Looking down through the arches of Peterborough Cathedral it’s a bizarre experience to see just the tail of a T. rex in front of the magnificent stained glass windows.
But as you reach the far end of the building and round the corner you’re confronted with two of them facing off with each other as one tucks into its lunch – a dead dinosaur carcass. Did it kill this huge beast itself, or is it scavenging on another’s prey? This is the question you’re being asked to try and answer.
T. rex: the Killer Question exhibition by the Natural History Museum presents you with several facts and things to consider on the issue of whether the fearsome T. rex was the ferocious hunter we think of, or perhaps a more opportunistic beast making the most of some free meals.
Our fascination with all things dinosaur certainly hasn’t waned since the amazing special effects of Jurassic Park took our experiences to a whole new level. Now with Jurassic World Dominion generating a new wave of interest and so many more dinosaur themed games, toys, books and live shows bringing them to life, it seems they’re more popular than ever.
The contrast between these lifelike animatronic beasts set amongst the tombs and religious artefacts of the cathedral is surreal. And the building’s acoustics really enhance the roars and sound effects so that they give you a shiver. Stare too long into the eye of the T. rex and you will feel a little uncomfortable!
The large armoured Ankylosaurus set between the two huge T. rex figures feels as though it’s really checking you over as it turns to look at you. It’s one of several other dinosaurs you can see, all represented in incredibly realistic form, as well as skeletons and skulls.
“I love the Edmontosauras defending the baby dinosaurs from the raptors. I think it’s great having that other aspect of the dinosaur caring for its young,” says Cassius Morrision, a member of the Natural History Museum’s dinosaurs research group.
This exhibition he tells us, gives you the chance to try out his job – “It’s the summer holidays, the kids want something to do and I think it’s great because they can be a palaeontologist for the day, they actually can do our job.
Photo: Cassius Morrison, by Chris Brudenell for ESP Magazine
“They look at the evidence, make their decisions, the dinosaurs are roaring and interacting – you really can be taken back 66 million years. It’s great for kids to practice science in a really fun and engaging way by looking at the evidence and coming up with your own conclusions. It’s not telling you what’s right or wrong and the kids can really engage.
“If you ask me, anything to do with dinosaurs is worth going to see – obviously I’m a little biased!”
It’s been a long wait to finally have this Natural History Museum touring exhibition come to the city, and it’s the last chance for anyone to see it as it will be going into retirement when the Peterborough event is over.
The Vice Dean of the Cathedral, Canon Tim Alban Jones, says seeing it in place has exceeded all his expectations.
“It’s not the obvious setting for it but it’s probably the only building big enough to have these huge exhibits and do them justice and it’s great that people can come and see them in this setting.
Photo: Canon Tim Alan Jones, by Chris Brudenell for ESP Magazine
“It’s a really good thing to do to encourage people to come into the building. This is such a stunning building and so many people don’t know it’s here or if they do know, they’ve never been to see it, so we’re not trying to trick people in, but we hope that when they come to see the dinosaurs they’ll also pause and think ‘wow what a space’. And perhaps they might think about their place in creation and the natural order and think about some of those big questions.
"I’m hoping this will be making memories for families. I can still remember as a very young boy going to the Natural History Museum and seeing the dinosaurs. I’m hoping there will be lots of young children who will always remember coming to Peterborough Cathedral and seeing these wonderful dinosaurs.”
The T. rex the Killer Question exhibition is now open and runs until September 3, so as the vice Dean says – “Come and visit because it is just the best thing to see in Peterborough for the next six weeks, not only the exhibition – also the space.”
To book your tickets visit https://www.peterborough-cathedral.org.uk/trex.aspx
If you love all things dinosaur head over to the Extinction exhibition at Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery on Priestgate, or see the live shows – Jurassic Live at The Cresset theatre on August 18 and 19 or Dinosaur Adventure Live at The Key Theatre on August 22.
Photos: Chris Brudenell for ESP Magazine