Darwinian lecture

It would take  someone of the age of 55-plus to remember this scene along Commercial Road at the junction of Church Street.

NOSTALGIA: A Portsmouth scene unrecognisable today: Commercial Road in its pomp

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On this day in 1877 a Mr T Cooper gave a lecture in Lake Road Chapel on ‘the Darwinian Theory on the Origin of Man’.

In his introduction, Mayor Pink anticipated the gist of what Mr Cooper had come to say, commenting that it was ‘extraordinary that any person could suppose that the universe could go on from day to day without a God’.

Mr Cooper did not disappoint the mayor or the audience.

He could not conceive that ‘the force of matter could have produced this beautiful world of ours’ any more than he could believe that ‘the moon was made of green cheese’. The audience laughed and cried ‘hear, hear’.

Mr Cooper ended his talk with a long list of rhetorical questions. Did the audience ever hear of a monkey making a ship and going around the world? Had they ever dug up any of the metals? Let the meeting imagine a lot of apes attending an iron furnace or working in a coal mine. Had they ever been known to form an alphabet? – from John Sadden’s The Portsmouth Book of Days.