The Hidden Treasures of Sussex Museums
The Booth Museum
The Booth Museum of British Birds was founded by Edward Thomas Booth in 1874 to house his private and expanding collection of stuffed and mounted British birds. At the same time, and since it opened in 1860, the Brighton Town Museum and Art Gallery was collecting natural history specimens of all kinds, mostly donated from local people, and representing species from all over the world. All of these collections came together under one roof in the 1970s when the Booth Museum of Natural History was launched to serve the public as one of the largest collections of natural science in the country under the care of a local authority.
Amongst the collections are significant holdings of Sussex fossils, especially rich in specimens from the Chalk and from the older, Lower Cretaceous rocks of the Weald. The best of the Chalk fossils were collected and donated by Henry Willett of Brighton (1823 - 1905) and those from the Lower Cretaceous by George Bax Holmes of Horsham (1803 - 1887). Significant collections of fossil insects from the Wealden rocks have been added in recent times.
The following images showcase some of the best fossils in the collections. All photography was carried out by Bob Foreman of the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre, to whom many thanks. There are 3 sets of photographs, the first two look at specimens from the Chalk, the third, specimens from the Lower Cretaceous rocks of the Weald.
More information about the geological collections of the Booth Museum can be found in the introduction to this document:
A Catalogue of the Type, Figured and Cited specimens in the geological collections of the Booth Museum of Natural History, Brighton.
Keeper of Natural Sciences, Booth Museum.
The Museum was founded in 1893 by members of the Free Christian Church, based on Worthing Road. The minister J.J. Marten and the Sunday School teachers proposed the creation of a museum "as a means of increasing knowledge among the young people," and a Museum Society was set up to promote collecting among its members and to offer talks and excursions to places of interest.
At first the Museum collection was displayed four times a year from 1893 until 1920. The main focus of the early collections was natural history, geology and curiosities.
In 1928 Park House was sold to the Urban District Council and the old kitchen was made available to the Museum Society as a room for its first permanent display.
At the end of the Second World War Causeway House came up for sale. Horsham historian William Albery offered the town his large collection of documents and items from his Saddlery collection on condition the Museum was found a permanent home. West Sussex County Council bought the house and the Museum's future was assured on the Causeway. In 1966 Horsham Urban District Council took over the running of the Museum and with the creation of Horsham District Council in 1974 the Museum became part of the new Council.
In 1999 the museum was awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to improve storage, displays, cataloguing (including computers) and the fabric of the building. Since 2002 when the project finished the museum has continued to develop. Among its wide variety of collections the museum has a catalogued collection of fossils, the best of which are displayed in the Flints and Fossils Room.
The fossils of particular local interest on display include dinosaur and other fossils from the collection of Horsham resident George Bax Holmes, a noted Victorian collector who started his work around 1832. They also include the more recently discovered bones of the dinosaur Horshamosaurus found at Rudgwick Brickworks in 1985 and well preserved dragonfly wings from the same pit. All are from the Wealden Group of Lower Cretaceous age, specifically the Weald Clay Formation, deposited between 133 and 125 million years ago.
Wealden fossils from the George Bax Holmes Collection
The collection is owned by the Booth Museum in Brighton and the selected specimens of local origin on display at Horsham Museum are on loan from the Booth Museum.
Most prominent are the bones of the dinosaur Iguanodon including one which became known as the Great Horsham Iguanodon, but smaller well preserved fossil parts of crocodilians and pterosaurs are also included.
Horsham's Dinosaur Hunter: George Bax Holmes (1803-1887)
by John A.Cooper, Friends of Horsham Museum, 2008
Wealden dinosaur - Horshamosaurus
The bones of an ankylosaurid dinosaur found at Rudgwick Brickworks in 1985 were initially identified as a new species, Polacanthus rudgwickensis. However, further detailed research revealed that the bones probably belong to a new genus which has been named Horshamosaurus, after the Museum. The bones are now identified as Horshamosaurus rudgwickensis and the Friends of the Museum have commissioned a drawing by artist John Sibbick which recreates the probable appearance and habitat of Horshamosaurus.
British Polacanthid Dinosaurs, by William T Blows, Siri Scientific Press, 2015
W T Blows, 1996, A new species of Polacanthus (Ornithischia; Ankylosauria) from the Lower Cretaceous of Sussex, England, Geological Magazine
These two specimens represent the first discovery of fossil insects at Rudgwick Brickworks in 1982. They were found in ironstone concretions from the Weald Clay. Each belongs to a different species of petalurid dragonflies, Libellulium zdrzaleki and Libellulium standingae.
E A Jarzembowski, 1994, Fossil dragonflies in Horsham Museum, Proceedings of the Geologists' Association
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