William Burton, 1833 - 1915

Frederick William Patching, 1865 - 1917

by Brian Stevenson
last updated May, 2020

It is not clear how well William Burton and Frederick Patching knew each other, but they became linked through ownership of a microscope slide collection (Figure 1).

Burton was an avid amateur microscopist when he lived and worked in London, including almost 30 years’ membership in the Quekett Microscopical Club. Burton retired at the end of the 1890s, and moved to Worthing, Sussex, on the English Channel. His new home was a few minutes’ walk from Patching’s house, who soon acquired a number of Burton’s slides. Patching personalized them by gluing printed labels of his name over Burton’s. Yet Burton’s handwriting on the specimen descriptions, and his use of a distinctive plaid cover paper, leave no doubt about their maker. Patching does not appear to have joined any microscope clubs, although he evidently took to the hobby to the extent of writing notes on his newly-acquired slides (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Five microscope slides that were prepared by William Burton. The three on the left show his name on their printed labels - these were probably given to or traded with colleagues in the Quekett Microscopical Club. The two slides on the right have labels with Frederick Patching’s name glued over Burton’s name. With one exception, the handwriting is identical on all of these slides - the exception being the lower label on the far right slide, where a different hand wrote on a label that is printed with Patching’s name. Patching wrote, “Carpenter 1025”, which refers to page 1025 of the 1901, 8th edition of B.W. Carpenter’s “The Microscope and Its Revelations”. That edition is the only one in which description of this specimen appears on page 1025. Images from the author’s collection or adapted for nonprofit, educational purposes from internet auction sites.


Figure 2. Page 1025 of the 8th edition of B.W. Carpenter’s “The Microscope and Its Revelations”, 1901, which includes a picture of a transverse section of a Myliobates (eagle ray) tooth. Frederick Patching wrote a reference to this book on his slide of this specimen (See Figure 1).


William Burton

William was born on May 29, 1833, in West Ham, Essex, to Isaac and Mary Burton. The father was a “wine cooper”, that is, a maker of wine barrels.

Burton’s whereabouts for the next three decades are unclear. National censuses list someone who may have been him working various jobs in Essex. It is clear, however, that he had established himself in the London area by the mid-1860s. On January 11, 1868, William Burton, “warehouse man”, married Margaret Ryan at All Soul’s Church, St. Marylebone parish, Middlesex. The 1871 census listed the pair on Prince’s Street, London. William’s occupation was “draper’s warehouseman”, which earned an income that was sufficient to afford a domestic servant.

William’s wife, Margaret, died in 1885. They did have any children. After Margaret’s death, William’s unmarried sister, Caroline, and a young niece, Faith Huneberg, came to live with him.

Burton was elected to membership in the Quekett Microscopical Club on August 22, 1879. Throughout his membership, Burton gave his address as “27 Wigmore Street”. That was the address of Debenham and Freebody, who dealt in fabrics for making clothes.

Over the years, Burton exhibited large numbers of microscopical specimens at Club meetings and soirees. He also gave oral presentations, such as “A method of exhibiting pond life” in 1893, and “An aquatic hymenopterous insect” in 1895.

The 1897 QMC list of members gave William Burton’s address as 21 Manor Gardens, Holloway. This was the home of QMC colleague Frederick Enock, the famous professional slide-maker and entomologist. The next list of members, from 1899, showed Burton living in Worthing, Sussex. Most likely, Burton was in the process of retiring from work and moving his home when the 1897 membership list was drawn up, and was uncertain of his future address. So Enock offered his home to receive any post for Burton.

The 1899 QMC membership roll, and the 1901 census, listed William Burton at 26 Rowlands Road, Worthing. Burton’s name does not appear on any QMC membership lists after 1899. He evidently sold or gave away his slide collection soon afterward.

The 1901 census described him as “retired draper’s assistant”. the 1911 census listed him as “retired draper’s warehouseman and letting apartments”, providing a bit of extra income. Caroline and Faith remained with William through the end of his life. William died on January 17, 1915.


Frederick W. Patching

Frederick W. Patching lived his entire life in Worthing, Sussex. His father, Fredrick was a fairly successful builder, able to provide the family with live-in servants and wet-nurses for the infant children. The father died when only 40, in 1876. Nonetheless, young Frederick W. was sent to a boarding school in Surrey. His mother died in 1881, at the age of 42. The 1891 census shows F.W. Patching as the head of the household in Worthing, with his younger siblings, a maiden aunt, and a domestic servant. He was then working as a “Builder, Surveyor, Undertaker, &c.”.

Patching married Ada Hall in the summer of 1899. They had three children together.

In 1901, his occupation was listed as “Auctioneer & Estate Agent”, and, in 1911, he was described as “Surveyor & Valuer”. Patching also appears to have been curator of the Worthing Art Gallery. Censuses reveal that the Patching household included domestic servants.

Presumably, Frederick met William Burton shortly after the latter man moved to Worthing. Burton’s home on Rowlands Road was about 5 minute’s walk from Patching’s home on Shelley Road. They may have attended the same church or had friends in common. It is also possible that they never actually met, but Patching bought Burton’s collection at an auction or from a shop.

The right-most slide in Figure 1 includes the note “Carpenter 1025” - this would be B.W. Carpenter’s The Microscope and Its Revelations. Only the eighth edition of that book, published in 1901, contains a description of this slide’s specimen on page 1025 (Figure 2). It is clear from his note that Patching had enough interest in microscopy to own (or borrow) a copy of Carpenter’s Revelations. I have not found any records of F.W. Patching being a member of any microscopy or scientific club. However, he was a member of his local camera club in the early 1900s.

Fredrick Patching died on April 26, 1917, when only 52 years old.



British Journal of Photography (1906) Worthing Camera Club, Vol. 53, page 306

Burton, William (1893) Note on a method of exhibiting pond life, The Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club, page 313

Burton, William (1895) Note on an aquatic hymenopterous insect, The Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club, page 148

Carpenter, W.B. and W.H. Dallinger (1891) The Microscope and Its Revelations, Seventh edition, P. Blakinston, Son & So, Philadelphia

Carpenter, W.B. and W.H. Dallinger (1901) The Microscope and Its Revelations, Eighth edition, P. Blakinston’s Son & So, Philadelphia

England census and other records, accessed through ancestry.com

The Libraries, Museums and Art Galleries Year Book (1914) Worthing, Sussex, Art Gallery, page 467

The Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club (1879) Election of William Burton, page 29

The Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club (1879) List of Members

The Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club (1883) List of Members

The Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club (1897) List of Members

The Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club (1899) List of Members

The Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club (1901) List of Members

The Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club (1904) List of Members

Marriage record of William Burton and Margaret Ryan (1868) Parish records of All Souls’ St. Marylebone, accessed through ancestry.com

Probate of the will of F.W. Patching (1917) “Patching Frederick William of West House Shelley-road Worthing died 26 April 1917 at Caer Gwent Wykeham-road Worthing Probate London 30 June to Ada Patching widow. Effects £20295 12s 2d

Probate of the will of W. Burton (1915) “Burton William of Addison House 26 Rowlands-road Worthing died 27 January 1915 Administration (with Will) London 1 October to Faith Huneberg spinster. Effects £1414 2s 5d