An incredibly rare fossil – the 315 million-year-old Coseley Spider – will star in a new exhibition revealing the Black Country’s amazing geological legacy. Never shown in Wolverhampton before, the internationally important example of the species Eophrynus Prestvicii discovered near Coseley shows the early evolution of spiders, say experts. And it is part of a new exhibition called The Riches Beneath Us, which opens on Friday (14 August 2015) at Bantock House Museum and features around 100 artefacts which give a glimpse into the region’s landscape millions of years ago.
The exhibition is the largest display of Wolverhampton’s impressive geology collection in decades and features fascinating fossils, many collected – like the Coseley Spider – from the Black Country’s collieries and limestone mines.
Visitors can journey back to a time hundreds of millions of years to when the area now called the Black Country was a tropical forest or shallow coral reef.
The Coseley Spider is currently on loan to Wolverhampton Art Gallery from the Lapworth Museum of Geology based at the University of Birmingham and is one of only two examples of Eophrynus Prestvicii ever found.
Experts say the first was described in 1837 and the second – nicknamed the Coseley Spider – was discovered in 1871 at the former Parkfields Colliery.
Curators at Wolverhampton Art Gallery have also revealed two other rare finds in the city’s collection which will also go on show for the first time in the new exhibition.
They are a fossilised fern leaf which fell from a prehistoric tree more than 300 million years ago and was perfectly preserved in ironstone and a 165-year-old tooth from one of the Jurassic world’s most vicious predators, the plesiosaur.
They come from a collection of thousands of geological items stored at Wolverhampton Art Gallery which were donated to the city in 1911 by Dr John Fraser, a geologist who lived in the Wolverhampton and spent a lifetime collecting fossils.
Councillor John Reynolds, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy, said: “The Coseley Spider highlights the amazing geology and riches beneath the Black Country and is part of this incredible exhibition of never-before seen fascinating fossils and rocks.”
Jon Clatworthy, director of the Lapworth Museum of Geology at the University of Birmingham, said: “It is wonderful that the Coseley Spider is going on show for the first time in Wolverhampton, not far from where it was first found more than 100 years ago.
“Although it carries the nickname it is not actually a spider but rather an extinct relative of modern spiders. The closet way to envisage what the creature might have looked like if it were alive today would be the South American harvestman spider.”
The Riches Beneath Us is at Bantock House Museum from Friday. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, 11am-5pm and entry is free. For more details about Bantock House Museum and Park, please visit www.bantockhouse.co.uk or call 01902 552195.
Children interested in fossils and geology can enjoy hands-on fun at special workshops help at Wolverhampton Art Gallery every Friday during the summer holidays. For details, please call 01902 552055.