A letter dating back to 1956 and a fossil 140 million years old have reached Stanhoe Archive thanks to the generosity of Hazel Seekings, daughter of the late Eric and Eva Blackburn of Stanhoe.
Eric found the “devil’s toenail” – actually a fossil oyster shell with a characteristically curved shape – somewhere in Stanhoe, and sent it to Norwich Castle Museum to be identified. The letter explaining his discovery is signed by Ted Ellis, for may years Keeper of Natural History at the museum and a very well-known Norfolk naturalist.
Devil’s toenails belong to the genus Gryphaea; Ted Ellis identified this one as Gryphaea arcuata, previously known as Gryphaea incurva. They are common finds in parts of the midlands and the Yorkshire coast, and feature on the coat of arms of Scunthorpe. Carrying one was once thought to prevent rheumatism.
See a copy of the original letter here.