My wife and I moved to Crystal Palace a couple of months ago. It’s my favourite place in London: most of my friends live there, it’s possible to rent a two bedroom flat without needing to sell a kidney or a liver, there are loads of great places to eat, drink and take part in a pub quiz, and the there’s the treasure trove of Haynes Lane Market. But most importantly, at one end of the Crystal Palace Park there are the dinosaurs.
Here they are one grey winter morning:
According to Wikipedia, the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, also known as Dinosaur Court, were:
Commissioned in 1852 to accompany the Crystal Palace after its move from the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park and unveiled in 1854, they were the first dinosaur sculptures in the world, pre-dating the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by six years.
The Victorian dinosaur hunters and academics of the time didn’t quite get the reconstruction right, but they did know how to throw a dinosaur themed party. Famously, on New Year’s Eve, 31 December 1853, Mr Waterhouse Hawkins held a dinner in the mould of the Iguanodon.
Like most people, I grew up fascinated by dinosaurs. I wanted to be a paleontologist to dig up dinosaur bones, as the artwork below clearly communicates. I read all there was to read and recorded every documentary about them on VHS cassette, and hunted fossils at Orton Scar.
So when my friend Rhiannon gave me a wood-and-cardboard dilophosaurus puzzle for my birthday in December I immediately felt a pang of nostalgia. I don’t know if anyone else remembers a set of paper dinosaurs that could be cut out of a book and folded into glorious 3D; I had this and loved them, but sadly don’t remember the title or publisher.
Assembling the puzzle would be an easy start to model making for 2017 (after hiatus and inertia over the festive period). I found some of the joints were a little loose, so I glued them with PVA; once the PVA was set, I realised it would look great if I did some work on the base. I spent a bit of time on this (it’s a big base, after all) and in the end I’m really happy with how it looks. He’s been sitting on my shelves with the other minis, so by default he’s started serving as a huge and terrifying focal point for my Undead Legion.
I guess for gaming purposes he counts as a bone dragon or a dracolich, depending on what rules you’d follow – or just as a big skeleton of dinosaur if you don’t follow any.
The Undead Legion is the closest I’ve ever come to assembling a complete 28mm army. The core is made up of some old plastic Citadel skeletons. I think that there may have been some attrition on the more brittle material over the years so I’ve recently started supplementing their number with some of the excellent metal range from the 1991 Red Catalogue. Behind them are three quite badly painted plastic skeleton cavalry and a unit of six mid-90s ghouls. The army is completed by a 1990s banshee, a giant werewolf and two vampires from the Night Horrors range, and three zombies (two of them just undercoated for now).
I’ll be building up the Undead Legion in 2017, until it’s worthy of the name – starting immediately with a mix of old and new ghosts, a command group for the skeletons, a Citadel doppelganger which I recently acquired, and anything else that takes my fancy. I think I might also have to get some dinosaurs.