Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Leighton, William Allport

LEIGHTON, WILLIAM ALLPORT (1805–1889), botanist, only son of William Leighton, by Lucy Maria, daughter and coheiress of John Allport of Prescot, near Baschurch, Shropshire. His father was the keeper of the Talbot Hotel in Shrewsbury, a noted house in the old coaching days, and the son was born there on 17 May 1805. He went to school at the Manse on Claremont Hill, Shrewsbury, with Charles Darwin, who first roused in him an interest in plants. He was afterwards at the Wolverhampton grammar school, and in 1822 was articled to a solicitor in Shrewsbury, but on the death of his father he inherited a competency, and abandoned the study of the law in favour of the church. Proceeding to Cambridge he matriculated at St. John's College, and graduated B.A. in 1833. Henslow, professor of botany at Cambridge, found in Leighton one of his most zealous pupils, and Leighton on his return to his native town deferred ordination on purpose to draw up a flora of Shropshire. Seven years later, in 1841, he brought out his ‘Flora of Shropshire,’ the etchings to illustrate some of the more difficult genera being from his own hand. In 1843 he was ordained deacon and priest, and took clerical duty in his birthplace till 1848, when he resigned his cure, and thenceforward occupied himself entirely with botany.

Soon after the completion of his ‘Flora’ he began working up the cryptogams, and in 1851 the Ray Society published his ‘Angiocarpous Lichens elucidated by their Sporidia.’ From that date onward appeared numerous contributions by Leighton to lichen literature, of which the chief was ‘Lichen Flora of Great Britain’ in 1871. This reached a third edition in 1879, and Leighton, finding soon afterwards that the strain on his eyesight was too great to allow him to pursue his studies, gave his collection to the national herbarium at Kew. He died at Lucifelde, Shrewsbury, on 28 Feb. 1889, and was buried in the Shrewsbury General Cemetery. He married, first, in 1827, Catherine, youngest daughter of David Parkes, a Shrewsbury antiquary, by whom he left one son and two daughters; secondly, Mrs. Gibson, by whom he left a son.

[Shrewsbury Chronicle, 8 March 1889; Journ. Bot. 1889, p. 111.]

B. D. J.