The Crystal Palace at Sydenham Hill, London. It was designed by Sir Joseph Paxton for the Great elipsis
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The Crystal Palace was a cast-iron and glass building originally erected in Hyde Park, London, England, to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. More than 14,000 exhibitors from around the world gathered in the Palace's of exhibition space to display examples of the latest technology developed in the Industrial Revolution. Designed by Joseph Paxton, the Great Exhibition building was long, with an interior height of .
After the exhibition, the building was moved to a new park in a high, healthy and wealthy area of London called Sydenham Hill, an area not much changed today from the well-heeled suburb full of large Victorian villas that it was during its Victorian heyday. The Crystal Palace was enlarged and stood from 1854 until 1936, when it was destroyed by fire. It attracted many thousands of visitors from all levels of society. The name Crystal Palace (coined by the satirical magazine Punch) was later used to denote this area of south London and the park that surrounds the site, home of the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.
The huge, modular wood, glass and iron structure at the top of Sydenham Hill was originally erected in Hyde Park in London to house The Great Exhibition of 1851, embodying the products of many countries throughout the world.
The Crystal Palace's creator, Joseph Paxton, was knighted in recognition of his work. Paxton had been the head gardener at Chatsworth, in Derbyshire. There he had experimented with glass and iron in the creation of large greenhouses, and had seen something of their strength and durability, knowledge that he applied to the plans for the Great Exhibition building. Planners had been looking for strength, durability, simplicity of construction and speed—and this they got from Paxton's ideas. The project was engineered by Sir William Cubitt.
Full-size, living elm trees in the park were enclosed within the central exhibition hall near the tall Crystal Fountain. Sparrows became a nuisance; Queen Victoria mentioned this problem to the Duke of Wellington, who offered the famous solution, "Sparrowhawks, Ma'am".
The Crystal Palace was built by about 5,000 navvies (up to 2,000 on site at once).
The ironwork contractors were Fox and Henderson. The 900,000 square feet (84,000 m²) of glass was provided by the Chance Brothers glassworks in Smethwick, Birmingham. They were the only glassworks capable of fulfilling such a large order, and had to bring in labour from France to meet it in time.
The Crystal Palace also featured the first public conveniences, the Retiring Rooms, in which sanitary engineer George Jennings installed his Water Closets. During the exhibition, 827,280 visitors paid one penny each to use them, and for this they got a clean seat, a towel, a comb and a shoe shine. This is the origin of the euphemism "to spend a penny".
The life of the Great Exhibition was limited to six months, and something then had to be done with the building. Against the wishes of Parliamentary opponents, the edifice was erected on a property named Penge Place that had been excised from Penge Common atop Sydenham Hill. It was much modified and enlarged so much that it extended beyond the boundary of Penge Place, which was also the boundary between Surrey and Kent. Within two years, Queen Victoria again performed an opening ceremony.
The new site hosted concerts, exhibits, and public entertainment.
Several localities claim to be the area to which the building was relocated. The street address of the Crystal Palace was Sydenham SE26, but the actual building and parklands were in Penge. At the time of relocation most of the buildings were in Croydon, as were a majority of the grounds. In 1899, the county boundary was moved, transferring the entire site to Penge Urban District in Kent. The site is now within the Crystal Palace Ward of the London Borough of Bromley.
Two railway stations were opened to serve the permanent exhibition, Crystal Palace rail station and Gypsy Hill rail station. The Low Level Station is still in use at Crystal Palace railway station, and part of the High Level Station, from which a subway gave access to the Parade area, can also still be seen, with its Italian mosaic roofing. This subway is a Grade II listed building.
The South Gate is served by Penge West Railway Station. For some time this station was on an atmospheric railway. This is often confused with a 550-metre pneumatic passenger railway which was exhibited at the Crystal Palace in 1864, which was known as the Crystal Palace pneumatic railway.
There is an apocryphal story, popular among local schoolchildren, that Crystal Palace High Level Station was closed because a commuter train was trapped by a tunnel collapse and remains there to this day. In reality, the closure was a scheduled part of the decline of the railway network in the 1950s. This may have arisen as a result of the experimental pneumatic railway 1864, to which a similar story is attached. See below, and also Thomas Webster Rammell, the engineer behind the project.
Joseph Paxton was first and foremost a gardener, and his layout of gardens, fountains, terraces and cascades left no doubt as to his ability. One thing he did have a problem with was water supply. Such was his enthusiasm that thousands of gallons of water were needed in order to feed the myriad fountains and cascades which abounded in the Crystal Palace park. The two main jets were high.
Initially, water towers were constructed, but the weight of water in the raised tanks caused them to collapse. Isambard Kingdom Brunel was consulted and came up with the plans for two mighty water towers, one at the north and the other at the south end of the building. Each supported a tremendous load of water, which was gathered from three reservoirs, at either end of and in the middle of the park.
