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Iguanodon body cracks

The standing Iguanodon shows substantial cracks in the body and is at risk of collapse. Credit: Cain 2014

It’s official. English Heritage has described Crystal Palace Dinosaurs as “vulnerable”. This is a formal conservation designation. In plain speaking, it means English Heritage says the statues are in trouble, they’re declining, and something needs to be done.

Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs has been nudging English Heritage to notice the conservation needs of the statues and the site. We’ve raised the subject with them many times. In May 2014, we lead a tour of English Heritage and London Borough of Bromley staff around the site. They returned for a second look in June. We’ve had a lot of correspondence, and we’ve supplied a lot of information. But this has been a tough job. English Heritage staff are professionals who must take a broad, comparative, and independent view. They ask hard questions and carefully weigh the evidence (for good reasons).

The full report is forthcoming. We’ve had informal conversations about what’s likely to be included, and we will pay close attention when it is complete.

Critics might say, it doesn’t take an expert to notice the broken pieces, the big cracks, the way some statues are disintegrating, and the many, many weeds growing off the statues. English Heritage’s declaration of vulnerability is a message to Bromley, who own the site and who are responsible for its care. It’s a gentle push and a reminder of Bromley’s responsibilities for this Grade 1 listed site of international importance.

Pterodactyl statues damage

The Pterodactyl in the foreground has lost both upper and lower jaw pieces. Credit: Cain 2014

We understand this nudge is adding to a growing desire to act within Bromley. It’s pushing at an open door. That’s great. Our messages are being heard. Staff are reminding themselves of the importance of this precious heritage asset, and they’re helping us in our research to better understand the site. There’s considerable assistance coming from other stakeholders in the park, too. It feels like momentum is building.

Our to-do list

Building on this momentum, Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs have three top-priority recommendations to Bromley:

  1. commission a professional conservation survey of the statues and the site, with a plan for action
  2. upgrade barriers to trespassing
  3. support a community-led project to collect some recent history about Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, including interviews and story collection, as well as photographs

We are passing our recommendations to Bromley, asking them to direct some of the £2.4 million pounds proposed for Crystal Palace Park towards the dinosaurs.

But don’t forget, these top-priority recommendations are just an inching forward of our efforts. The conservation survey will give us a professional plan for repair and maintenance. This is key – it respects the Grade 1 status of the site and the technical complexity of what’s involved. But it’s just a plan. Second, the barriers will help reduce what we see as the most acute, preventable threat to the statues and the site. Third, the history project will collect some of the stories that make the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs so special and collect them before they disappear.

Plesiosaurus damage

Notice the cracks in this Plesiosaurus statue. This puts the head at risk of toppling over. Credit: Cain 2014

 

 
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