The Crystal Palace Dinosaurs
If you live in Bromley, Croydon, Lambeth or any other South London Borough, at some point you would’ve heard of, or visited the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs.
The Crystal Palace Dinosaurs may be a wildly inaccurate Victorian depiction of what dinosaurs looked like but they have a fascinating history.
The public’s fascination with dinosaurs began in the mid nineteenth century, half a century before a Tyrannosaurus was ever discovered.
Whilst the sculptor of the Crystal Palace dinosaurs Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, used a lot of creative licence and assumptions he didn’t really have much information to work with.
The term “dinosaur” was only coined ten years before the Crystal Palace dinosaurs were made!
The 30 plus Grade-1 listed sculptures that make up the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs are absolutely vital objects in the history of science. They were the first ever attempt to model full-scale replicas of extinct animals, especially dinosaurs, and one of the first examples of natural history-based ‘edu-tainment’.
Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins was the sculptor responsible for the statues. His goal was first to wow the viewer and then educate them.
What better way to amuse your children that entertainment with a subtle dose of education?
Of course it was the Victorians and not Walt Disney who first thought of this idea but Disney did coin the term 100 years later.
The Crystal Palace Dinosaurs and park are really just the Victorian grandfather of modern amusement parks like Disney World.
History of the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 🦖
You can find out more about the individual statues here.
These pages include information on the statues themselves, what we known about these species today and how palaeoartistic reconstructions have changed over time, including a wonderful set of new, up-to-date artistic interpretations.
Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins was a natural history artist and his sculptures were set in a landscape designed by Joseph Paxton that also included hillside illustrations of economic geology created by Professor David Ansted.
This section of the park was constructed 1853-1855 to accompany the relocation of the Crystal Palace from Hyde Park to Sydenham Hill in south London following the Great Exhibition of 1851.
The giant glass-and-iron Crystal Palace stayed in Bromley till the night of November 30–December 1, 1936, it was virtually destroyed by fire.
The towers that survived were finally demolished in 1941 because they were deemed a conspicuous landmark for incoming German bombers.
When Crystal Palace Park opened in 1954 only some of the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs were complete.
During 1854-1855, Waterhouse continued towards his whole plan, but in 1855 the directors of Crystal Palace Company ordered him to stop. The directors decided that ‘More’ was not always ‘better’ and the park didn’t need a life sized mammoth!
This 2013 lecture by Professor Joe Cain on Crystal Palace Dinosaurs discusses how the dinosaurs fit into the larger setting of the park and the history of science. It also interprets the statues as a visitor would have done in the 1850s.
Crystal Palace Dinosaurs Photo safari
Amusing children in the summer holiday can be a tricky task at the best of times but during a world wide pandemic it’s even harder!
This summer I tried to organise days out that made the most of the good weather, included something that I would selfishly enjoy and that could keep the attention span of my 6 year old daughter.
I’d heard about the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs but never had a chance to visit them. With a promising forecast we took the short trip to Crystal Palace Park to explore and photograph some dinosaurs.
I knew some of the dinosaurs were a fair distance away so I packed a mirrorless camera with a responsible zoom.
We explored the park and my daughter snapped away happily till she decided it was time for ice cream.
The following images were all taken by my six year old daughter.
London In 360 Dinosaurs
Since the start of the year I’ve been photographing London with a 360 camera. I’m sharing daily images at London In 360.
As part of the project I took some 360 images of the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs.
I’m quite happy how they came out but I do still think my daughter’s pictures are better!
Crystal Palace Dinosaurs Free download
We didn’t really have a plan on how to photograph or find the dinosaurs which is why we created a Crystal Palace Dinosaurs Photo Safari sheet.
The download has been created using facts from The Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs website.
We’ve left space for you to either draw the dinosaurs as you find them or stick in the photos you take.
Other things to do in Crystal Palace Park
No day would be complete without some refreshments and Crystal Palace Park has then in abundance thanks to the Brown and Green Cafe.
We visited the Bev bar for some ice cream, snacks and drinks. I can wholeheartedly recommend the Sunshine Hotdog. Pineapple in a hotdog is awesome I promise you.
After lunch we took a pedalo ride in the lower lake with Park Boats London which was fun.
Inevitably the allure of the playground could not be ignored so the rest of the afternoon was spent acquiring sand for redistribution in our house later that day.
Famous Crystal Palace Dinosaurs Declared at Risk
In February 2020 the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs were also officially declared ‘At Risk’ by Historic England, making them the highest priority for conservation.
By adding the much-loved sculptures to the Heritage at Risk Register, Historic England is raising awareness of their plight and is focusing attention on their repair and conservation. The project will be led by Bromley Council as part of a major regeneration of Crystal Palace Park.
Support Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs
There are several ways that you can get involved to help Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs from donating money and time to buying great CP Dino themed gifts and products. Thank you in advance for all your support!
* The excellent Parakeet Books sells the fabulous book The Mysterious Dinosaurs of Crystal Palace written by Sheju Adiyatiparambil-John and Judy Skidmore and illustrated by Anastasiya Epishina
* Matt Bannister makes a number of well-known prints and other products featuring the Dinos in locations around Crystal Palace
* The wonderful Boho & Bowie have made some ‘Megalosaurus Needs Us’ t-shirts (in adult and children sizes) and are donating £2 to FCPD from every t-shirt sold.