Crystal Palace Paperweights

by

Fred Peskett

 

            Prior to the passion for collecting picture postcards in the late Victorian/Edwardian times there was another collecting fad, that of glass paperweights. It was common for families on holiday to take home or purchase as a present for a friend a souvenir of the places that had been visited, so glass paperweights were a fairly inexpensive and long lasting memento or gift. These paperweights were available long before the Great Exhibition of 1851 and can be found from most coastal resorts, town centres and famous buildings such as St Paul's Cathedral, Clifton Suspension Bridge, Stonehenge and other "must see" places to visit. My own collection is from the Crystal Palace and like the postcards the collection can be enhanced by the number of variations of type, shape, colour and view.

            The types normally found are (a) Hand drawn, (b) Photographic, sepia, (c) Photographic, colour. The hand drawn types are usually hand finished in colour, some have an iridescent finish to Crystal Palace glass windows, once thought to be made from tropical butterfly wings but now known to be laid on coloured foil papers. The photographic types generally date from the early 1900's into the 1930's.

            The shapes come in several forms, (a) Circular, domed, (b) Circular, slab, (c) Square, slab, (d) Square, vertical, (e) Obelisk, vertical. There are also many variations to the dimensions of these forms.

            The most common view depicts the Central Transept and North Tower with the Terrace Gardens in the foreground, however, there are many variations which can aid to the dating of the paperweight, such as the inclusion of the North Transept which was destroyed by fire in 1866 and never re-built. Such paperweights may of course have been in stock and sold long after the 1866 fire.      There are views known of the Interior of the Crystal Palace, but these are fairly rare.

Virtually none of the glass paperweights can be attributed to a maker mainly because there was no place to engrave or stamp such detail!

            The known Crystal Palace glass paperweights are listed as follows, please note, the reference numbers quoted are the inventory numbers from my own collection.

             

 

(a) Circular domed

 

(a) Circular, domed.

CPPWO1. Hand drawn multi-coloured view showing the Central and North Transepts with the North Tower in the background. Fountains in the foreground. Iridescent windows on the Palace. Title:-"CRYSTAL PALACE SYDENHAM" 2 1/2" diameter x I 1/4" high (pre 1866 view)

 

CPPW02. Hand drawn, multi-coloured view of the Central and North Transepts with the North Tower and North Wing in the background. The foreground shows the fountain basins with the fountains working and two groups of visitors, ladies wearing crinolines and men in black suits with stovepipe hats. Title:- "CRYSTAL PALACE SYDENHAM 2 1/2" diameter x 1" high, (pre 1866 view).

 

CPPW03. Hand drawn, multi-coloured view showing the Central and North Transepts with the North Tower and North Wing in the background. The foreground shows the fountain basins and jets of water. Statues surround the paths with two ladies in crinolines on the path. No title. 2 1/4" diameter x 7/8" high, (pre 1866 view).

 

CPPW04. Hand drawn, multi-coloured showing a small view of the Central and North Transepts with the North Tower and North Wing in the background. A large foreground view shows the fountains, statues and groups of visitors on the paths. Title:- "CRYSTAL PALACE". 2" diameter x 7/8" high, (pre 1866 view).

 

CPPW05. Hand drawn, multi-coloured showing a large view of the Central and North Transepts with the North Tower in the background. The foreground is a view of the fountain basins but fountains are not working, statues line the paths. Iridescent windows on the Palace. No title. 1 7/8" diameter x 1" high, (pre 1866 view).

 

CPPW06. Hand drawn, multi-coloured view of the Central and North Transepts with the North Tower in the background. There are no fountains or basins in the foreground but statues and plant pots are dotted around. Two ladies, one in a white crinoline with a blue shawl and the other in a red crinoline are on the path. Title:- "CRYSTAL PALACE" 2 1/4 diameter x I 1/4 high, (pre 1866 view).

 

CPPW07. Hand drawn, multi-coloured view of the Central and North Transepts, both with iridescent windows. North Tower and Wing in background. The foreground has no fountains or basins but has many statues and a man in a black suit with stovepipe hat and a lady in a violet crinoline. Title:- "CRYSTAL PALACE FROM THE GROUNDS" 2 1/2" diameter x 1" high, (pre 1866 view).

 

CPPW08. Hand drawn, multi-coloured view showing the Central and North Transepts with the North Tower and Wing in the background. The foreground has no fountains but many statues with three groups of visitors. A lady in a red crinoline with a blue shawl with a child in a red outfit. Gentleman in black suit with a lady wearing a white crinoline, and a lady in a pink crinoline and

blue shawl with man in grey suit. Title:- "CRYSTAL PALACE FROM THE GROUNDS". 2 1/2" diameter x 1" high, (pre 1866 view)

 

CPPW09. Hand drawn, multi-coloured view showing the Central and North Transepts with the North Tower and Wing in the background. The foreground has fountains and many statues with three groups of visitors. A lady in a red crinoline with a blue shawl with child in red outfit. Gentleman in black suit with a lady wearing a white crinoline, and a lady in a pink crinoline and blue shawl with man in grey suit. Title:- "CRYSTAL PALACE FROM THE GROUNDS". 2 1/2" diameter x 1" high, (pre 1866 view) Note this is identical to CPPW08 with the addition of the working fountains.

 

CPPW10. Real photograph in colour showing the Central Transept and North Tower. The view shows the staircase built from the Central Transept to Terrace for the Festival of Empire Exhibition in 1911. No fountains or visitors are shown in the foreground. Title "CRYSTAL PALACE". 2 3/4" diameter x 1" high, (post 1911 view).

