On a rare sunny day in April, while I was in London, I decided to take advantage of the weather and head over to see the dinosaurs at Crystal Palace Park, which I’d been meaning to do for some time. After the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park closed the large glass and iron structure of Crystal Palace moved to the park. A series of over 30 sculptures were commissioned in 1852 and placed in the grounds of the Park, including dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures.
These were the first dinosaur sculptures in the world, and are now protected as Grade I listed buildings. They were made by the sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins and though not terribly accurate by today’s standards, they proved extremely popular at the time with even Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visiting on more than one occasion.
Crystal Palace itself was destroyed in a fire in 1936 though there have been persistent rumours for years suggesting it could be rebuilt one day. The sculptures are certainly impressive and well worth preserving, set in some lovely surroundings that include man-made lakes.
It’s also a nice place to have a spot of lunch and get close to some wildlife including ducks, swans and some particularly friendly squirrels.
If you’re travelling by train to the park it is also worth paying attention to Crystal Palace railway station. It opened in 1854 to take passengers to see the Crystal Palace once it had been moved to the park and retains many of its Victorian features.
It takes a bit of time to travel there from central London but it’s well worth a visit. You can find more photos of the park here.
Thanks for the lovely post and pictures. I visited the Crystal Palace dinosaur park in the 80s when I was a kid, and the dinosaurs looked pretty run down, with peeling paint and broken appendages. It looks like they are doing much better now.