Megalosaurus damage – sad day for Crystal Palace Dinosaurs

Megalosaurus in 2008 Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, Crystal Palace Park, London | ProfJoeCain
Megalosaurus in 2008 Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, Crystal Palace Park, London | ProfJoeCain

Photographs on Twitter show catastrophic damage to the jaw of the Crystal Palace Dinosaur Megalosaurus. This is one of the original four giant statues of dinosaurs built by sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins for the opening of Crystal Palace Park in 1854. This sculpture is unique. The damage was first reported Monday 18 May 2020. I heard it from Mark Witton’s tweets. It has since been reported by BBC News and covered widely in the national press.

Damage to Megaloceros jaw reported on Instagram and Twitter, 23 May 2020. Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, Crystal Palace Park, London
Damage to Megaloceros jaw reported on Instagram and Twitter, May 2020. Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, Crystal Palace Park, London (image from Graeme Swanson Twitter feed citing source as Instagram.)

The speculation on Twitter, and at the moment it is only speculation and it is subject to police investigation, is that vandalism is the cause. Whatever the reason, this is a conservation disaster. Quick action is needed to collect the pieces, store them securely, and cover the exposed space. Restoration was overdue. The statue is concrete. It is exposed. It is at risk.

Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs have encouraged anyone who has information about this incident to contact the police referring to case reference 330949/20. They released a statement.

Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs press release on damage to Megalosaurus

Whatever the cause, this is shocking news for the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs. Compare a few days previous when all seemed well. This is a conservation disaster, and it is going to be difficult to restore. It’s heart-breaking. Megalosaurus is one of the best-loved sculptures among the thirty-plus animal statues in the series. Here are a few of my images over the past decade or so.

Damage to Megaloceros (Irish Elk), too

Damage also has been reported to the statue of the bull male Megaloceros (Irish Elk). When I last visited the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs in January, I observed a collapsed antler on that Megaloceros statue. Others noticed it, too: here and here. Additional damage is most worrying both for the statue itself and what it means for de-stabilising the sculpture – there is a lot of weight on the head and it’s finely balanced. I wish I could travel to visit the park to have a closer look. That must wait the lifting of non-essential travel restrictions.

Megaloceros damage, photographed in January 2020. Right antler of bull male has collapsed. Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, Crystal Palace Park, London | ProfJoeCain
Megaloceros damage, photographed in January 2020. Right antler of bull male collapsed. Most recent damage is not shown here. Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, Crystal Palace Park, London | ProfJoeCainCrystal Palace Park, London, England

Compare before and after images.

It’s common to see people using the statues in ways that hurt them. Hyalaeosaurus skull, in particular. And least we forget vandalism and environmental damage occur on an irregular basis.

Remember the damage done by vandalism to Paleothereium in 2015, which remains unrepaired. English Heritage has added Crystal Palace Dinosaurs to their “at risk” register. Austerity had put the statues closer to extinction.

Help through Donation Towards Conservation

We can help Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs support conservation efforts and lobby Bromley Council (who are caretakers of these Grade I listed structures of national importance) by donation through their Website. The Friends is a registered charity, with a proven track record of effectiveness and delivery.

The Crystal Palace Dinosaurs need regular repair and conservation work. Vandalism only makes the job harder. Never mind that. The dinosaurs need us.

 

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