly outside the Museum building), 1885-2013. Please ask staff for access.

Archivist's Note

This collection level description was created by Sandra Marsh and Dr Lyall Anderson of Sedgwick Museum in January 2011 using information from the papers themselves, including a centenary speech made by Roy Porter in 1980. A condition report of the papers was written by Rebecca Bridge [Conservation MA Student] in May 2011.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies, photographs, and printouts from scanned images may be provided. Charges may apply. Readers may also use their own digital cameras subject to copyright legislation and in-house rules.

Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Sedgwick Museum Staff.

Please cite as Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, The Papers of the Sedgwick Club, SGWC.

Custodial History

Club records were recovered from the Museum attic stores by the Conservator, Ms Sarah Finney between 2003-2010, and later transferred to the Geological Conservation Unit, Madingley Road Cambridge.

The records were repackaged into 34 conservation grade boxes during the DDF Archive project (2010-2011).


More records are expected to be transfered from the current Sedgwick Club committee. These may include digital records such as publications and images of events and excursions.

Related Material

There are photographs of some expeditions in the albums of Edwin Peters (ref: PTRS) and Tressilian Charles Nicholas (ref: NCLS).

Personal Names