The Great Exhibition of the works of Industry of all Nations or the Crystal Palace Exhibition ran from 1st May to 15th October 15, 1851. It was opened by Queen Victoria and really was a symbol of the Victorian age and the role of Great Britain and the British Empire.
Held in Hyde Park, it was spread across 19 acres and was was the first major effort to bring together many nations (and possibly to prevent war) but also to promote the British Empires industrial, military and economic superiority. Entrance fees were variable, between one shilling and one pound.
It was a success in that it attracted a record 6 million visitors, had 13,937 exhibitors of which were 6556 foreign.
The Crystal Palace was conceived and designed by Sir Joseph Paxton in just a remarkable 10 days. It resembled a massive greenhouse (to get a vague idea check out Kew Gardens) with over a million feet of glass. It was an engineering masterpiece. Swedish author Fredrika Bremer described it as “a magic castle and fairy tale’!
The building was divided up into sections, each depicting the history of art and architecture from ancient Egypt through to the Renaissance and also included exhibits from industry and the natural world.
Many concerts were held in the Palace’s huge arched Centre Transept, which also contained the world’s largest organ.
The Palaces Centre transept also housed a circus and many smaller exhibitions.
There were also some magnificent fountains which comprised of almost 12,000 jets. The park also contained many collections of statues, many of which were copies of great works from around the world (again go to the V&A Museum in London where you can walk among huge copies from around the world) along with life-size restorations of extinct animals, including dinosaurs.
Crystal Palace park was also the scene of spectacular Brock’s fireworks displays.
The building was moved to a new park after the exposition, but sadly destroyed by fire in 1936.