The Crystal Palace Dinosaurs are world famous heritage assets. Dating from the 1850s, they are listed “Grade 1” on Historic England’s National Register of Heritage Monuments. This is their highest rating. Maintaining this display of over 30 large outdoor sculptures and numerous geological formations is an enormous task.
All the sculptures currently have visible deterioration when viewed up close, including cracks in their bodies, loss of toes, teeth and tails, shedding paint and vegetation taking root on their surfaces. In 2014, Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs led experts from English Heritage around the site to show them areas of key concern. Afterwards, English Heritage designated the site as “vulnerable” and “declining” in condition. This was a call to action. The statues are in trouble, and Friends and the London Borough of Bromley are working hard to save the dinosaurs.
In 2014 Bromley Council and the Mayor of London designated an overall £2.4 million for projects in Crystal Palace Park. A public consultation showed the Dinosaurs to be the people’s top choice. £400,000 was earmarked for Dinosaur-related work, including infrastructure, interpretation and conservation. The first phase of conservation work on the standing iguanodonwas completed in early 2016. Under the oversight of the Morton Partnership, Cliveden Conservation undertook emergency repairs to stabilise the famous sculpture. This model was chosen as it was in particularly poor condition with several large cracks though its body.
The second phase of work began in autumn 2016 and seven of the water-based sculptures are currently undergoing major conservation by Skillington Workshop. Funding is currently available for about 10% of the conservation work required. The remainder will be raised though fundraising.
Major conservation was last completed in 2003 by the Morton Partnership as part of a £3.6 million Park restoration programme headed by London Borough of Bromley, with contributions from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Crystal Palace Partnership (SRB funding) scheme. This work involved repair and restoration. It also produced several reconstructions. The conservation work for 2003 needed to be extensive and particular credit goes to geologist Professor Peter Doyle for his contributions. When work commenced most of the Geological Illustrations were unrecognisable. Six of the sculptures were missing, as was a large section of the former limestone cliff with a reconstructed lead mine that was blown up to allow for re-landscaping in the 1962 when the adjacent stadium was built.
Public pride and a sense of ownership for the sculptures is critical to provide the momentum for future maintenance of the ensemble. The Friends are working with Bromley, Cliveden, Morton, Skillington Workshop and both the UCL Institute of Archaeology and City and Guilds conservation programmes to offer a full set of conservation engagement activities.. We are organising site visits during the work, film and photo documentation, and education units for schools (to be delivered through our collaboration with Emerald Ant). This webpage will feature regular blog posts about details of the works, while our Facebook page will give topical updates. Stay with us throughout, share us with your friends, and give us your feedback!