Dinosaur Court

 
 
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Dinosaur Court

Location: Crystal Palace Park, Bromley, South London, UK

Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins' studio in Sydenham, where he made the Crystal Palace dinosaurs:
Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins' studio in Sydenham, where he made the Crystal Palace dinosaurs
Located in Crystal Palace Park which lies within the Borough of Bromley in South London, Dinosaur Court, generally known as the "Crystal Palace Dinosaurs", is home to the oldest life-sized models of extinct animals in the world. The models were commissioned in 1852, designed and sculpted by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, and first unveiled to the public in 1854. Hawkins constructed based on the best available scientific evidence at the time, including advice from the eminent scientist Sir Richard Owen, however subsequent discoveries have revealed quite a large number of errors and inaccuracies in the models - in fact, as early as 1895, Othniel C. Marsh was making strong criticisms of the models.

During the 20th century, the site began to fall into disrepair and were overgrown by foliage. Some effort was put into restoring the models in the 1950s, but it was not until 2002 that a full restoration was made. In the 1950s restoration, several of the models were moved around, and the "new" positions have been retained to this day. The models are valuable and unique, and has been officially recognized as such - the sculptures were made Grade II Listed Buildings (meaning "buildings of special architectural or historic interest") in 1973, and the status was upgraded to Grade I ("buildings of outstanding or national architectural or historic interest") in 2007.

The models created by Hawkins include both dinosaurs and a variety of other extinct animals. Originally Hawkins planned to build a number of further models, but his funding was cut by the Crystal Palace Company in 1855 after he had spent £13,729. As a result, and despite protests, including by The Observer newspaper, several planned models were, either left unmade, or scrapped after being half finished.

Today visitors to the park can see models of the following animals (in some cases, there is more than one model of an animal):


Exhibits at Dinosaurt Court: Dinosaurs
  • Hylaeosaurus - An armored dinosaur that lived in the early Cretaceous period and which is today believed to resemble Ankylosaurus. By modern standards, Hawkins depiction is not considered particularly accurate. The head of the Hylaeosaurus in the park is not the original, but is a fiber-glass replacement - the original head can be found outside the visitor center.

    Crystal Palace Iguanodon statutes:
    Crystal Palace Iguanodon statutes
  • Iguanodon - A herbivorous dinosaur from the early Cretaceous period. Hawkins depicted the creature on all fours with a spike on its nose - today we believe the creature was a biped, and the conical spikes were attached not to the animal's nose, but to its thumbs.

  • Megalosaurus - A carnivorous dinosaur that lived during the Jurassic period. It was the first dinosaur to be scientifically described (in 1824 by William Buckland), and is depicted as a heavily-built tank-like quadraped. Today however we know that Megalosaurus was a bipedal creature.

Exhibits at Dinosaurt Court: Other Prehistoric Animals
  • Anaplotherium - An extinct genera of mammals. Hawkins depicted the animals as camel-like, but today they are believed to be more like hippopotamus or pigs. Three models were originally made, but one has subsequently gone missing.

  • Dicynodon - A mammal-like reptile that like during the Permian Period. Hawkins depicted the animal as tortoise-like both in stance and by having a shell - however there is no evidence to support this hypothesis. Today Dicynodon is believed to have resembled a hippopotamus.

  • Ichthyosaurus - A marine-reptile that lived during the Jurassic period. They are inaccurately depicted as crocodile-life and basking on land, whereas today we know they were more similar in shape to a dolphin and never came ashore.

  • Labyrinthodon - Large Temnospondyl amphibians from the Triassic period - Hawkins models are based on frogs.

  • Megaloceros ("Irish Elk") - Hawkins depicted a male, female and fawn. Originally the models of adults had antlers made from fossils.

  • Megatherium - An extinct species of ground sloth that lived from 2 million to 800,000 years ago.

  • Mosasaurus - A species of marine reptile that lived in the late Cretaceous period. As only the skull had been discovered at the time, the model has been positioned such that only the head is visible.

  • Palaeotherium - A herd of tapir-like mammals from the Eocene.

  • Plesiosaurus - There are three models of Plesiosaurus, each intended to represent a different genus. The models are considered fairly accurate by today's standards, except the necks are depicted as too flexible.

  • Pterodactyl - Extinct species of winged reptiles ("Pterosaurs"). Again considered fairly accurate but for over-flexible necks.

  • Teleosaurus - Two models of extinct crocodile-like reptiles from the early Jurassic period. These models are also considered reasonably accurate.

Address

Crystal Palace Park
Thicket Road
Crystal Palace
London
SE19 2GA
United Kingdom


Official Web Site

As far as we know, there is currently no official website for Dinosaur Court.




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