Hardy Reptiles and Amphibians by L.G. Payne

I have uploaded a second book(let) (see Downloads in the menu above or the bottom of this post) from the 1950s to illustrate further what advice was available to those keeping or wishing to keep reptiles and amphibians. Like The Terrarium by Burgess Barnett, this is actually a 1930s book published as a second edition after World War I


I found Hardy Reptiles and Amphibians by L.G. Payne for sale in a book shop in the late 1950s. It is a 32-page staple-bound paper-backed book. It is No 2 in the Water Life Series, is marked ‘Second Edition’ and is undated.

Water Life was a weekly magazine that began in 1936. I shall have many more posts on Water Life. The first edition of Payne’s book was published in 1936 by Marshall Press. I have never seen a first edition. The second edition on sale in the 1950s was different but I do not know by how much. One example is the photograph on page 19, the caption to which reads, An Eyed Lizard (Lacerta ocellata) seen at a West End store in London, one of a number received in the first post-war consignment from the Continent. Another example is on page 18, Greek Tortoise (Testudo graeca) specimens of which are being imported again in limited quantities. Prices are higher than pre-war but the specimens are selected. These captions would suggest that some, at least, of the photographs differ from the pre-war edition. Most of the photographs in the second edition are by Lionel E. Day and W.S.Pitt.

The second edition also has a different publisher: “Water Life”, Dorset House, Stamford Street, London S.E.1.  It had become part of the Poultry World empire that included, until a few years ago, the weekly Cage Birds. But when was the second edition published? We can get a time frame from the advertisement on the back cover. The address of Robert Jackson (Naturalists) Ltd is shown as 1 Park Avenue, Timperley, Cheshire. Robert Jackson was at that address from 1946 to 1952. A bookseller selling this edition suggested 1949 as the date of publication. Another book in the series was also revised after the war; the name of the author of the revised edition was added. This was not the case with Payne’s book—he still appears as the author of the second edition. As I shall show below he could not have done the revision beyond March 1949, suggesting that this edition went to press no later than this date. 1949 could well be the date of publication.

I never came across any other book by L.G. Payne. Only last year when I found some volumes of Water Life for sale did I come across any articles by him; they were on reptiles and amphibians and I will put copies on this site later.

Here is a review of the book, from Water Life 26 January 1937:

Payne 26 Jan 1937

So, who was L.G. Payne. I found his address in The Aquarist and Pond-Keeper for November-December 1934: 22 Marksbury Avenue, Richmond (not far from Kew Gardens). Then via Google searches I found an L.G. Payne at that address in the membership list shown in the Proceedings and Transactions of the South London Entomological and Natural History Society for 1943-44. Payne’s activities appear a number of times in that volume. He demonstrated beetles and plants he had collected. For example, on 8 January 1944 he:

…exhibited a number of Coleoptera obtained in July last [July 1943] at Dyffryn, N. Wales, by immersing a dead sheep in water, but pointed out that in using this method of dealing with carcases very great care must be taken to ensure that no risk is run of of contaminating water which might be used for drinking or domestic purposes.

Although I now knew that L.G. Payne was active as an entomologist, botanist and all-round naturalist, I still did not know what his forenames were so searching genealogical sources was difficult. However, shown as c/o his address in Richmond was an R.M. Payne. Both had joined the Society in 1940.

I reasoned that R.M. Payne was likely to be his son and so I searched that name. I found a Ronald M. Payne had been an active naturalist later in the last century, so I began searching the family history sources. I soon found that during the right time period Ronald M Payne had been born in Wandsworth in 1922 to a mother with the maiden name of Johnson. I then found that marriage: Laurence G Payne to Winifred B Johnson in 1917 at Wandsworth. So I had a first name.

The 1911 Census is confusing because Laurence Gilbert Payne appears with his brother, Edwin Malcolm Payne at 31 Drakefield Road, Upper Tooting with a ‘sister-in-law’ and a servant. Laurence and Edwin are marked as ‘son’ without the head of the household appearing above them in the entry. Both are shown as having been born in Salford, Lancashire. Laurence was aged 17 and Edwin, 12. Laurence’s occupation was shown as ‘Bank Clerk’

The 1901 Census shows the family living at Pendleton, Salford, Lancashire. The father was Edwin Payne whose occupation is shown as ‘Civil Service – Telegraphist’.

