Allenton hippopotamus

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Allenton Hippo
Museum display case containing a hippopotamus skeleton
Allenton Hippopotamus skeleton displayed at Derby Museum and Art Gallery
SizeLength: 3 m (120 in)
Discovered1895; Allenton, Derby
Present locationNatural History, Derby Museum, Derby

The Allenton Hippo is a substantive hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) skeleton that was found in Allenton, Derby, England, in 1895.[1] The skeleton is exhibited in Derby Museum and Art Gallery and is 3 metres (9.8 ft) in length. It is celebrated today in a sculpture near to where the skeleton was discovered.[2]


The suburb of Derby called Allenton used to be a village 5 kilometres (3 mi) from Derby. Digging of a new well at the Crown Inn in the village was undertaken in March 1895, but work stopped when the diggers discovered first a bad smell and then large and unusual bones. Several notable people agreed to fund further investigations and it was agreed that the findings should be shared with the community. The hole was extended until it was 4.5 square metres (48 sq ft) in area although the depth was concealed by water, which rose to within 1.8 metres (6 ft) of the surface. Pumps were obtained and men were employed to power them in order that the hole could be dug further. These proceedings were observed by H.H. Bemrose and R.M. Deeley who later wrote an account of the digging.[3] As agreed by the people who funded it the bones were given to Derby Museum which had then been open for sixteen years.[4]

Lower jaw of Allenton Hippo and QR Code that links smart phones to this article

They eventually discovered 127 bones that came mostly from a hippopotamus, with a few belonging to rhinoceros and elephant. Arnold Bemrose took these bones as supporting evidence that Britain had a land bridge to Europe, as this was the most obvious explanation for such bones being found in England, Europe and underneath the North Sea.[1]

The Allenton hippo and other animal remains from Boulton Moor all originated from a feature known as the Allenton Terrace – a deposit of river gravels some 6 metres (20 ft) above the level of the modern River Derwent. The deposits have been dated to the Ipswichian Interglacial, approximately 120,000 years ago. The presence of a hippopotamus indicates that the climate was warmer than today. The winters would have no prolonged periods of frost and the average summer temperature would have been above eighteen degrees Celsius.[5]

Later discoveries[edit]

Laser scanning Allenton Hippo canine tooth at Loughborough University

In July 1973 workers discovered other bone fragments whilst digging in nearby Boulton Moor – some of which are also displayed in Derby Museum and Art Gallery. These excavations, for a sewer, uncovered bones from bear, deer, ox and more bones from hippopotamus, rhinoceros and elephants. These findings were just one or two bones – the best discovery was one of the largest hippo teeth found in Britain.[6]

Sculpture in Allenton shopping centre

In 2006 Michael Dan Archer was commissioned to create a sculpture for Allenton. Discussions in Allenton revealed a desire within the community to have something that reflected the area's history. Archer's sculpture consists of three sections of a broken ring of black granite of sufficient size to form a seat. Above the polished granite surface are set cast-iron copies of bones from the hippo's skeleton. Apart from the lower jaw, which was cast from a clay model, a selection of other bones were taken from Derby Museum to Loughborough University where they were laser-scanned to create a 3D computer model. This model then allowed exact copies of the bones chosen by Archer to be cast in iron.[2]


  1. ^ a b Arnold Bemrose, H.H. (1910). Derbyshire. Cambridge University Press. p. 53. Retrieved 31 July 2011. In 1896, the author and Mr R.M. Deeley obtained the greater portion of the skeleton of a hippopotamus, together with part of the breast-bone of an elephant and of the femur of a rhinoceros, in the Derwent gravel at Allenton, immediately to the south of Derby. These bones are now in the Museum at Derby.
  2. ^ a b Archer, Michael Dan. "Derby Sculpture". Archived from the original on 5 May 2011. Retrieved 31 July 2011.
  3. ^ Arnold Bemrose, H.H.; R.M.Deeley (August 1896). "Discovery of Mammalian Remains in the Old River-gravels of the Derwent near Derby". Journal of the Geological Society. doi:10.1144/gsl.jgs.1896.052.01-04.31.
  4. ^ "Treasures of Derby". Derby City Council. Archived from the original on 7 May 2011. Retrieved 31 July 2010.
  5. ^ van Kolfschoten, Th. (2000). "The Eemian mammal fauna of central Europe". Netherlands Journal of Geosciences. 79 (2/3): 269–281. doi:10.1017/S0016774600021752. ...the hippopotamus, Hippopotamus amphibius, and the water buffalo, Bubalus murrensis, present in the Eemian fauna, indicate a climate with relatively high summer temperatures (mean July temperature > 18 °C) and the absence of periods of severe or long-lasting winter frost
  6. ^ Grange, William (2003). When Hippos ... Swam in the Derwent. Derby Museum and Art Gallery.