Family dig up Jurassic fossil hidden by 'god-fearing' Victorian ancestors for 170 years

David Harding
Cider brandy maker Julian Temperley next to the 90-million-year-old ichthyosaurus fossil (SWNS)

A man whose Victorian ancestors buried a giant Jurassic fossil because it threatened their religious beliefs has put it on display 170 years later.

Cider brandy maker Julian Temperley knew that a Jurassic period 90 million-year-old ichthyosaurus fossil was buried in the garden at his family's home in Thorney, Somerset.

But his god-fearing ancestors kept it hidden for years after its discovery in 1850, worried they would be 'denying God' by flashing it around.

When recent flooding forced him to dig the stunning relic up for good, Mr Temperley paid £3,000 for it to be cleaned - and he's now having its image printed on his cider brandy bottles.

He said: "Whenever we visited Somerset as kids, we dug it up and were generally amazed.

The fossil was buried by his Victorian ancestors in the garden at his family's home in Somerset (SWNS)
The ichthyosaurus was a marine reptile which lived approximately 200 million years ago. (Getty Images)

"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."

He said he had seen a TV programme about David Attenborough digging up an ichthyosaurus with professional fossil collector Chris Moore at Lyme Regis.

He added; "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 the 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.

"An image of the Temperley ichthyosaurus will also go on the label of our next 20-year-old cider brandy.

"Putting it with ageing spirits seems like the right thing to do."

Julian said the amazing relic - worth more than £15,000 according to eBay - was first discovered by his ancestors.

The fossil was discovered in 1850 (SWNS)

He said; "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.

"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.

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"You have to remember that fossils weren't really explained until Darwin came along.

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

The ichthyosaurus was a marine reptile which lived approximately 200 million years ago during the Jurassic period.

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