Stanley Thomas Jermyn was born in Mayes Cottage, Endway, South Benfleet in 1909, the seventh of ten childen born to James and Amy Jermyn (spelt Jerman in the 1911 Census). Growing up in such a rural place, he developed an early interest in the flora and fauna around him.
His father was an Engine Driver in the local brickworks, and there was no money to spare for more than basic education. Stanley attended the National School in School Lane, South Benfleet, and in our Schools Section, on a page by Jackie Terry, there is a reference to pupils attending on March 28th 1923, ‘First Year class of 23 pupils 5 to 7 years’ where Stanley Jermyn is listed.
Stanley went to work aged fourteen, in a warehouse in Southend-on-Sea, and realised that if he was going to improve his position, he needed more education. He began to read widely, and take correspondence courses, and gained a position as a Clerk in the same company in Southend-on-Sea, but his spare time was devoted to studying botany.
In the 1930s, he joined the South Essex Natural History Society, and in the late 1940s joined the Botanical Society of the British Isles. At this time he became active as a botanist, and started to build up his vast knowledge of Essex and its flora. He became an active member, both attending and leading field meetings of the B.S.B.I. and the London Natural History Society. There was pressing need for a new County Flora, as the botanist George Gibson’s work was nearly one hundred years old. In 1959 he joined the recently formed Conservation group, Essex Naturalists’ Trust, which became a passion, and undoubtedly delayed the production of his ‘Flora’, but was instrumental in turning public opinion in favour of conserving the remaining flora and fauna of the county. The late Col. Sir John Ruggles-Brise, Bt., C.B., O.B.E., T.D., J.P., Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Essex and Patron of the Essex Naturalists’ Trust, stated that Stanley had started ‘serious work’ on the ‘Flora’ in the early 1950s, and that ‘there can scarcely be a field, wood or roadside verge in the County he did not visit at least once during this period’.
Stanley Jermyn’s first major published article, in the 21st Anniversary issue of the ‘South Essex Naturalist’ was, ‘Plant Records for the Rochford Hundred’. This was also the basis of his contribution to the B.S.B.I’s ‘Atlas of the British Flora’ which was published in 1962. He was also elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London in the same year.
Stanley retired in 1965 and moved to Felsted, where he commenced his involvement with the Essex Naturalists’ Trust, first as Hon. Treasurer and subsequently as Hon. General Secretary. The workload had increased so much by 1968 that it became a full-time job, and his writing had to take a back seat. His main interests remained those of botany and conservation, surveying sites all over the county to ascertain whether the Trust should acquire them for a nature reserve.
It was during these latter years (according to Kenneth J. Adams obituary to him in the Botanical Society of the British Isles) of intensive recording that he moved on from being an academic botanist to take up a new and consuming interest, the conservation of the fast disappearing wildlife habitats of Essex. In addition to mounting appeals to purchase new reserves, he fought campaigns to avert threats to the localities of rare plants, and was so persuasive that he won many council officers and farm bailiffs over to his way of thinking. He built such a reputation for prompt action that he was inundated with requests (from local councils and countless individuals concerned about particular habitats), for wildlife surveys, conservation plans and advice. Stanley Jermyn constantly tried to keep an eye on the rare and endangered, building up stocks in his garden of a number of species in case they were extinguished in the wild. He distributed seed to organisations both in the UK and America. His policy, rather ahead of his time, was to publicise the rarity of a species, to assist in persuading landowners to preserve its habitat, and amateur botanists to report to him any undisclosed localities.
Sadly, he died in September 1973, and never saw his completed book, ‘Flora of Essex’, the first sections of which were with the printers at that time. His wife, Pamela, and many friends including Kenneth Adams ensured that it reached publication. The Essex Naturalists’ Trust had already agreed to act as publishers at Stanley’s request. He had received help, particularly in recording, from so many people that he felt that any profit from the book should go to the Trust to further the work of conservation.
In writing this piece, as well as using research by both Eileen Gamble and myself, I have leaned heavily on the biographical notes of Stanley’s wife, Pamela M. Jermyn, in the ‘Flora of Essex’, First Edition, 1974.
The late Col. Sir John Ruggles-Brise said in his foreword to the ‘Flora’, that Stanley ‘viewed with alarm and despondency the destruction of large tracts of the Essex countryside in the name of progress’.
In 1973, Kenneth Adams wrote in his BSBI obituary, ‘Stanley Jermyn described the Essex flora with a detail and affection that will never be surpassed. His efforts to preserve the Essex flora for the generations to come must be continued by those of us who care with an even greater fervour in the decades ahead lest his book, intended as a living guide to the Essex countryside, becomes a detailed historical indictment of man’s destructive power and wilful neglect of the beauty around him’.
One can only imagine what this great Naturalist’s thoughts would be on the fate destined for the beloved area in which he was born.