New Aquarium for Horniman Museum


The worlds’s largest aquarium was in Sydenham – part of the Crystal Palace. The Aquarium was built after the first major fire at Crystal Palace in 1866 left a devasted area by the North Tower. It was opened in 1871 and salt water was brought all the way from Brighton by train. Tastes change and by the 1890s it had been transformed into menagerie of monkeys who occupied the empty fish tanks. The Aquarium survived the 1936 fire but was destroyed when the North Tower was demolished in 1941.

Now what will probably be world’s finest free aquarium will open in spring 2006 only a mile or so to the north at the Horniman Museum. Plans got an ernormous boost with a £1.1m pledge to the Museum from ReDiscover. There is still £400,000 to be raised to complete the £1.5m project but Horniman Trustee chairman Timothy Hornsby believes this will be a great encouragement for more sponsors to come forward.

The new aquarium will be a major educational resource for South East London with free entry to all. We will be able to explore the diverse nature of ecosystems from around the world highlighting the conservation issues facing these fragile but important environments. This will include a variety of endangered aquatic ecosystems such as British ponds and rockpools, Fijian Corals Reefs and a breathtaking South American Rainforest.

Other fascinating displays will include British Seahorses, salt water Jellyfish, tropical Monkey Frogs and four-eyed fish interspersed with a state-of-the-art interactive camera and tank-viewing dens complete with smells and sounds.

Director of the Horniman Museum, Janet Vitmayer, expressed her delight at the news: “For more than a hundred years, the Horniman has been renowned as home to one of the first public aquariums in the capital and, thanks to the generosity of the National Lottery and other charitable organisations, I am thrilled to announce that we are now well on our way to building an exciting new world class aquarium for the twenty first century in South London.”

The £34m ReDiscover fund supports institutions which promote public understanding of science by helping UK science centres and museums to renew, refresh or redevelop their exhibitions.

Excavation of the old Crystal Palace Aquarium

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