90m-year-old skele­ton comes out of the closet

Western Morning News - - NEWS - MARTIN HESP martin.hesp@reach­plc.com

MANY fam­i­lies ap­par­ently have skele­tons in their clos­ets – but imag­ine hav­ing a skele­ton so shock­ing and shame­ful that for over 100 years it lay buried in the gar­den…

Ac­tu­ally, the skele­ton be­long­ing to the Som­er­set’s Temperley fam­ily is not re­garded in the least bit shame­ful to­day – in­deed it will soon be fea­tur­ing in pride of place on the la­bels of their finest com­mer­cial prod­uct.

That is the in­ten­tion of cider brandy maker Ju­lian Temperley who has paid more than £3000 to have his fam­ily’s 90 mil­lion-year-old Ichthyosau­rus cleaned and mounted.

“An im­age of the Temperley Ichthyosau­rus will go on the la­bel of our next 20-year-old cider brandy,” said Ju­lian, who re­cently res­cued the fos­sil from where it lay buried and hid­den in a gar­den for over a cen­tury.

But why had such a splen­did crea­ture (worth more than £15,000 ac­cord­ing to eBay) been shoved away un­seen for so many years?

Ju­lian takes up the story… “It was found ei­ther by Wil­liam Philoso­phus Brad­ford or John Wes­ley Brad­ford – my great-great-grand­fa­ther or his fa­ther – in around about 1850 in their lime quarry at Pits­bury near Lang­port,” Ju­lian told the WMN.

Not only were the two men founders of the now well-known Brad­ford’s builders’ mer­chants, but they were also ar­dent Chris­tians back in times when Dar­win’s The­ory of Evo­lu­tion had yet to hit the streets.

“They dug up sed­i­men­tary rock and burned it for the lime – and it was while they were dig­ging in the quarry that they came across the Ichthyosau­rus. They took it home and buried it. You have to re­mem­ber that fos­sils weren’t re­ally ex­plained un­til Dar­win came along,” said Ju­lian. “Up

“They came across the Ichthyosau­rus - and took it home and buried it in the gar­den...”


un­til then, if you be­lieved in fos­sils you were deny­ing the Bi­ble say­ing God cre­ated Day One, and so on…

“It’s not the sort of thing you’d have flashed around be­cause your lo­cal vicar wouldn’t have been that ed­u­cated and wouldn’t have un­der­stood what it was – so I can imag­ine that for the Brad­fords it was an in­ter­est­ing thing that you buried and kept to your­self. Any­way, even­tu­ally Dar­win came along and con­vinced peo­ple that fos­sils weren’t any­thing to do with Satan.”

Nev­er­the­less, the fam­ily Ichthyosau­rus re­mained buried in the Lev­els vil­lage of Thor­ney.

“When­ever we vis­ited Som­er­set as kids, we dug it up and were gen­er­ally amazed. But af­ter the flood­ing of 2013-14 we re­alised it was not a good idea to leave it buried and I thought we ought to look af­ter it,” said Ju­lian.

“There was a pro­gramme about At­ten­bor­ough dig­ging up an Ichthyosau­rus with Chris Moore at Lyme Regis, so we took our fos­sil down there to be cleaned and Chris said it was one of the best he’d ever seen.

“The teeth are still there in enamel form af­ter 90 mil­lion years, which is pretty good. We will now keep it on the wall of our cider brandy bond where it will be part of the fam­ily his­tory. Putting it with age­ing spir­its seems like the right thing to do.”

Richard Austin

> Cider maker Ju­lian Temperley with his ichthyosau­rus fos­sil

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