Police investigate ‘heritage crime’ on park’s Victorian dinosaurs

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”.

Vandalised: the megalosaurus in Crystal Palace park

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.”

Bad wind: the Irish elk statue has lost an antler

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.

Bridge over troubled water: will the Friends review their plans to provide a permanent footbridge to the Grade I-listed dinosaurs?

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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This entry was posted in Crime, Croydon parks, Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood, Crystal Palace Park, Environment, Friends of Crystal Palace Park, History, Stephen Mann and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Police investigate ‘heritage crime’ on park’s Victorian dinosaurs

  1. Fran Bernstein says:

    The damage to these much loved Grade I is a heritage crime. Dreadful to see, especially if it’s from wanton or reckless behaviour.

    One thing that could help with future security… is the new design of the new swing-bridge.

    This is very different to the bridge currently in use. When the new one is installed, and not in use to access the island, it swings around, to be free standing, so impossible to access the island via the bridge. So sad this is now needed for these urgent repairs, on top of all the other issues that has put these dinos onto the Heritage At Risk register, earlier this year.

  2. Lewis White says:

    Suerly a bridge is inappropriate– dinosaurs need to be seen at a safe distance, not petted.
    Any self-respecting vandal is going to jump over a barrier at the end of a fixed bridge.
    A draw bridge, extendable bridge, or swing bridge? Even Paxton would have thought twice about the cost of those options!

  3. Fran Bernstein says:

    Very sadly the CP dinosaurs are suffering from years of decay.

    Historic England, just last February placed them on their “At Risk” register. They reported large cracks are appearing in the bodies and limbs of some of the dinosaurs, and they’re in danger of losing toes, teeth and tails.

    To help fix, the CP dinos require “a major research project and survey work is needed to try to get to the bottom of the problems and find a long-term solution” in addition, to the urgent repairs and restoration works. Hence the need for a bridge for controlled access only. The current bridge can’t be left connected due to issue of vandals getting over at the ends… and so makes security during repair works even more risky.

    When it is closed, the new bridge will make it impossible to gain direct access to the island. It swings around when needed to be closed, with no connections to the island shore when closed. The issues of vandals was the reason for this design. The good news, through community crowdfunding and huge support the new bridge has been funded.

  4. Lewis White says:

    That’s good news. Thanks!

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