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Dinosaurs of Horsham – Art, Reality and Fun

July 10 , 2016

Horsham dinosaurs: stars of film, theme park and academia

176 years ago, there was a keen amateur dinosaur hunter who, looking over lumps of stone waiting to be cut to build a new chapel for Horsham, saw a dark mass amongst greyish brown rock. Little did George Bax Holmes realise that this discovery would catapult him in to the world of The Great Exhibition of 1851 and Central Park, New York, or inspire video artist Toby Tatum 170 years later.

30 years ago a keen amateur fossil hunter looked at a mass of grey clay and saw lumps of dark stone: Sylvia Standing rescued the material before it was to be made into bricks. Little did she realise that after 30 years of research the world’s leading dinosaur artist John Sibbick would recreate from those few fragments Horshamosaurus Rudgwickensis – a dinosaur named after her home town and that of George Bax Homes. Both fascinating stories and resultant art work along with fossils remains are told and featured in this new temporary exhibition.

Horsham, a town that has an ancient seabed as its roofing material, is built on dinosaurs, for Horsham stone and clay are rich in fossil remains. For centuries these fossils were thrown away and discarded; however, the dying days of the Georgian period and the early days of Victoria’s reign led to discoveries and understanding of what these lumps of dark stone actually were and in turn led to ‘dino-mania’. In Horsham, respected Quaker George Bax Holmes became interested in such fossils and geology. Around 1837 he seems to have collected his first fossil, then three years later he found further remains amongst the building material for a new chapel in the town: it became known as the Great Horsham Iguanodon. Thanks to the loan by Brighton & Hove City Council’s Booth museum, Horsham museum will be able to display some of these amazing fossils. The size of them, along with a misunderstanding of scale meant that the remains became the model for a replica that stunned the world: it was unveiled at the world’s first theme park, Crystal Palace, after the Great Exhibition, then later Sydenham park, where it still stands today.

In the early 1980s, Horsham museum volunteer Sylvia Standing led a small group to Rudgwick to rescue some fossils found in brick clay. The remains caught the eye of polymath Dr William Blows, who, in his spare time has spent years researching dinosaurs called Polacanthus. The fossils found at Rudgwick looked similar, but were different, and after further research they were named a new species: Horshamosaurus. In the Victorian era, they transformed fossils into 3D sculptures; for Horshamosaurus, the Friends of Horsham Museum have commissioned the world’s leading dinosaur artist, John Sibbick, to re-create the dinosaur so that we can see what it looked like.

As well as displaying remains, the exhibition also showcases the work of Hastings born video artist Toby Tatum, who has produced a short film Monsters. It features Horsham’s Iguanodon along with the other dinosaur sculptures in the park. Toby has exhibited the film around the world at various film festivals and now thanks to the support of Toovey’s Fine Art Valuers and Auctioneers the Museum is delighted to be able to show it in Horsham. It is the first time that video art has been shown in the museum and adds a different dimension to what will be an amazing multi-layered exhibition which tells the story of dinosaur discoveries and artistic interpretations.

Enjoy a fascinating hour long glimpse into Dinosaurs, Horshamosaurus. and the links to Horsham. The talk will be given by Jeremy Knight, Museum & Heritage Manager.

Pre booking essential with a maximum of 16 people per talk. To reserve your place please call 01403 211661 or email visitor.information@horsham.gov.uk with a name and telephone number.




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