Constructed Geology

Two weeks ago, while on walk 3 of the Capital Ring walks around London, I paid a visit to the southeast corner of Crystal Palace Park in the London Borough of Bromley to see the geological landscape constructed by Joseph Paxton and David Ansted in the 1850’s. Arguably one of the earliest theme parks in the world, this was constructed to educate London’s Victorian viewers about geological time and in accordance with cutting edge science. Full scale dinosaurs and other extinct mammals and reptiles are arranged ‘stratigraphically’ in a geological landscape and timeline. Two geological formations – a mountain limestone cliff and a coal measures cliff, modeled on the Derbyshire Peaks, are constructed against a hillside. Below them, mammals and reptiles are set against the rocks that contain their fossil bones – Triassic and Mesozoic rocks or clays, sands and gravels from the Tertiary and Quaternary periods. The reconstructed animals are Grade 1 listed buildings – a wonderful intersection between architecture and geology.

Geological timeline

Coal Measures Cliff

Mountain Limestone Cliff

Marine reptile

Mesozoic mammals and reptiles

If anyone is interested in reading more about this, I recommend Peter Doyle, “Itinerary 8, The Geological Illustrations of Crystal Palace Park” in The Geology of London, compiled by Diana Clements. London: The Geologists’ Association, 2010.



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