My Favourite Souvenir of the Crystal Palace


Fred Peskett.



A few weeks ago I was giving a talk on the Postal History of the Crystal Palace to a local Philatelic Society, as usual I took along a couple of items of ephemera and souvenirs which I think adds a little more interest to multiple sheets of stamps, envelopes and postcards. I asked the audience that if anyone had a question about the history of the Palace, then I would do my best to answer it or find the answer and inform them in due course.

One person did ask a question which for a few seconds floored me, “What is your favourite item from the Crystal Palace?” “That is one that you treasure the most”. My answer was that all of my souvenirs were a treasure, and as such they were all favourites. But when I returned home and was packing the items away I started to think seriously about my favourite item.


An illustration from Peter’s Paradise


After much consideration I came to the conclusion that it was a Child’s book “Peter’s Paradise, a Child’s dream of the Crystal Palace”, by George H. Robinson, illustrated by James Denholm and published in London by Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co Ltd.

The date of publication is not marked, but the style looks to be around the mid to late 1800’s, the illustrations are a mix of sepiatone plates and colour chromolithographs. Peter is aged about 7 years and wears a typical Victorian Sailor Boy’s Outfit.

The story is based on a dream that Peter has of a visit to the Crystal Palace, the story is written in verse which starts

“I know a little child named Peter,

I am sure you cannot find one sweeter.

He says “That the Palace, so lovely, so nice,

Makes him dream in his sleep, that he’s in Paradise,

And here are but some of the wonderful sights.

Which crowd round the bed of young Peter o’ night’.


One of the sepia views of the Crystal Palace shows the building with the North Transept, this was destroyed by fire in 1866 and never re-built. However, it is not uncommon for books and postcards to feature the North Transept even during the 1930’s, perhaps there was a desire to see the Palace symmetrical again?

Having arrived in the grounds of the Crystal Palace, Peter enters the Palace and visits the Pompeian and Egyptian Courts before going into the Monkey House, he then watches a fireworks display, and chats to the boy who looks after the donkey who pulls the grass-cutting machine, he skates on the ice of one of the frozen ponds, and watches the balloon “Victoria” lift-off from in front of the Crystal Palace. Peter then returns to the interior of the Palace to see the Greek Court, then back to the grounds for a spot of fishing and rowing in and on the Great Lake, A walk down to see the Prehistoric Animals is followed by seeing the collection of stuffed animals in the “Wurtenberg Gallery”. Finally Peter climbs on board the balloon “Victoria” and is flown home to wake up after a busy night dreaming of the Crystal Palace.

The balloon “Victoria”, I have seen a reference to a balloon of this name being flown at the Crystal Palace, it may have been in a copy of the Illustrated London News? Again the North Transept is featured on the Crystal Palace building. The balloon is rising from the Archery Ground in the Crystal Palace grounds, another feature of the 1860’s.

I have one criticism, I wish the illustrator had made Peter’s facial expression a little more happy! instead of looking such a miserable little git!