Katherine Mary Hinchliff (1861-1946)

Katherine Hinchliff might be RAMM’s only female entomologist. On 29 April 1947 her collection of British and European butterflies and moths in three cabinets and a number of boxes arrived at the museum.

Miss Hinchliff – a short biography

Katherine Hinchliff was born at the family home of Pentlow Hall in Suffolk. Later the family moved to Dinant. Her childhood interest in natural history stayed with her all her life. She took up entomology (the study of insects) at an early age.

At the age of about 17 she accompanied her uncle, Thomas Woodbine Hinchliff, to Switzerland. He was an expert climber and founded the Alpine Club – the world’s first mountaineering club. She collected alpine plants and butterflies. Later, a trip to visit her brothers in South America provided further specimens for her collection.

In 1879 the family moved to Worlington House in Instow, North Devon. Miss Hinchliff remained here for the rest of her life. Her interests grew – archery, rare books, church history, architecture, tennis, photography and she also became the choir master.

She died 9 December 1946.

A passion for daffodils

Miss Hinchliff took great pride in her garden. She specialised in daffodils and flag irises. She ran the Instow Spring Flower Show for 14 years. It was a simple show without judges, entrance fees or prizes and greatly enjoyed by the local community.

She was also a frequent and very successful exhibitor at the Royal Horticultural Society’s daffodil shows. She bred new varieties and the Instow shows were an opportunity to show them off. As a result, friendly rivalry between breeders meant that  sometimes 200 vases of daffodils were on show. There are 37 varieties attributed to her on The International Daffodil Register & Classified List. Her names for them include ‘Frothy Ale’, ‘Kitty Crowley’, ‘Lemon Squash’ and ‘Golden Rogue’.

After 35 years breeding experience she was keen to share her expertise. An article in the ‘Daffodil Year Book 1939’ gives advice on what not to do. She advises against using horse manure (it poisons them), lifting the bulbs too often (every 3 or 4 years is sufficient) and planting them so close to the house that your gardener cuts the foliage down too early to tidy them up.