Mary Anning Rocks campaign hopes to raise £100k for Lyme Regis statue

By Sophie Perry

A 13-year-old girl has launched a campaign to raise £100,000 to erect a statue of palaeontologist Mary Anning in her Dorset hometown.

The Mary Anning Rocks campaign, led by Evie Swire from Dorchester, will use the funds to create a permanent, physical memorial to Anning in Lyme Regis. 

The campaign’s Crowdfunder has already raised over £50,000 since its launch in November, with hopes to reach its £100,000 goal by 15 January.

Anya Pearson, Evie’s mum, said their ‘Anning Army’ of supporters come from a wide range of backgrounds, all of whom connect with the fact Anning “came from nowhere” and “lived her whole life in poverty” but whose discoveries changed the direction of modern science. 

Anya adds the changing views on statutes dedicated to the “pale, male, stale brigade” due to the Black Lives Matter movement has heightened the need to commemorate Mary Anning.

She said: “It has really put a spotlight on some really bad statues to some really bad people, so making a civic monument to Mary is even more needed than ever before.”

“It is hugely important she is put back into Lyme Regis.”

Professor Alice Roberts, who was featured in the Crowdfunder launch video, has described Anning as “one of the most important pioneers in British palaeontology”. 

She said: “It is about restoring her to her rightful place in the history of science, it is about making sure that anyone who visits Lyme Regis knows that this really important woman was there doing that work in the early days of palaeontology.”

Anning’s discoveries in the early nineteenth century fundamentally changed and shaped scientific understanding of prehistoric life.

Despite being the first person to discover Ichthyosaur and Plesiosaur dinosaur fossils, her work was never properly credited or recognised. Due to Anning’s gender, lack of formal education and poor, working-class background, she was denied entry to the influential Geological Society of London.

Anning’s fossils are displayed in museums around the world but still show the names of the wealthy, educated men who plagiarised her work.

The campaign has attracted a string of well-known supporters alongside Professor Roberts, including Sir David Attenborough, author Tracey Chevalier and Dr Dean Lomax.

Anning’s life has also inspired the upcoming Francis Lee directed film Ammonite, starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan.