Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace

The Crystal Palace was designed by Sir Joseph Paxton for the Great Exhibition of 1851, held in Hyde Park. Its innovative construction from pre-fabricated cast iron and glass suited the aims of the exhibition. The Great Exhibition was a contemporary 'museum of all nations', showing the material culture, arts and new technologies from all over the world.

Crystal Palace moved to Sydenham Hill in 1854, becoming the highlight of a 200-acre Victorian 'theme park'. The surrounding park was laid out to a formal design containing water features and fountains. Isambard Kingdom Brunel designed the two water towers built at either end of Crystal Palace to serve the fountains.

Football was one of many sports played at Crystal Palace; others included speedway racing on motorbikes, cycling, archery, fishing, croquet and even roller hockey.

In 1911 Crystal Palace hosted the Festival of Empire in the year of George V's coronation. This was the high-point of Crystal Palace's fortunes. Three-quarter size, architecturally correct models of parliament buildings from all over the empire were erected in the grounds. Models of a South African diamond mine, an Indian tea plantation, and a Canadian logging camp were also on display.

The exhibition attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world. Unfortunately the Crystal Palace Company went bankrupt the same year. In 1913, Crystal Palace became the property of the nation. During the First World War, Crystal Palace became a barracks and naval depot. Without proper care and attention or sufficient funding, the buildings deteriorated.

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