5. Hawkins and the Crystal Palace Restorations, 1854


In 1853 the sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins was commissioned to construct full-size concrete restorations of the prehistoric reptiles known to that time. The replicas were installed in 1854 on the grounds of Sydenham Park outside London, where the Crystal Palace had been re-erected following the Great Exhibition of 1851. Three of the replicas were dinosaurs: Iguanodon, Hylaeosaurus, and Megalosaurus.

In May of 1854, Hawkins gave a paper to the Society of Arts in which he described the conceptual problems of restoring a creature for which the evidence is piecemeal, as well as the technical problems of casting a replica that contains, as he put it, 640 bushels of artificial stone. He accompanied his paper with a diagram of the grounds that is not as well known as it should be. The full drawing shows all of his restorations, including the marine reptiles, in their park settings; in a detail of the left half of the drawing (above), we see the two Iguanodon at the left, Hylaeosaurus in the center, and Megalosaurus at the right.


In a second detail (left), the same Megalosaurus can be seen, now at the left, while the right shows the English rock formations that yielded the first dinosaur remains: the Oolite and the Lias. The reptiles swimming below include Plesiosaurus and the Ichthyosaurus, which Owen had already excluded from the Dinosaur order. For a view of the entire drawing, click here.

The Hawkins restorations essentially determined how dinosaurs would be depicted and viewed for the succeeding twenty-five years, as succeeding items in our exhibition demonstrate.


Hawkins, Benjamin Waterhouse. "On visual education as applied to geology," in: Journal of the Society of Arts, vol. 2 (1854), pp. 444-449. This work was on display in the original exhibition as item 5.

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