Pterodactyl statues in Crystal Palace Dinosaurs | missing

Pterodactyl (Oolite) statues in Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, restored 2000, damaged after 2005

Following this month’s damage to one of the most famous Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, Megalosaurus, I’m reminded of the pterodactyl statues (properly, pterosaurs) that were original to the collection. Those were created by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins in 1854. The were meant to be two individuals of the species, Pterodactylus bucklandiNot much is known about their existence in the years following. We do know they were damaged and removed at some point (an authoritative source claims they were in place as recently as the 1930s), then they disappeared entirely, whereabouts unknown. These pterodactyl statues were reconstructed at the end of the 1990s from photographs and illustrations during a major restoration of the site. Those reconstructions soon were damaged, then broken into pieces. Those pieces were collected by park rangers and moved into storage. I last saw them with my own eyes in 2014. There are no plans to replace the pterodactyls. Shame. They were fantastic additions to Crystal Palace Park.

Crystal Palace Dinosaurs postcard 51 EFA showing original Pterodactyl statues circa 1900

Pterodactyl statues after recreation pre-2000

The reconstructions were reinforced glass fibre, created by Fredrica Banks Restoration. The design materials and moulds used in fabrication were presented to the Council (via the park rangers) at the completion of the project.

The reconstructions survived approximately five years. They became detached from their footings either by heavy wind or by vandalism. (I suspect the former, as the design would have heavily stressed the legs in windy conditions.) The detached statues broke into pieces (again, how this occurred is not clear). These were later collected by park rangers and put into storage. This occurred after 2005, likely in that year.

Pterodactyl (Oolite) statues in Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, restored 2000, damaged after 2005
Pterodactyl (Oolite) statues came loose of their fixture at some point after 2005, most likely during 2005. They broke into pieces.
Remains of the fiberglass reconstruction of Pterodactyl (Oolite) statues in Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, restored 2000, damaged after 2005 | ProfJoeCain
Remains of the fiberglass reconstruction of Pterodactyl (Oolite) statues in Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, restored pre-2000, damaged after 2005. Stored by the park rangers.

Visitors to the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs today will find the stone plinth empty of Pterodactyl statues. The stainless steel support rods remain, with a small amount of moulded glass fibre still affixed.

Plinth on which stood the Pterodactyl (Oolite) statues in Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, restored 2000, damaged after 2005 | ProfJoeCain
Empty stone plinth on which stood reconstructed Pterodactyl (Oolite) statues from 2000-c2005. Stainless steel support rods remain, with some fiberglass molding remaining.

Pterodactyl (Wealden) sculptures remain in place, but are damaged

Keen-eyed visitors to the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs will see other pterodactyls. Of the two original sets, one survives. This set is a pair. They are located on a chalk pile near the southeastern end of Secondary Island, nearest to the Mosasaur and Iguanodon statues. These were repaired in the 2000 restorations. They survived in good condition for almost a decade, but have since fallen into disrepair.

Pterodactyl (Wealden) statues in Crystal Palace Dinosaurs in 2005 | ProfJoeCain
The other pterodactyl (Wealden) statues in Crystal Palace Dinosaurs. Photograph taken in 2005, when the statues were in good repair excepting some graffiti on the wing. Comparing images today will show sad decline. | ProfJoeCain.

Apologies

I’ve written this blog in a rush and plan to add more detail at a later date. I wanted to make the images better known. Mark Witton’s blog is excellent. Also, well worth the read is Doyle and Robinson (1993) The Victorian Geological Illustrations of Crystal Palace Park, Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association Volume 104, Issue 3, 1993, Pages 181-194.

 

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