 

CPPW11. Real photograph in colour showing the Central Transept and North Tower. The view shows the staircase from the Central Transept to Terrace built for the Festival of Empire Exhibition in 1911. No fountains or visitors are shown in the foreground. Title "CRYSTAL PALACE". 2 1/8" diameter x 1/2" high, (post 1911 view).

 

CPPW12. Real photograph, sepia. Full length view of the Crystal Palace with the North Tower in the background. The foreground shows the fountain basins and fountains working, there are no visitors depicted. No Title. 2 7/8" diameter x 1 1/8" high (pre 1911)

CPPW13. Real photograph in sepia with a view of the Central Transept and North Transept with the North Tower in the background. Fountain basins and working fountains in the foreground, there is no title. 2" diameter x 1" high, (pre 1866 view but the paperweight was probably made in late 1890's to early 1900's using a Negretti & Zambra or Delamotte photograph)

 

CPPW14. Real photograph, sepia. View shows the Central and South Transepts and South Tower with fountains in the foreground, there are no steps to the Central Transept so the view is pre 1911. No title. 3" diameter x 3/4" high.

              

(b) Circular slab

 

(b) Circular, slab.

CPPW14. Real photograph, multi-coloured view of the interior of the Crystal Palace with Osier's Crystal Fountain in the foreground. Title:- "CRYSTAL PALACE INTERIOR". 2 3/4" diameter x 1" high.

 

CPPW15. Real photograph in colour, the circular form is rouletted around the sides. Central Transept and North Tower with steps from the Central Transept to Terraces, No fountains or people. Title:- "CRYSTAL PALACE" 3 1/2" diameter x 1" high, (post 1911 view)

(c) Square or oblong, slab.

 

(c) Square or oblong, slab.

CPPW16. Real photograph in colour of Central Transept and North Tower with steps from Central Transept to the Terraces. No fountains or people. 3 1/4" x 3 1/4" square. Title:- "CRYSTAL PALACE", (post 1911 view).

CPPW17. Real photograph in colour of Central Transept and North Tower with steps from Central Transept to the Terraces, fountains working but no people. 4 1/4" x 2 7/8" Title:- "CRYSTAL PALACE", (post 1911 view).

                

         (d) Square vertical.                                         (e) Obelisk, vertical.

 

(d) Square, vertical.

CPPW18. Real photograph in colour of Central Transept and North Tower with steps from Central Transept to the Terraces, fountains working but no people. 3" wide x 2 1/4" high. Title:- "CRYSTAL PALACE", (post 1911 view).

 

CPPW19. Real photograph in colour of Central Transept and North Tower with steps from Central Transept to the Terraces, fountains working but no people. I 7/8" wide x 3" high. Title:- "CRYSTAL PALACE", (post 1911 view).

 

(e) Obelisk, vertical.

CPPW20. Real photograph in colour of Central Transept and North Tower with steps from Central Transept to the Terraces. fountains working but no people. 1 5/8" wide at base x 2 1/2" high to apex. Title:- "CRYSTAL PALACE", (post 1911 view).

 

CPPW21. Real photograph in colour of Central Transept and North Tower with steps from Central Transept to the Terraces, fountains working but no people. I 3/4" wide at base x 3 1/4" high to apex. Title:- "CRYSTAL PALACE", (post 1911 view).

 

CPPW22. Real photograph in colour of Central Transept and North Tower with steps from Central Transept to the Terraces, fountains working but no people. 2" wide at base x 4" high to apex. Title:- "CRYSTAL PALACE", (post 1911 view).

 

            In addition to the Crystal Palace at Penge paperweights there are also those produced as souvenirs for the Great Exhibition of 1851

those known are:-

 

GEPW01. Circular, domed. Hand drawn, multi-colour view of the Transept of the Exhibition building with a carriage drawn by a pair of horses, and two ladies, one in a blue gown with a white shawl and red bonnet and one with a red gown, white shawl and blue bonnet. No title. 3" diameter x 2" high.

 

GEPW02. Circular, domed. Hand drawn, multi-coloured view of the Transept of the Great Exhibition building with trees on left side, a horse and cart and twenty visitors making their way to the entrance. No title. 2 7/8" diameter x 2" high.

GEPW03. Circular, domed. Hand drawn, multi-coloured view of the interior of the Great Exhibition with Osier's Crystal Fountain in the foreground. Title:- Crystal Fountain, Exhibition of All Nations 1851" 2 7/8" diameter x 1 3/4" high.

 

            The above list probably represents the tip of the iceberg of glass paperweights depicting the Crystal Palace, examples made for the Military and Naval Exhibition in 1901 and The Festival of Empire and Pageant of London in 1911 are said to have been seen.

            Glass paperweights are known to have been produced for most exhibitions from 1851 through to at least 1914. External and internal views of the Kensington International Exhibition of 1862, The Dublin, Cork and Glasgow International Exhibitions. Most of the French and Belgian exhibitions have associated paperweights, those of Paris Exhibition of 1900 being very attractive including some featuring the Eiffel Tower. Like the Crystal Palace, other exhibition venues such as The White City, Earl's Court, Olympia and Alexandra Palace also have their own souvenir paperweights to add to a collection.

            Paperweights were produced for the 1951 Festival of Britain by a Birmingham company Wilmot-Breden, but moulded in three-dimensional plastics, most of these have by now suffered from polymer breakdown and have turned into a sticky, foul smelling mess! In hindsight they would have been better made from glass.

 

© Exhibition Study Group 2009

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