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Abstract

In the summer of 1794 William George Maton, together with his friends Charles Hatchett and Thomas Rackett, embarked on a tour into Cornwall visiting the more southerly parts of Dorset and Devon en route. Rackett and Maton completed a second tour two years later, covering the rest of Dorset and Devon together with Somerset. An account of the tours was subsequently published by Maton, providing a contemporary description of SW England during the latter part of the eighteenth century. This was perhaps the first description of the region by scientifically aware travellers. They explored valleys, descended mines, visited smelters and collected minerals and must be regarded as among the earliest geotourists. Many sites which they visited, such as Roche Rock in Cornwall, Kent’s Cavern in Devon and Wookey Hole in Somerset, became major attractions for geoscientists in the following centuries. Discussions in the text suggest that the travellers looked at the rocks with neptunist eyes. Maton summarized the geological and mineralogical references on a map which used shading with lines rather than colour to differentiate individual strata. Although rudimentary and inaccurate, the map is of considerable historic importance.

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