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Peterborough Under Water

165 million years ago


Peterborough was much closer to the equator in Jurassic times and a shallow sea covered the area. Together with warmer global temperatures, the local climate would have felt as balmy as the Bahamas. In the 145 million years since the Jurassic Period, the continents have moved hundreds of miles. Ever since the Earth formed, the rocky plates on its surface have moved around very slowly, powered by the heat in the planet’s core. Today, the continents continue to move as they collide and separate very slowly. Peterborough’s Jurassic sea was packed with creatures of all sizes, from microsopic to monstrous. The small fish, ammonites and belemnites feasted on shoals of plankton. They in turn became food for larger creatures. At the top of the food chain were the large ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, pliosaurs and crocodiles. The shallow sea supported a huge variety of fish of all sizes and shapes, adapted for life at different depths in the water. Near the surface, shoals of fast-swimming Caturus hunted smaller fish. The vast Leedsichthys – the biggest fish ever known – cruised harmelssly among them, gulping in water and filtering plankton to eat. When these creatures died they sank to the bottom of the sea where some of them became fossilised. Peterborough Museum houses a magnificent collect of these fossils.

Birth of Alfred Leeds, Fossil Dealer



Alfred Nicholson Leeds was the first person that found Leedsichthys fossil fish bones. He was a pioneer in methods of collecting and preserving fossil skeletons in the latter half of the 19th Century. For nearly half a century he devoted his leisure to recovering the remains of fossil reptiles and fishes. He collected the specimens from the brick pits in the Oxford Clay near Peterborough. By his death in 1917, Alfred Leeds had excavated and sold literally thousands of Oxford Clay vertebrate fossils. He sent his finds to museum collections in countries around the world including Germany, Sweden and the United States. His name is now in the fossil he first discovered - he is the Leeds in 'Leeds'-icthys.