Police are investigating damage to one of the 170-year-old, Grade I-listed dinosaur statues in Crystal Palace Park, believed to have been caused by acts of criminal vandalism, and which has been described as “shameful behaviour”.
The Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs issued a statement yesterday detailing damage to two of the large-scale statues in the park, including the megalosaur.
The megalosaur is one of the original iron and concrete statues which were laid out on small islands in lakes in the grounds of the park when the Crystal Palace was reconstructed at the top of Sydenham Hill after being transported from Hyde Park, where it had been the venue for the 1851 Great Exhibition.
In their statement, the Friends said, “On Monday May 18 we were alerted by a member of the public to serious damage to the megalosaur statue. We are working with Historic England, the London Borough of Bromley (owners) and the Metropolitan Police to investigate the cause of this damage.”
Antlers of an Irish elk statue were also broken, the Friends report, though this is attributed to “the recent strong winds”.
“We would like to reiterate that public access to the islands is prohibited. The dinosaurs are Grade I-listed and any intentional damage falls under the category of heritage crime, punishable by fines or incarceration.
“The dinosaurs and landscapes are on the national Heritage at Risk register. The sad damage over the past week highlights the importance of the statues to be conserved, as without active input they risk being lost forever. This would be a huge loss to park users, and the global community of Crystal Palace dinosaur lovers.”
Croydon councillor Stephen Mann, who represents the Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood ward that adjoins the park, last night described the vandalism as “shameful behaviour”.
Mann said, “The dinosaurs are part of our heritage in Crystal Palace and it is an attack on an important part of our community.”
The dinosaur Friends group has asked that anyone with information about what may have caused the damage to the megalosaur – believed to have occurred on the night of last Sunday, May 17 – should report it to the Met by calling 111 and citing crime reference 3309498/20.
But the vandalism also highlights an awkward dilemma – for the past two years, the Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs have been asking the public for money to pay for a bridge that would undoubtedly make it easier to get access to the heritage statues.
The appeal has received support, and finance, from Bromley, the Mayor of London and historical societies, conservators and more than 600 individual contributors. Architects Tonkin Liu, engineers Arup and metal fabricators Cake Industries have come up with a design for a bridge – dinosaur-shaped, of course – that would allow pedestrian access for conservation work and educational visits.
The bridge is planned to be “locked”, but the attack on the megalosaur, achieved without the help of a bridge, could cause the scheme to undergo a rapid security review.
The Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs today refused to answer questions about their planned bridge.
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