The Crystal Palace plesiosaurs
The first ever life-size models of prehistoric animals were produced in the early 1850s by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. They were revealed to the world at Crystal Palace in London, 1854, and today they grace the grounds at Sydenham Hill, where they are classified as Grade 1 listed buildings.
The models represent three different types of plesiosaur: ‘Plesiosaurus’ macrocephalus (= a juvenile rhomaleosaurid of some kind), Plesiosaurus dolichodeirus, and ‘Plesiosaurus’ (=Thalassiodracon) hawkinsi. Here are the plesiosaur restorations in the exhibition as they appear today (photos by Chris Crump, used with kind permission).
The head of the ‘P.’ macrocephalus sculpture was originally much larger, as shown in early illustrations, but the animal “lost its head in World War II bombing” (https://youtu.be/On3CyLz7sR4). The head was subsequently replaced in the 1950s with a much smaller representation. This is doubly regretful because it means the original head is lost, but a large head is also what differentiates this species from the other two Crystal Palace plesiosaur species. The information about this plesiosaur losing its head comes from the following British Pathé footage: https://youtu.be/On3CyLz7sR4 and was brought to my attention by Mark Witton. ‘P.’ macrocephalus is probably a juvenile rhomaleosaurid and certainly not referrable to the genus Plesiosaurus.