Crystal Palace.


Ron Trevelyan

I was interested to read in the Spring Journal about the apparent slip-up by Royal Mail in relating the Crystal Palace of 1854 to the Great Exhibition of 1851. I recently went along to the Dulwich Picture Gallery to an exhibition entitled ‘Crystal Palace at Sydenham’ which received a fair amount of publicity in the Sunday newspapers etc. This was, of course, designed to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the completion of the construction of the South London building. The exhibition sought to bring out the relationship between what was called the ‘parent building’ in Hyde Park and the later one in Sydenham, which was reckoned to be almost twice the size (Royal Mail please note). Some of the exhibits were borrowed from the V 7 A Museum and the Museum of London etc.

The contemporary paintings, photographs and engravings at the exhibition demonstrated what a wealth of activity took place in the Palace and its grounds such as the Handel Festivals with enormous choirs and audiences, the legendary fireworks displays, the staging of the Festival of Empire in 1911 and in the early days of the Imperial War Museum. The Architectural Courts had large scale reconstruction’s which were a great help to artists of the time like Holman Hunt to improve the accuracy of archaeological or historical details in their paintings.

I also enjoyed watching some fairly lengthy sequences of Pathe News. One showing crowds of marchers in the grounds in the 1930’s who were supporting some kind of peace movement, but more dramatic were scenes of the fire with collapsing segments of building and firemen fighting a losing battle.

I purchased an informative and well illustrated book at the exhibition entitled ‘Palace of the People’ The Crystal Palace at Sydenham 1854-1936 by J. R. Piggott published by Hunt & Co. London. I think I paid around 20 for it.

Little did I realise that the title of the exhibition was going to be controversial until I mentioned it to you. You maintain that the Crystal Palace was in Penge not Sydenham and that you have a map to prove it. Perhaps it was just as well that you did not have time to visit the exhibition since this could have led to some amendments along the way. Maybe this will provide some scope for a piece of doggerel.

P.S. I understand that you and Fred Peskett have been busy collaborating on a listing of Crystal Palace post cards. I am sure we all await the outcome with interest.


©  Exhibition Study Group 2004