Photographer: Geoff Downer
|Bensted's (or Iguanodon) Quarry|
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Grid Reference: TQ747558
Bensted's quarry is an important site in the history of geology/palaeontology on an international scale.
The quarry was operated in the nineteenth century for limestone. The limestone was Kentish Rag in the Rag and Hassock facies (sandy limestone with glauconitic calcareous sandstone) from the Hythe Formation, Lower Greensand Group, Aptian stage of the Lower Cretaceous.
The site is regionally, nationally and internationally famous for the discovery in 1834, by Gideon Mantell, of a drifted carcass of the earliest known Ornithischian dinosaur, the Maidstone Iguanodon or 'Mantel-Piece', now officially called Iguanodon atherfieldensis.
The find enabled the re-assembly of isolated bones and teeth of the Iguanodon found previously in the Wealden by the Mantells in the 1820s. In less than a decade the find helped establish the idea, to an incredulous Victorian public, that there was once an Age of Giant Reptiles (Gideon Mantell) in Earth's History and that some of them belonged to a hitherto unrecognised group - the Dinosaurs (Richard Owen).
The history of the find has been variously recounted in scientific and popular literature and even the media for which two recent references are Dean (1999) and Cadbury (2000). For a scientific account of the dinosaur bones see Norman (1993).
Recent discoveries include W. H. Bensted's original notebook (Jarzembowski, 2002). The dinosaur was found in the White Bed of the Kentish Rag (Tropaeum bowerbanki zone, late Lower Aptian stage, circa 117 Ma), a marine limestone with the nautiloid Cymatophlebia, ammonites and fish remains (including Ischyodus, Heterodontus, Hybodus). Lower down in the 'Molluskite Hassock' (Black Jack Bed; phosphatic/calcareous masses) was found the pliosaur Polyptychodon and lower still the turtle Protemys (Deshayesites deshayesi zone) and sponge spicules. The cherty 'Boughton Group' overlying the Dinosaur horizon yielded drifted plants (conifers, studied by Marie Stopes and recently by Mark Crawley) and problematic fossil Petromile - being investigated by ichnologist John Pollard.
Bensted's Iguanodon Quarry closed in 1872 although some section was still visible as late as the 1960s. It was built over in the 1970s. The traditional dinosaur find spot and entrance to the quarry is given as The Dell, a 20th century private house which formerly displayed a couple of Iguanodons mounted on the gate posts, unfortunately now vandalised. However, the Iguanodon is included as a supporter in Maidstone's Coat-of-Arms.
The site could form part of an historical trail interpreting surviving features.
Access And Safety
The site of Bensted's Quarry is now a private residential area. Parking is possible on road. Ask permission for access from householders.
(Regionally Important Geological Sites)
RIGS are geological sites that are important for historical, scientific research or educational reasons.
(Sites of Special Scientific Interest)
SSSIs give legal protection to the best sites for wildlife and geology in England.