Two years later, the grand fountains and cascades were opened, again in the presence of the Queen, who got wet when a gust of wind swept mists of spray over the Royal carriage.
While the original palace cost £150,000, the relocation to Sydenham cost £1,300,000—burdening the company with a debt it never repaid, partly because admission fees were depressed by the inability to cater for Sunday visitors: many people worked every day except the Sabbath, when the Palace had always been closed. No amount of protest had any effect: the Lord's Day Observance Society (as today) held that people should not be encouraged to work at the Palace or drive transport on Sunday, and that if people wanted to visit, then their employers should give them time off during the working week. This, naturally, they would not do.
However, the Palace was open on Sundays by May 1861, when there were 40,000 visitors on a Sunday alone.
In 1911, the Festival of Empire was held at the building to mark the coronation of George V and Queen Mary. The building fell into disrepair and two years later the Earl of Plymouth purchased it, to save it from developers. A public subscription quickly re-purchased it for the nation.
During World War I, it was used as a naval training establishment under the name of HMS Victory VI, informally known as HMS Crystal Palace. At the cessation of hostilities it was re-opened as the first Imperial War Museum. Sir Henry Buckland took over as General Manager, and things began to look up, many former attractions being resumed, including the Thursday evening displays of fireworks by Brocks.
Despite attempts to revive The Crystal Palace, on 30 November 1936 came the final catastrophe, fire. Within hours the Palace was destroyed; the flames lit up the night sky and were visible for miles. Just as in 1866, when the north transept burnt down, the building was not adequately insured to cover the cost of rebuilding.
The South Tower had been used for tests by television pioneer John Logie Baird for his mechanical television experiments, and much of his work was destroyed in the fire. Winston Churchill, on his way home from the House of Commons said, "This is the end of an age".
Life ran a three-page photo article on the fire, titled "London's Biggest Fire...", in the 21 December 1936 issue.
All that was left standing were the two water towers, and these were taken down during World War II. The reason given was that the Germans could have used them to navigate their way to London. The north one was demolished with explosives in 1941; the south tower was dismantled due to its proximity to other buildings. After the war, the site was used for a number of purposes. Between 1953 and 1973, a motor-car racing circuit operated on the site, and some of the race meetings were supported by the Greater London Council.
Over the years a number of proposals for the former site of the Palace have failed to come to fruition. Currently, there are two rival plans. The London Development Agency wants to spend £67.5 million on developments to the park, including new houses and a regional sports centre. Recently, a private consortium has announced plans to rebuild Crystal Palace and use it to house galleries, a snow slope, music auditorium, leisure facilities and a hotel. In 2009 Bromley Council have given the go ahead for the 1st Crystal Palace Film Festival which will be launched around June 2009 within the park , its the 1st official crystal palace film festival to be held on the old crystal palace location , the festival will be screening shorts and features from in and around UK , its set to be an annual event each year created by local feature Film producer Johnnie Oddball from oddballchallenge in conjuction with Movieum of London & Straight curve film workshops in Beckenham they are looking to inspire local film makers from around the Borough to produce shorts which would be screened within the festivals each year and hopefully bring new film productions to the local area.
The New York Crystal Palace was built for the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations for the 1853 World's Fair on a site behind the Croton Distributing Reservoir, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues on 42nd Street (today's Bryant Park). The building was shaped as a Greek cross by the architects George Carstensen and Charles Gildemeister. The New York Crystal Palace was crowned by a dome in diameter and consisted of iron and glass only. It burned down in 15 minutes on 5 October 1858.
Only three years after The Crystal Palace in London, the German Glaspalast in Munich was opened for the Erste Allgemeine Deutsche Industrieausstellung on 15 July 1854. The Glaspalast, ordered by King Maximillian II of Bavaria and designed by August von Voit, hosted the biggest art exhibitions and international trade fairs before it burned down in 1931. The fire in the Glaspalast damaged more than 1,000 paintings and sculptures and destroyed more than 110 artworks from the early 19th century including many paintings from Caspar David Friedrich, Moritz von Schwind, Karl Blechen and Philipp Otto Runge.
Oxford Rewley Road railway station of 1851 used the same construction technology. The design of the Crystal Palace has also inspired many latter-day construction projects, such as the Dallas, Texas-based Infomart and the Eaton Centre shopping mall in downtown Toronto, Canada.
The Crystal Palace Foundation was created in 1979 to preserve its memory and consider its future.
The sad tale of Crystal Palace Park: David Boyle looks at the 'slow decay' of parts of Crystal Palace Park and explains how mutual ownership and community management could provide a way forward for parks--and for other public services besides.(public space)
Mar 01, 2004; WITH GRIFF RHYS-JONES having recently appeared on television striding through many of the most beautiful ruins in Britain, spare...