The Crystal Palace was an iron and plate-glass building originally built in London Hyde Park to hold the Great Exhibition in 1851.
At 564 metres long, with an interior height of 128 feet, there were more than 14,000 exhibitors displaying the latest technological developments from the industrial revolution. The building was designed by Sir Joseph Paxton,
Because of the recent invention of the cast plate glass method in 1848 which allowed for large sheets of cheap but strong glass, it was at the time the largest amount of glass ever seen in a building and astonished visitors with its clear walls and ceilings, thus a “Crystal Palace”.
After the exhibition, the building was dismantled and rebuilt on Penge Common next to Sydenham Hill, an affluent suburb in south London at the time. The constructing of the building began on Sydenham Hill in 1852.
The new building, while incorporating most of the constructional parts of the Hyde Park building, was so completely different in form as to be properly considered a quite different structure – a ‘Beaux-arts’ form in glass and metal.
The main gallery was redesigned and covered with a new barrel-vaulted roof, the central transept was greatly enlarged and made even higher, and two new transepts were added at either end of the main gallery.
On November 1936, a fire broke out and within hours the palace was completely destroyed. It was reported that the intensity and glow of the fire could be seen across eight counties. Winston Churchill at the time said, “This is the end of an age”.
The ruins that remain today are the ramparts, statues and walkways of this once proud monument to Victorian architecture. The ruins are grade listed but sadly prone to vandalism and graffiti.