Palaeontology

Sketch of Mary Anning at work

Many great palaeontologists are associated with the church and Charmouth. Jonas Wiscombe, a celebrated fossil collector, is buried in the churchyard. Hediscovered a huge Ichthyosaurus which, for a few shillings, he sold to Thomas Hawkings, who subsequently sold it to the Natural History Museum for considerably more. Other well known fossil collectors from Charmouth include Samuel Clark, who discovered a new species of Plesiosaur; Barny Hansford, who exhibited his large collection in The Street; and John Hunter. Dr Henry Norris, the village doctor, was also a famous collector of fossils and is commemorated in the churchyard.

Perhaps the most famous of them all was Mary Anning ‘the fossil woman’, who lived in Lyme Regis but found most of her fossils in Charmouth. Her remarkable finds continue to be studied by scientists today. More recently, Dr William Dixon Laing (former Keeper of Geology at the Natural History Museum) retired to Charmouth. Famous for his specialist publications on the Lias, he produced numerous papers on the geology of the area over a 60-year period. They include The Geology of Charmouth Cliff, Beach and Foreshore.

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