Wiltshire Publications

Westbury beast could be coming home!

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THE colossal six-foot skull of the prehistoric monster that was originally found in a Westbury clay pit is currently on display in the Bristol Museum – but the local heritage society have put forward plans to display the ocean-dwelling monster in the town where it was first discovered. 

Liz Argent, secretary of the society said, “We are currently in discussion with Bristol Museum about loaning a model of the creature’s skull to display at the heritage centre next August. The skull itself is about 6 feet long, so there is no chance fitting anything else in!

“Partial remains of two different species of pliosaur were discovered in the clay pit on the site of the Westbury cement works in the 1980s and 1990s. The remains were investigated at Bristol Museum and are displayed there. About three or four years ago, the museum mounted a major display including a life size model.

“We do have plaster casts of part of the jaw and some of the teeth, which are on show occasionally.”  

The exhibition could run for two weeks and residents will have a chance to see up close the 150-million-year-old fossil and get a taste of what life was like for the gigantic beasts that roamed the earth before us. 

The discovery of the skeleton in Westbury was heralded as the world’s only example of a new species of pliosaur – Pliosaurus carpenteri – named after Simon Carpenter who unearthed the fossil. 

The Pliosaurus carpenteri was a fierce marine reptile that dominated the seas millions of years ago. Because of its size, it took 10 years to prepare all the fossils that were found. 

The ancient creature would have been between 8 to 8.5 metres long, the length of a bus, with sharp teeth the size of bananas, four huge flippers and crushingly powerful jaws. The pliosaur is thought to have been the ultimate underwater predator. 

The fossil is nicknamed Doris at Bristol Museum and the skull alone is 1.8m long; “she could have gulped you down in one bite,” says the museum.