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Letter NEWHM:1996H67.1223

Henry C St John to John Hancock (5 August 1877)

St John communicates with Hancock while on holiday in South Wales. He is considering publishing his notes on the natural history of Japan from his recent voyage and asks Hancock for further information on his specimens. He informs Hancock that the Japanese Giant Spider Crab specimen has arrived safely at his home in Thornbury and he will send it to Newcastle for the new museum of Natural History which Hancock is in the process of planning.



7 Rock House


5. Augt. 77


My dear Hancock

We are all now at the above address — until the end of September enjoying the sea –The coast round to Seaward is wild & interesting –The Puffin, Razorbill etc Guillemot breed in the neighbourhood. I saw numbers of these birds as I went round in a small steamer to visit some large rocks — Their eggs are to be had at 6d. each. I believe there are lots sold for that price — the buyers being visitors.

The country is rougher and wilder than I expected — [p.2]  I want you to tell me the proper name of that pretty rose coloured Finch — and is the Red Kingfisher Halcyon Coromanda major — with or without the Alcedo –

I am putting my notes in some sort of Ship shape order with perhaps the intention of by and by publishing them — How about going to the Orkneys next spring –  By the way have you yet had that piece of stone tested & what is the metal within — The corn will soon be off the ground where it is found & if worth the trouble I will have a look for it –

One of my Boys at school in Hertfordshire got one of the prettiest eggs I ever saw. [p.3] About the size of a Robins, Dark Olive Brown ground colour with still darker splotches giving it a marbled look –

It was found in the hole of a tree and I fancy some distance from the ground. The egg is nearly as dark as the nightingale’s I don’t know it — The Crab has arrd.[arrived] at home, I trust in good condition — directly I reach Stokefield I will send it off — and hope it will some day adorn your new museum how is that building progressing or how soon do you think you will start it.

Adieu. | With kind regards, | Y[ou]rs. sin,ly[sincerely] | H.C. St. John [signature]



[p.4] 1877 Capt H. St. John RN [John Hancock’s Hand]




Henry St John writes to Hancock from 7 Rock House in Tenby now known as East Rock House, a Grade II listed large end terrace building. Other famous visitors included Admiral Lord Nelson and the Hamilton’s in 1802.

ST JOHN's Kingfisher ©NHSN

The Ruddy Kingfisher – sketch by St John in his book ‘Notes and sketches from the wild coasts of Nipon’.

1. The Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda major, which has a distribution from Japan to Korea and North East China.


2. The specimen of the Japanese Spider Crab intended for the New Museum of Natural History at Barras Bridge,Newcastle.

“Inachus Kaempferi” (Temmick, 1836) now known as the Japanese Spider Crab, Macrocheira kaempferia large marine crustacean still found in the waters around Japan.