THE STORY OF THE CRYSTAL PALACE
Our meeting at St Botolph’s church hall on Tuesday 6th May saw the return of popular speaker, Ian Bevan who gave us a presentation on the Crystal Palace. Ian told how the idea of a Great Exhibition to celebrate the glorious achievements of the British Empire was conceived at the height of the Industrial Revolution by Henry Cole, who persuaded Prince Albert to make it into his special project. Several possible designs were put forward for the Exhibition building, including one from the celebrated engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel but, perhaps unsurprisingly, this was thought to look too much like a railway terminus! Eventually, a design by Joseph Paxton, the young Head Gardener at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, was chosen. Work started on building Paxton’s fantastic glass and iron structure, resembling a giant greenhouse, in Hyde Park towards the end of 1850, and was completed in record time for the Great Exhibition which ran from May to October, 1851. Half the space in the hall was given over to all things British, and the other half was made available for displays by other countries of the world. The Exhibition was a great success and the huge profits from it were used to build the museums in the Kensington area of London, as well as the Royal Albert Hall. The building was subsequently dismantled and re-erected at Sydenham Hill, in south-east London, where it was used for various events, sports meetings, etc. Sadly, it was totally destroyed by fire in 1936. This was a really excellent talk by a very enthusiastic speaker.