The Kew Bridge Station railway cutting, 1849

In 2011 we discovered that fossil bones and antlers, presented by Thomas Layton, are in the collection of the Natural History Museum. With the help of Andy Currant, of the Natural History Museum’s Palaeonotology Department and Mike Savage, a volunteer at the museum and Friend of Gunnersbury Park & Museum, we went to see the finds.

The construction of the railway loop line from Waterloo to Hounslow reached Brentford in 1849. Fossil bones of oxen and bear, together with numerous antlers, were found during the excavation of the cutting at Kew Bridge Station in that year.

Most of these specimens have labels which indicate that they were presented by Layton  in 1849.  He was then 30 years old and still relatively young. As the railway excavations were only yards from his home beside Kew Bridge he could have kept an eye on the works in progress.

Hitherto we had thought that he had given away only one item, a sword which is in the British Museum. Now it is clear that he  made this gift, which would also have been to the British Museum – the natural history department had not yet been transferred to the separate institution we now know at South Kensington.