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Crystal Palace: The Original Victorian Conservatory

03/04/2017

The Great Exhibition was held in Hyde Park London in 1851. It was billed as the first World’s Fair and was a showcase of everything that was great about the British Empire at the height of its power. People flocked to the exhibition, many of them to marvel at a huge construction of glass and iron – the Crystal Palace – that housed many of the exhibits. Newly wealthy members of the Victorian upper-middle class were inspired to build miniature versions in their own back gardens.


The Crystal Palace

The Great Exhibition


It really was a ‘great’ exhibition. There were over 100,000 objects on display (not all of them in the Crystal Palace itself – the bulk of the exhibition was outside).  The exhibits were grouped by category: 


  • Raw materials. This category included the Koh-i-Noor diamond.
  • Machinery. Attendees could see the first ever fire engine.
  • Manufactures. Showing off their latest inventions (which incredibly included a fax machine some 130 years before its 1980s heyday).
  • Fine Arts. Works by Carlo Marochetti and Alexander Munro were on display

The Crystal Palace


The exhibits were popular, but the Crystal Palace stole the show. This enormous structure, only made possible by advances in the quality of plate glass, was over half a kilometre wide and at its highest point, the interior height rose to 39 metres. After the exhibition, the whole construction was moved to Sydenham Hill near Penge, South of London (hence the location of the football club) and a smaller permanent exhibition was held there. The Crystal Palace was destroyed by fire in 1936.


Legacy of the Crystal Palace


A large L-shaped conservatory

Fire notwithstanding, the Crystal Palace has left an important legacy in that it established glass as a credible building material. Not just for small windows, but for entire structures. The huge glass and steel edifices that dominate the skylines of modern cities are the descendants of the Crystal Palace. So, too, the back-garden conservatory.


If you would like your own miniature Crystal Palace, come to our showrooms in Wymondham or Diss. You can take a look around our own great exhibition of conservatory styles and our knowledgeable team will be on hand to answer any questions that you may have.   


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