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George Bolam

(1859-1934) A highly regarded naturalist of the region who published books on the birds of Northumberland and co-founded the Northern Naturalist’s Union. We have a remarkable archive collection about his life and work.

Born on Tyneside, he was employed from 1877 as a Land Agent in Berwick, Northumberland, a position which allowed him to pursue his natural history interests. He was a highly regarded figure in the Natural History Society for his skills as an ornithologist but also as an all round naturalist, marine biologist and writer, publishing Birds of Northumberland and the Eastern Borders in 1912.

Bolam was a co-founder of the Northern Naturalist’s Union in 1915 and contributed a paper to the Transactions of the Natural History Society A Catalogue of the Birds of Northumberland in 1932.

He later retired to Alston in Cumbria, where he carried on his interest in rock gardening with the assistance of his colleague Randle Blair Cooke, a local horticulturist of some note.

The Society’s archive has a remarkable collection of Bolam’s diaries and notes providing a wealth of biographical and natural history information.

List of George Bolam material held in the Society Archives

Black and white photographic portrait of George Bolam

Taken on the 8th June 1929, by T R Goddard as published in Hickling, G. “The Natural History Society of Northumbria. 1929-1979.” Trans nat Hist Soc. Northumb. Vol. 45, 1980.


A Catalogue of The Birds of Northumberland (1932) by George Bolam

Manuscript of the catalogue published in the Transactions of the Natural History Society Vol VIII 1932. Includes an unpublished reference to Abel Chapman. Loose leaved, foliated, indexed.


Catalogue of Birds (1873 – 1904) by George Bolam

Manuscript catalogue of bird specimens with details of collector, locality and date. List of mammal specimens at the back. Bound notebook, paginated and autographed.


Notes on Birds of Northumberland and the Eastern Borders, 9 Vols. (1891-1933) by George Bolam

Manuscript ornithological notes for Bolam, G. (1912). Birds of Northumberland and the Eastern Borders. H. H. Blair, Alnwick giving local and personal records of sightings, also containing tipped in newspaper cuttings, photographs, drawings, feathers, letters and printed articles. Hardback notebooks, paginated, indexed and autographed, stored in nine filing boxes.


George Bolam’s Nature Diaries, 19 Volumes. (1877-1933)

Manuscript ornithological and natural history diaries, also containing poems, the genealogy of the Bolam family and pasted in newspaper cuttings, drawings, feathers, letters (including correspondence to and from Abel Chapman), photographs etc. Nineteen volumes rebound in 1982, indexed, plus one envelope of miscellaneous fragments from the diaries. Volume 18 contains a copy of Abel Chapman’s bequest. Volume 4 has a photograph of John Bolam (1760-1848) and the Bolam family tree.


George Bolam Diaries : Botanical Notes (c.1902 – 1931)

MS local and personal botanical records. Rebound in 1983.


Mammal Records of Northumberland (c.1878-1934) by George Bolam

MS notes on the occurrence of mammal species in Northumberland giving historical and personal records. Contains correspondence from Abel Chapman. Loose leaved, foliated, indexed, various enclosures including, reprints of papers, notes, letters, newspaper cuttings and photographs.


Paper on Bats. (1924) by George Bolam

Reprint of Bolam’s paper on Bats published in the Transactions of the Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne – New Series Vol VI., Part 1. Annotated by Bolam. To view a scan of this paper, please click here.


The Lepidoptera of Northumberland and the Eastern Borders by George Bolam.

The History of the Berwickshire Naturalists’ Club Vols. 26-27. (1928-1930)

Three copies of offprint’s presented to Randle Blair Cooke. Autographed by Bolam.

Manuscript letter from Bolam to Cooke dated 25th March 1931, tipped in.