SPHINXES BEING PAINTED VICTORIAN RED
The sphinxes in Crystal Palace park are being painted – for the first time in possibly more than a century.
Work began on painting the first of the sphinxes close to the tower on Crystal Palace Parade this morning (Thursday) at a media photo-opportunity and will take about a month with the four sphinxes overlooking the park accessible to the public by the end of next week.
Each of the sphinxes will get two coats of paint while two close to the Anerley Hill side of the park still need some repairs. The staircase they flank, blocked off for many years, has been cleared of vegetation and restored.
David Carrington, managing director of Grantham-based Skillington Workshop which is carrying out the restoration works, said they had taken paint scrapings from the sphinxes. They had been regularly painted with evidence of eight layers of paint up until the end of the 19th century.
The sphinxes appear to have been made in an early form of concrete, part modelled in situ and part pre-cast.
Bromley’s executive member for renewal and regeneration Cllr Peter Morgan told News From Crystal Palace: “I think this is magnificent and a great start to our programme for restoring the park.
“We’re never going to restore it completely to its full splendour because it would be too expensive.
“But we’re doing what we can and we’re going to make a big difference to this park over the next 10 years.”
Joint funding from Historic England – whose representatives were present today; the Mayor of London and Bromley council is helping to conserve the sphinxes.
A Bromley council spokeswoman said: “The sphinxes are a much-loved feature of the park, but following a devastating fire in 1936 which razed the Palace to the ground, their condition has deteriorated.
“In places the brick core of the sculptures is exposed, saplings have taken root in surface cracks and their stucco finish has discoloured after years of exposure.
“The sphinxes, which were added to the Historic England Heritage at Risk Register in 1995, have now been cleaned and their stucco surfaces being repaired. “To complete their transformation the sphinxes will be painted a Victorian terracotta red.
“Not only will the paint provide the sculptures with an important protective coat, but it will reinstate their original mid-19th century colouring and help bring to life their story as ‘gatekeepers’ to the famous Crystal Palace.”
The majestic grade II listed sculptures are a remnant of Sir Joseph Paxton’s parkland setting for the Crystal Palace, which moved from Hyde Park to Sydenham in 1852, she added.