Beware! New monster on the loose in Crystal Palace Park

If you are very careful, go gently and quietly so as not to scare it, you have a chance of spotting in the middle of a south London park a prehistoric creature that has not been seen for millions of years.

Startled: the original palaeotherium magnum sculpture went missing 60 years ago

Tucked away amid the undergrowth, in the heart of Crystal Palace Park, is where you will find it… a palaeotherium magnum, wearing a slightly startled, bemused look on its face, it must be said.

Something the size and look of a modern-day tapir, this life-sized re-creation of one of the missing Crystal Palace Dinosaurs was unveiled at the weekend.

The Crystal Palace Dinosaurs are made up of more than 30 sculptures of extinct animals and geological displays, one surviving part of the original Crystal Palace and its pleasure gardens that were laid out in Sydenham around 170 years ago.

They were created between 1852 and 1855 by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, a natural history artist. They filled visiting Victorians with wonder, as they gave a visible realisation to some of the cutting-edge research and science that was being conducted at the time (for context, Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was not published until 1859).

Dinosaur island: it has been a tourist attraction for 170 years

According to the Natural History Museum only four of the statues are strictly dinosaurs, with others representing marine and flying reptiles as well as crocodilians, amphibians, and mammals, like palaeotherium magnum.

The original Grade I-listed dinosaur sculptures and surrounding land are now classed as the highest priority on Historic England’s heritage at-risk register due to their poor condition and “immediate risk of further rapid deterioration”.

The original statue of the palaeotherium magnum – an extinct mammal distantly related to horses – trotted off some time in the 1960s, and this new model is the first attempt at replacing lost-lost relics as the park undergoes a major overhaul.

Monster mash: the new model of the palaeotherium magnum after the unveiling at the weekend

The reconstruction of the palaeotherium magnum sculpture has been carried out by Britain’s leading palaeoartist, Bob Nicholls, under supervision from the Natural History Museum and the University of Portsmouth. The new piece is made from moulded fibreglass.

The project was funded by the Crystal Palace Park Trust and the Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs.

The palaeotherium magnum lived on earth some 44.5 to 33.5million years ago and was roughly 6ft 6in long and 3ft 3in high. – the size of a “small, chunky pony”.

The unveiling follows a National Lottery Heritage Fund award in March of £304,000 in development funding for Crystal Palace Park, ahead of a wider £5million regeneration project award.

It also comes amid Bromley Council’s regeneration plan for the park – including a £17.5million project to restore the park’s original features such as the remaining Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, the Italianate Terraces and the site of the former palace itself.

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4 Responses to Beware! New monster on the loose in Crystal Palace Park

  1. chris myers says:

    Is it Tony Newman?

  2. Laurence Fisher says:

    No, it’s not Newman. Doesn’t have a mad smirk or a suitcase of money in its paw.

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