Harrow and Hillingdon Geological Society

Crystal Palace

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Previous Field Trips

The Crystal Palace Field Trip was lead by David Lancaster who has also contributed to this page. He explained the history of how it came to be built, what its objectives were and how the final design was built.

We had a tour of the dinosaurs. These have been refurbished recently in their original form.

We then had a tour of the grounds. David painted a vivid picture of what they looked like originally. It must have been very impressive with its beautiful gardens and fountains.

David then gave us a talk on the fire, how it is thought to have started and its progress.

We finished with a tour of the museum. As well as the many artifacts and pictures they even have a Victorian viewer where original photographs can be seen in stereo.


The prehistoric monster trail was originally designed from 1852 by Professor Richard Owen as a theme park based on the history of the earth to be seen when the Crystal Palace opened at Sydenham in 1854. Owen worked with the sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse-Hawkins to create the reconstructions based upon fossils from the Natural History museum and comparative anatomy. The models caused great controversy but were supported by Charles Darwin's theories on the Origin of Species published in 1859. The models have been the subject of a major restoration programme and are now in the best condition that they have been for many years.

Model Icthyosaur


Emerged in the late Triassic, 220 million years ago, died out with the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous. Carnivorous sea dweller giving birth to live young. Three varieties exhibited. Errors in interpretation include the lack of a dorsal fin, shape of the tail and the assumption that they came on to land to lay eggs.

Model Iguanodons


Cretaceous period 120 million years ago. Herbivore modeled with a contemporary cycad. Well known error is the nose horn which is actually a thumb spike. Probably capable of standing on two legs.

Model Anoplotherium


First of the Tertiary group of models from about 50 million years ago. Three models representing two species, the one closest to the water is a modern replica based on photographs of the original arrangement. The models have hooves but should have claws.

Model Giant Ground Sloth


Giant ground sloth, a skeleton in the same posture can be seen in the Natural History Museum. Pleistocene era, becoming extinct about 12,000 years ago.

Model Irish Elk


Irish Elk. Emerged about 400,000 years ago and died out during the ice age about 10,000 years ago. Name means giant antler. These were the last models completed although there were originally plans to depict more recent animals including the Dodo.

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