Exciting plans to unleash a giant dinosaur in Lewes

Pioneer: Dr Gideon Mantell
Pioneer: Dr Gideon Mantell

An ambitious project to install a giant dinosaur model in Lewes is rapidly gathering pace.

It would act as a permanent memorial to the extraordinary life and achievements of Dr Gideon Mantell, the surgeon and geologist who was born and lived in the town.

An iguanadon

An iguanadon

He is credited with inspiring the first dinosaur studies following his discovery of the fossilised bones of the prehistoric iguanadon.

The cost of the proposed life-sized model would be £100,000. It would measure almost 10ft (3m) in height and 23ft (7m) in length.

An internationally-renowned model maker, Roby Braun based at Watermill, New York, in the United States, is currently working on a scaled down prototype.

The scheme is in its infancy but will be officially launched at the Lewes Fossil Festival later this month where directors of the Lewes Dinosaur Project will invite suggestions on where to locate the giant beast.

One site already mooted is the island at the Pells lake. Although described as ‘fairly robust’ the resin creature would not withstand children climbing on it and there was a need for perimeter and access control.

Debby Matthews, of the community interest company working on the project, said: “It will be pretty large and will need a stable base where it can be viewed – there will be a plaque with it describing the links between Gideon Mantell (or his wife) finding the first teeth and bones of the unknown ancient giant land reptile and his identifying of it as the iguanodon.”

Debby, who lives in the Station Street house in Lewes where Mantell was born in 1790, added: “The current thinking now is that the type of iguanodon that lived in these parts was slightly smaller than that on the continent and the species has recently been named the Mantellisaurus after Mantell.”

The model on which the dinosaur would be based can be viewed at the two-day Fossil Festival on September 16 and 17. It starts on the Saturday with a screening of Steven Spielberg’s original blockbuster Jurassic Park at The Depot Cinema (4pm).

Sunday sees a host of activities for all the family at the Linklater Pavilion from 10am-4pm including the chance to visit a dinosaur in his cave and guess how many bones he has.