Saturday, 8 October 2016

The Six Sphinxes

The restoration of the six remaining sphinxes in Crystal Palace Park might have happened sooner, were it not for an untimely rendez-vous between London's former mayor, and a wealthy Chinese businessman. Funds had been allocated back in 2013, but were put on hold during the thankfully unsuccessful negotiations between Bromley & Beijing. There was much despondency locally after community lead efforts to clear the undergrowth overtaking some of the sphinxes and adjacent steps, which had directly lead to the granting of funds in the first place, appeared to come to nothing.
However, at the start of this year, with the Chinese distraction finally laid to rest, work was finally able to start. The tender for the restoration project was won by Skillingtons, with money coming jointly from the Mayor of London, Historic England, and the Borough of Bromley. Works commenced in April and by the summer most of the work, including the complete rebuilding of the south steps, was done. All that was left to decide was whether to paint the sculptures or leave au naturel. I was somewhat sceptical at first, thinking that as well as the proposed terracotta colour, which had been based on remaining original fragments, the conservationists might also choose to pick out facial features and hieroglyphs in other colours. Thankfully this proved not to be the case, and I have to say the results are wonderful.
However, the sphinxes are only the icing on the cake. The cake itself, comprising the two levels of arcaded terraces, further flights of steps in various stages of decay, plinths and statues, all desperately need conserving and restoring too. So my hope is, that this is only the first stage of bringing such an important landmark back to life. And as some of the following pictures show, people are drawn to these structures, whether as places to meet, exercise, or simply get away from it all with a good book. They could also, as I've heard discussed, make a great setting, for staging of music or drama. Let's wish the sphinxes well, as copies of 4000 year old original housed in the Louvre, they have a long history, and hopefully now a long future too.

The south steps during reconstruction

Restoration complete

The south steps would make a perfect stage. It would also be good to see the grass encroaching on the wide path leading to the north steps cleared

Peeking above the fenced off top terrace

And they look even better in the sun!

It would be good to see the north steps restored next.

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