Sunday, 1 November 2009


The Crystal Palace Dinosaurs are sculptures that were commissioned in 1852 and unveiled in 1854. When the Crystal Palace was moved to Sydenham Hill after the Great Exhibition, the new Crystal Palace Company commissioned Benjamin Waterhouse (a sculptor) and Sir Richard Owen (a biologist and palaeontologist) to build life-sized models of extinct animals. In the end, the funding ran out, and some of the planned sculptures remained uncompleted.

The reconstructions were based on fossils from the Natural History Museum, and skeletons of modern animals. They predated the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species by several years, and at the time were controversial. Within 40 years, science had moved on, and the models were recognised as being unrealistic. They fell into disrepair, but were restored in 2002, and were grade-1 listed in 2007.

When I was a child I had a dinosaur book with pictures of these, and I have waited for almost half a century to see the real thing. Today I finally made it. After all that time, I was prepared to be disappointed, and slightly surprised that I wasn't.

There's more here, here, here, here, and elsewhere.

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