So was this Laurence Gilbert Payne our L.G. Payne? Searches using the full name showed that it was.

Laurence Gilbert Payne was born on 8 December 1893 at Lower Broughton, a suburb of Salford, Manchester. He died on 10 March 1949 in Harrow, Middlesex. He was President of the London Natural History Society in 1946-48 and was a bank clerk. He has an entry in the Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturalists by Ray Desmond (1994) and is shown as having collected and cultivated ferns. I also found an index to the London Naturalist showing that his obituary written by J.E.S. Dallas appeared in volume 28, pages 124-126. Payne’s own article—part one of his history of the Society—also appeared in that volume; part two never appeared.

These volumes of the London Naturalist can be found in the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. I shall put them on the things-to be-looked-up-the-next-time-I’m-in-London list in order to try to complete this story.

That, at the moment is what I have, which is a great deal more information than I began with. Laurence Gilbert Payne (1893-1949) was an amateur naturalist with wide-ranging interests. We know from his book that he built outdoor vivaria in his garden in Richmond, Surrey, and kept a number of different species of reptiles and amphibians*. How long his herpetological activity continued and whether it was interrupted by the war I do not know. If anybody has more information on L.G. Payne I would be very pleased to add it to this account.

Recently (March 2015) I found that the Liverpool naturalist, Eric Hardy, had written about Payne in his From a Naturalist’s Notebook series in the Aquarist and Pondkeeper (November 1973):

Since my friend the late L.G. Payne, a Richmond (Surrey) banker, studied the natterjacks here in the mid-1930s, no detailed studies were made of this amphibian until…Payne, who found “hundreds of natterjacks” in “almost deafening” chorus along the edge of a pool only separated from the Aindale Shore Road by the fence, took some spawn home to Richmond, but had difficulty in inducing the growth of the front legs. Incidentally, in 1939 he also had half-a-dozen albino English frogs, with pink eyes, which he fed on greenfly, etc. The tadpoles were given to him by the owner of the albino frogs photographed in Water Life in 1938…

As well as throwing light on Payne’s herpetological activities in the 1930s, there is also the suggestion of the appearance of ‘spindly-leg disease’ in the captive-reared Natterjack Toads—a problem to emerge later, particularly in captive-bred dendrobatids.

NOTE ADDED 18 January 2018. L.G. Payne (President, London Natural History Society) wrote an article, Collecting Water Beetles, for Water Life (December 1948). A note of his death appeared in the June 1949 issue.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

* Payne describes building a lizard house that enclosed the lower trunk of a sumach tree. I found his former house had been on the market and that photographs were still on an estate agent’s (realtor for my American friends) website: a large garden, ideal for reptiliaries but no sign of the sumach tree.

This is a list of his articles in the London Naturalist:

  • 1934 Ferns of the Home Counties. 13, 58-66.
  • 1936 The natterjack toad. 15, 83-87.
  • 1938 The crested buckler fern, Lastrea cristata Presl. (Dryopteris cristata Gray; Nephridium cristatum Rich.) 17, 29-31.
  • 1942 The Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis L.) in Surrey. 21, 12-13.
  • 1945 The survey of Brookham Common: Third year. Coleoptera of Brookham Common: extracts from my notebook, 1943. 24, 31-35.
  • 1947 President’s Address, December 3, 1946. 26, 3-16.
  • 1948 The story of our Society (part I). 27, 3-21

Download: Hardy Reptiles and Amphibians by LG Payne


3 thoughts on “Hardy Reptiles and Amphibians by L.G. Payne

  1. Pingback: Water Life: Herpetology Articles in Volume 2 1937 | Reptiles, Amphibians and Birds: A Historical Perspective of their Care in Captivity

  2. Pingback: Water Life: Herpetology Articles in Volumes 4 and 6, 1938 and 1939 . Downloads Available | Reptiles, Amphibians and Birds: A Historical Perspective of their Care in Captivity

  3. Pingback: Water Life Magazine 1936-58: Part 17. The First Post-War Issues from 1946 | Reptiles, Amphibians and Birds: A Historical Perspective of their Care in Captivity

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