Frederick William Patching, 1865 - 1917

by Brian Stevenson
last updated March, 2020

English microscope slides with printed labels from F.W. Patching are encountered with some regularity (Figure 1). All of the Patching-labeled slides with which I am familiar are covered on the front by red papers with a black-and-gold plaid print. The practice of covering slides with papers went out of fashion by the early 1880s, suggesting production prior to that decade.

However, the only F.W. Patching who appears in English census records was Frederick W. Patching of Worthing, Sussex who lived from 1865 until 1917. Three pieces of information from the slides themselves point to this man as the person who applied the labels. [1] In almost all cases, Patching’s name is printed on a narrow label, which is placed on top of another label (Figure 1, left). [2] In other cases, handwriting on the Patching label is distinct from that on other “Patching” slides (compare the two labels on the right slide in Figure 1, and with the other slide on the left). [3] The Patching label on the right slide in Figure 1 refers to “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).

From those data, I conclude that the red, black, and gold plaid-covered slides with F.W. Patching’s name were not produced by him. He may have inherited them from his father, acquired them from another relative or acquaintance, or even purchased them from a shop. It is clear from the notations he placed on the slide shown in Figure 1 that Patching had enough interest in microscopy to own (or borrow) a copy of Carpenter’s Revelations, and to make notes on his specimens. I have not found any records of F.W. Patching, or his father, being members of any microscopy or scientific club. However, he was a member of his local camera club in the early 1900s.

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.”. 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.

Figure 1. Two microscope slides with labels from F.W. Patching. In all known cases, Patching’s labels are applied over other labels. Note that the handwriting on the right slide’s “Patching” label is distinct from that on the slide’s upper label, and from the handwriting on the left slide. “Carpenter 1025” refers to page 1025 of the 1901, 8th edition of B.W. Carpenter’s “The Microscope and Its Revelations”. Images from the author’s collection or adapted for nonprofit, educational purposes from an internet auction site.


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 (See Figure 1).



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

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

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

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