Journey from Pipes to Prehistory: Plumber’s Fossil Collection Inspires £5M Dinosaur Museum with 2,500 Jurassic Specimens on Display

A fossil hunter who unearthed 2,500 Jurassic specimens has been forced to move his collection to a purpose-built museum after it outgrew his home.

Former plumber Steve Etches, 66, spent 30 years collecting relics, cataloguing and storing each one in the garage of his detached home in Kimmeridge, Dorset.

But he has run out of room at home and will now put the pieces on display at a new£5million Jurassic centre in the town.

Enthusiast: Steve Etches in the garage of his home where he keeps his fossil collection

Lifelong passion: Mr Etches hunting fossils in the 1990s, left, and as a boy in the 1950s, right

New home: The entrance to the Etches Collection, which will now house the 2,500 relics

The ‘Etches Collection’, which exhibits fossils from 150 million years ago, has been described as the finest assortment of Late Jurassic age fossils ever assembled in Britain. It opens to the public on Friday.

Mr Etches said: ‘This moment has been 20 years in the making, it’s taken an immense amount of time and effort so I’m relieved the opening is finally here.

‘I always wanted to exhibit my work but I never dreamed it would be on such a large scale, it’s brilliant. It just goes to show that if you really want something you can achieve it.

‘It’s humbling to consider the support I have got over the course of this process, so many people have placed their belief in me, it’s a real honour.’

Specialist: Mr Etches had display cases built in his garage, where fossils hang on the wall

Informative: A fossil from an Ichthyosaurs, on display inside the new Etches Collection

Accomplished: Mr Etches has been awarded an MBE. Above, fossils in the museum

Mr Etches has become world renowned in his field after finding rare fossils, including some from species that experts previously thought did not exist on the Jurassic Coast.

He has been awarded an MBE for his work and has received a string of academic prizes for his research work in paleontology.

Mr Etches’ entire 2,500-piece collection has been transferred to the museum but only 10 per cent has been put on display.

The other samples will remain in storage and rotated into the cases in the future.

Breathtaking: A fossil of an Ichthyosaur is on display in the museum alongside information

Lifelong project: One display in the museum shows the origin of Mr Etches’ passion for fossils

Staggering: This two-metre long jaw from a Pliosaur is the largest single piece in the collection

Fossils from crocodiles, sharks, barnacles and flying reptiles as well as corals, crustaceans and dinosaurs are among those on view.

The largest single specimen is a two-metre long jaw of a Pliosaur.

The facility also incorporates a dynamic research centre and visitors will be able to watch Mr Etches as he cleans and conserves new finds within his workshop.

State-of-the-art: The facility also incorporates a dynamic research centre. Above, Mr Etches

On display: The humerus of a plesiosaur and femur of a pilosaur sit side by side in the museum

Mr Etches added: ‘The collection will completely change what people think a museum is. It will be an experience that takes you back to deep time.

‘Objects that once seemed static are being brought to life and represented as if they are modern day animals.

‘That is what I am proud of. That is my legacy, and I want it to inspire others.’

The museum will be open Tuesday to Sunday and will cost £8 per adult and £4 for children.

Origins: Mr Etches previously kept his enormous collection at his home in Kimmeridge, above

Upgrade: The pieces are now on display at the purpose-built museum in the town, above

Sia

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