Crystal Palace Dinosaur Sculpture Saved From Extinction
Work by skilled craftsmen to make and install 22 new teeth, a new nose and a light-weight ‘prosthetic’ jaw (colour matched to the 167-year-old body) has just been completed. The rescue mission was supported by a grant from the Culture Recovery Fund, awarded by Historic England.
The famous Megalosaurus dinosaur at Crystal Palace Park is ready to delight visitors once more following an emergency ‘face-lift’ completed just in time for lockdown restrictions easing.
The beloved Megalosaurus is a popular favourite in the collection of 30 iconic sculptures which have thrilled visitors since they were revealed as the world’s first life-sized reconstructions of the extinct animals in 1854.
The giant Grade I listed statue, which stands 3.5 metres high and 10 metres long, was at serious risk of deteriorating beyond repair when its jaw collapsed last May during the country’s first lockdown.
Now, intricate work to install 22 new teeth, a new nose and a light-weight ‘prosthetic’ jaw (colour matched to the 167-year-old body) has been completed just in time for restrictions lifting.
The complex work to revive the Megalosaurus was carried out by a team of highly skilled specialists from conservation company Taylor Pearce, over the last 6 months.
The conservation project involved taking the original, damaged heavy fragments from the creature’s face to the studio, scanning them using white light techniques, matching them with archival 3D scans and then creating a lightweight replica ‘prosthesis’ using 3D printing processes.
The emergency rescue mission was made possible thanks to a grant from the Culture Recovery Fund, dedicated fundraising by the Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs and the commitment of Bromley Council, together with support and expert advice from Historic England.
All 30 sculptures were added to Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register early in 2020, due to large cracks appearing in some of their bodies and limbs, putting them in danger of losing toes, teeth and tails.
The Geological Illustrations and Deep Time landscapes are also part of the historic site.
History of the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs
The beautiful, impressive sculptures were created by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, one of the best natural history artists of the Victorian era.
The term ‘dinosaur’ had been coined just 10 years earlier and the endeavour to bring life-size extinct animals to life for the general public was radical. They would have enthralled and educated people then, much as they do now.
The sculptures are internationally important and represent the first major outreach project worldwide of science as ‘edu-tainment’ – the democratisation of science.
They represent the cutting-edge scientific knowledge of the day, though current perspectives reconstruct them quite differently.
They help tell the story of how science advances as interpretation improves with better data, analysis and research.
The animals are arranged in chronological order – from the oldest land animals known from fossils found by the Victorians, such as the Dicynodons, at the ‘Deep Time’ end to the most recent species, the extinct Ice Age mammals such as Giant Deer and giant Ground Sloth, at the far end, close to the café.
They are located on three artificial islands and in lakes in the south section of the park, indicating the lost landscapes the creatures might have roamed when they were alive.
The island representing the Age of the Dinosaurs gave the first views ‘in the flesh’ of the three first-named dinosaur species, Megalosaurus, Iguanodon and Hylaeosaurus. There are also many sculptures of the marine reptiles found by famous fossil collector Mary Anning along England’s World Heritage site, the Jurassic Coast.
The towering Megalosaurus is loved by children and adults alike, with a fan club across the capital, the country and indeed the world! It is heartening to think that this restoration work will give so much pleasure to so many people, as we begin to explore historic places again. All 30 sculptures are on our Heritage at Risk Register, which means we can continue to focus attention on them and work in partnership with Bromley Council and the Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs to secure their long-term future.
We are delighted that these works have now been completed and the beloved Megalosaurus has been protected from dilapidating past the point of repair. I hope she will not be too fierce and terrify visitors! Although there is much more work to be done to support the preservation of the Dinosaurs, the completion of these works helps to ensure the stability of the already fragile sculpture, in preparation for further conservation works in the coming years. The Council will continue to work alongside Historic England and the Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs to support this cherished community asset.
The Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs are thrilled to see the works completed. Hundreds of individuals responded to Meg's plight which enabled us to help initiate this work alongside Bromley Council and Historic England. We feel this demonstrates the power of community action and we are happy that Meg can face the future whilst we continue to protect and promote the world's first dinosaur statues.