Rocks, fossils and dinosaur footprints…

Display of Geology ExamplesHoused here is one of the largest fully catalogued palaeontological collections in the South of England. It is composed of fossils collected over many decades, not only from various local Mesozoic and Tertiary exposures, but from other more distant older horizons further afield, including many overseas. More importantly many specimens have come from sites no longer accessible. The collections also include several type and figured specimens.

Inevitably, invertebrate fossils predominate, but notable suites of plant and vertebrate remains also occur. Many are perfectly preserved, rare, or scientifically important.

There are informative displays in the Geology Room to interest both beginners, enthusiastic amateurs, and informed specialists. Especially prominent is a fine specimen of the rare chalk ammonite (Parapuzosia leptophyla), 3 ft. in diameter, found at Ringstead Bay by two of our members in 1996, and the splendid set of six natural casts of dinosaur footprints, from the Swanage Purbecks, illustrated above. Part of a unique longer track, these were described as Iguanodontipus burreyi.

Other interesting exhibits include Jurassic and Cretaceous corals, crinoids, echinoids, fishes, and great marine reptiles (like the Ichthyosaur shown) from Dorset’s coastal areas and the shires of central England. Another features the remains of Pleistocene mammals from a variety of localities both here and abroad.

Fossilised Icthyosaur

Highlights of local (‘Bournemouth area’) geology and palaeontology occupy a special case of their own and include several seldom collected stumps of anciently submerged trees. Extensive reserve collections include perfect specimens of local fossils now difficult to obtain as many exposures are today covered by coastal protection works, or occur in beds that, though still accessible, tend to suffer constant rapid degradation by the sea. Local botanical specimens from the celebrated Bournemouth “Leaf Beds” are similarly virtually unobtainable as the relevant exposures are now built over.

Fossils of the Barton Beds Book CoverThere is the Dent collection of shells, shark, and ray teeth and even bones of an early whale from the Eocene type locality of Barton-on-Sea. We now have the collection of the late Ray Chapman, long-standing Curator and Chair of Geology. Many of Ray’s fossils are illustrated in his excellent leaflet “Fossils of the Barton Beds” which is suitable for beginners as well as the more experienced collector. This is only available from the BNSS at £5 or contact us and we can post it to you.


A separate Mineral Room houses an extensive collection of rocks and minerals from all over the world. An outstanding set of highly varied marbles is one of its more striking elements.

A useful library of geological publications is available to complement the collections as a whole.