Italy still looking up to a Victorian mountain legend
Even after a century-and-a-half, Frank Tuckett's pioneering work is still remembered in the north of Italy. Here hotels, geographical features, a mountain shelter and even a skiing trophy are named after him.
These stand as testament to his achievements in filling in previously blank areas on the maps of the Alps.
In 1865, King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy created him a Knight of the Order of Saint Lazarus in acknowledgement of his geographical and scientific researches in the Italian Alps.
Frank joined the fledgling Alpine Club in 1859, just two years after its formation, becoming vice-president in 1866/8.
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Asked on many occasions to become president, he always declined, saying that someone in that position needed to live in London to be near the club's HQ.
His later years saw him referred to in the Alpine Club's journal as 'The Oracle of Frenchay'.
In 1862, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. In 1871, after devoting six pages recalling his achievements, Edward Whymper, the conqueror of the Matterhorn, went on to describe Frank as "that mighty mountaineer whose name is known the length and breadth of the Alps".
The travel writer and founder of the Egyptian Exploration Society, Amelia Edwards, who lived at Westbury-on-Trym and was a friend of Frank's, used that friendship to her advantage when travelling.
In Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequented Valleys she writes of her journey to Cortina in 1872: "This, then, is our destination, and here we arrive towards close of day, rattling through the village and dashing up to the door with our driver's usual flourish… The Ghedinas, a father and two sons, come out, not with much alacrity, to bid us welcome".
The signora, they soon find out, is a friend of 'Il Tuckett', a man whose achievements are famed throughout the valleys. Goodwill then broke forth, she says, "in a ludicrous medley of Italian and German".
A number of Frank's Alpine journeys were documented by his sister Lizzie. She was a talented writer and artist, who, along with her sister Charlotte, often accompanied him.
Her last book, Zigzagging Amongst Dolomites, still in print in Italy, was last year adopted by the European Union as a cultural project for schools. If any local schools are interested, the Frenchay museum can help them with copies, as well as sight of the originals.
The museum also holds the copy of the book that Lizzie gave Frank for Christmas in 1870, as well as a specially bound copy given as a wedding present to her husband the following year.
The Frenchay exhibition also includes a portrait of Lizzie by the great Pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt.
As well as being a founding life member of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, Frank also donated many artefacts to Bristol Museum and Oxford's Pitt-Rivers Museum.
In later life, Frank became a great traveller and collector of antiquities.
He was a friend of the great archaeologist Sir William Flinders Petrie. Egyptian artefacts given by Petrie to Frank also feature in the display. William and his wife Hilda became great friends with Frank and his wife Alice.
It would appear that Hilda formed a longstanding friendship with Alice. The visitors' book shows she continued to come and stay in their Frenchay home many years after Frank's death.
In Bristol, where he carried on his leather business, Frank was prominent in the campaigns to establish public parks. The creation of Eastville Park was one of his outstanding achievements.
In Frenchay, where he lived all his life, he was a member of the local Quaker Meeting, and a century after his death his influence lives on in the village.
He was foremost in the creation of Frenchay Village Hall in 1909, and the donation of much of his land by his widow ensured an area for recreation for the village even larger than Frenchay Common.
The display in the museum is by the Alpine Club, the world's oldest mountaineering society, and the first they have staged in their 156-year history.
It covers their early years – the 'Golden Age' – as well as later years, especially the nine Everest expeditions the society mounted between 1921 and 1953.
There are some superb pictures from the latter, which caused a national swelling of pride when news of Hillary and Tenzing's success came on the very day of Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 1953.
Officers from the Alpine Club and Councillor Janet Biggin, the chairman of South Gloucestershire Council, attended the display's opening.
The museum has published a book about Frank, That Mighty Mountaineer (£3), with a companion volume of Frank's own accounts of his mountaineering exploits, Francis Fox Tuckett's Letters from the Alps (£6).