Friday 8 April 2016

The Crystal Palace Exhibition

"Enormous excursion trains daily poured their thousands into the city...Throughout the was like...a giant picnic...large numbers of work people received holidays for the purpose.  Eight hundred agricultural labourers in their peasants attire from Surrey and Sussex conducted by their clergy at a cost of two and twopence each person -- numerous firms in the north sent their people who must have been gratified by the sight of their own handiwork..." (

Over six million people, a third of Britain's population, flocked to The Great Exhibition or The Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1851.  It was the first time so many nations had gathered, other than on the battlefield.  The original entrance cost was 3 pounds for gentlemen and 2 pounds for ladies.  However, the fee was later dropped to 1 shilling for the masses.  

Grandiose describes the exhibition that was set up in London's Hyde Park from April to May.  The Crystal Palace, a glass building measuring 1851 feet long and 128 feet high, dominated the landscape.  The invention of the cast plate glass method allowed for the construction of the palace using large, inexpensive sheets of glass.  A 27 foot tall crystal fountain acted as the centre piece of the building.  Full size elm trees from within Hyde Park stood near the fountain.  There was no need for artificial light during the day thanks to the fact that the glass walls let in the natural light.  The palace featured the first public toilets, "lavatories" for the men and "restrooms" for the women.

The Crystal Palace Exhibition was the first to feature manufactured goods. Guests were dazzled by 100,000 objects displayed by over 15,000 contributors.  While Britain occupied half of the space, France was the largest foreign contributor.  Items were divided into four different categories:  Raw Materials, Machinery, Manufacturers and Fine Arts.  The Koh-i-Noor Diamond and Sevres porcelain were two of the more popular items featured.

The legacy of the Great Exhibition is the Crystal Palace. The building was dismantled and reassembled on Sydenham Hill in 1852 where it was host to several new exhibits including:  Egyptian, Alhambra, Roman, Renaissance, Pompeian and Grecian.  In 1861, the palace hosted the first aeronautical exhibit Lord Baden Powell noticed the interest of girls in scouting while hosting the Boy Scouts.  In 1909, the Festival of Empire was held to mark the coronation of George V.  During the First World War, the site was used as a naval training facility.  Towards the end of the Great War, the Crystal Palace reopened as the Imperial War museum.  In 1936, the building caught fire and burned to the ground, the red flames being seen in eight counties.  The Crystal Palace has been duplicated elsewhere in the world, including a building in Dallas, Texas as well as a restaurant in Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom.

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