Reading the title of this post probably reminds you of movies like Jurassic Park and Disney’s Dinosaurs. But that is not what I would like to tell you about today. There is actually a park in London where you can find life-sized dinosaurs. And of course, I had to see it with my own eyes.
From sphinxes to Italian terraces
My first reaction to Crystal Palace Park was questioning whether the park was suffering from some sort of identity crisis. I entered the park on the north side where the actual Palace used to be. Besides from the breathtaking views I saw, I also saw Italian terraces and even ‘old’ Egyptian sphinxes. Where did I end up this time?
The Palace that used to be here was built by Sir Joseph Paxton. He built it for the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park back in 1851. However, they moved it to Bromley after the Exhibition had finished. On site, they made it even bigger and started to work on the park.
The construction of the park was financed by visitors who paid a turnstile to enter. The official opening of the park took place in 1856 and a railway was constructed in the early 1900’s. At the time, Crystal Palace Park was a real amusement park for the Londoners. The so-called Victorian pleasure ground expanded quickly and a sports park and lakes were added.
To celebrate the coronation of King George V, three-quarter sized models of the Empire’s parliamentary buildings were erected in the grounds in 1911.
Unfortunately, the Crystal Palace itself was destroyed by fire in 1936, so we cannot visit it today. But standing on the very same spot as where it used to be, it was not hard for me to imagine that a palace looking out over the green outskirts of London once stood here.
Apparently, proposals to redevelop the Crystal Palace are being submitted since the 1980’s. However, even the most recent proposal, submitted by a Chinese developer, was declined by Bromley Council.
To the dinosaurs
After I had taken enough pictures of the stunning views, I made my way down to the south of the park. Soon enough I saw the famous sports park coming into view in the middle of the park. I stayed on the east side of the park instead. On my way, I passed the children’s farm and the railway station.
Not long after, the famous life-sized dinosaurs came into view. This area of the park, also called ‘Dinosaur Court’, is fenced and stars world’s very first dinosaur sculptures. Just as the Palace, the dinosaurs were moved from Hyde Park to South London after the Great Exhibition. I wonder how they did that without all the modern transport possibilities we have nowadays!
The sculptures were created by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, with the scientific assistance of Sir Richard Owen. The dinosaurs we can still visit today, represent the latest scientific knowledge they had at the time.
If you ever happen to visit Crystal Palace Park and want to learn more about the dinosaurs, there is a Darwin and the Dinosaurs audio trail which you can do while you are there.
My visit almost came to an end, but not before I walked around the boat lake that is right next to Dinosaur Court.
Crystal Palace Park might suffer slightly from an identity crisis with its dinosaurs, sphinxes and Italian Terraces, but it is not hard to imagine that this must have been a real Disneyland for Londoners in the 1800’s. Today, it is a very nice place to unwind and leave the busy and bustling London behind.