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  • Immortal Meals 2#: Eating in a Victorian Dinosaur April 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback


    Sadly Beachcombing will just write as a short post today as the sfiga hex has settled over him. Paul Johnson’s book has extended its evil to Beach’s comic shelves that collapsed in the night and the attack on his body is now burning fierily, so much so that Beachcombing is enforcing what the medieval used to call a ‘black fast’ and calling on his contacts in the inferis for help.

    In these sad times Beach thought that he would continue, however, modestly his series of immortal meals: meals past at which Beachcombing would have given anything to have been present. Tonight he wanted to look at twenty one men in an iguanodon – a particularly freaky dinosaur.

    The iguanodon in question was one of a series of mid-Victorian recreations of dinosaurs under Benjamin Hawkins in the space of what had been the Crystal Palace Exhibition. Dinosaurs had been recreated before in museums, but as skeletons. Hawkins was recreating the full beast though, giving us the first nineteenth-century visions of what these animals actually looked like.

    Just to give some sense of scale – and the scale was what was really impressive – the iguanodon was thirty five long and used six hundred bricks, weighing something like thirty tonnes. Nor was the iguanodon alone. A whole number of dinosaurs were being recreated by Hawkins under Richard Owen’s watchful supervision.

    New Year’s Eve 1853/1854 Hawkins arranged a party with some of the great scientific names of his day. The invitation was written on a pterodactyl wing (!) within a more conventional Victorian invitation and sent out instructing the invitees to RSVP and to arrive at 5.00 PM on the 31 January.

    On the day in question the guests – including Hawkins, Owen, Edward Forbes, the great John Gould and Joseph Prestwich were sat within the mould of the iguanodon – see image – and treated to the best company and food that mid Victorian London had to offer.

    By midnight, by all accounts, and the chiming of the New Year, the assembled guests were seriously ‘merry’. At this point, sozzled on sherry and port they broke out with this little tune: ‘The jolly old beast// Is not deceased//There’s life in him again!’

    Hawkins described how the party, while heading for the railway station afterwards (late tube trains in those times) continued this song and were so loud ‘as almost to lead to the belief that the herd of Iguanodons were bellowing.’

    Oh to have been there…

    drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com for other memorable meals or perhaps even the menu of the iguanodon feast.


    16 April 2011: Mind under siege writes in with an important addendum – ‘I believe it is also worth noting that the iguanodon’s original skeleton was indeed put together incorrectly. Pieces were thrown out if they couldn’t figure it out.  Likewise, certain bones were jammed into odd places to fit the paradigm of the ‘terrible lizard’.  For instance, the horn featured on the recreation’s nose is actually the now recognized ‘trademark’ iguanodon thumb spike. Not to mention we now recognize our prehistoric friend as possessing a more bipedal stance (although a traditional ‘four legged’ posture may have been adopted when the creature was in need of more speed). Keep up the fantastic work Beachcombing, and don’t be afraid of the gore.’ Thanks MuS!!

    30 April: Then Andy the Mad Monk is nostalgic: ‘I enjoyed your post about eating in a dinosaur as it brought back memories of my childhood.  The dinosaurs still exist at Crystal Palace, in South London. As a child, I visited the boating lake several times, around which they were located’ Thanks as always Andy!