Sunday, 17 May 2015

Jurassic Park & the Giant Walrus

No this isn’t just some really obscure Cockney rhyming slang, London really is home to both a unique version of Spielberg’s prehistoric playground and a giant moustached, marine mammal.

The Giant Walrus is star of the show at the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill, which showcases the private collection of Frederick John Horniman, a wealthy Victorian tea-trader who was determined to bring the world to South London. His collection includes everything from the nightmarish spiders, old wine bottles dredged up from the Thames, Egyptian mummies, masks and shrines from distant lands and a Japanese monkey fish/mermaid (see image below).

(Courtsey of Horniman Museum Website)
The result is much less like the TV show 'Hoarder Next Door' than you might imagine. In fact, it's much more akin to something Albus Dumbeldore would have created – a brilliantly eclectic treasure trove of objects from someone who was clearly fascinated by the world and all its offerings.

The museum begins with Horniman’s taxidermy collection which is fascinating but unquestionably slightly macabre. After 30years of collecting Horniman’s family gave him an ultimatum that the collection had to go or they would – understandable when you imagine having a late night loo run and bumping into a stuffed vulture or rattle snake.

Some of my favourite items were from the anthropology section. Visiting this area was like getting a glimpse of hidden cultures and traditions from around the world.

Sanni Curing Masks from Sri Lanka - worn by dancers in healing ceremonies to expel evil spirits. The masks represent either the demon causing the disease or the sickness itself, such as a stroke, smallpox, or a toothache. (Courtsey of:
I could definitely spend several hours wondering around this museum. There is also a room full of musical instruments, an aquarium where you can spy sea creatures from around the world and watch tropical butterflies fly around a live rainforest display, as well as vast gardens to explore, making this the perfect spot to wile away a Sunday afternoon.

If after this visit you still have an appetite for more idiosyncrasies from Victorian times, you should definitely head to Crystal Palace Park.  

You’ll wonder when you have arrived why on earth I have just sent you to yet another green space, but bear with me. Head towards the lake at the south side of the park and you will be greeted with this sight……

Yep, that’s right….dinosaurs! You have literally wondered into the Victorian’s answer to Jurassic Park. I like to think that this place was an inspiration for Spielberg's classic creation (the original, not the truly terrible follow-ups). Just add a bit of CGI and you could practically re-enact your own version of the movie. 

Amusingly the models are riddled with inaccuracies, leading to the British Museum at the time to describe them as “gross delusions appealing to the curiosity of the less informed.” Hmmm…..I probably shouldn’t admit to thinking they are fantastic then??

For more information on Crystal Palace Dinosaur Court visit -

For more information on the Horniman Museum & Gardens visit -



  1. I find museums like this really unique and interesting, definitely want to visit!

    The Velvet Black // UK Style & Beauty Blog

  2. It's brilliant Alice. I am sure you will really enjoy your visit. Betsy


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