The Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace, 1851

British Library
Late modern period
Tourism and Culture

The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations in 1851 was the first universal exhibition. It took place from May 1 to October 15, 1851 in London. The official opening of the exhibition took place in Hyde Park, in the Crystal Palace, a huge building glass (400 tons) and metal (4,000 tons), designed for the occasion by landscape designer Joseph Paxton (1801 1865). An area of ​​7.5 ha, about 14 000 exhibitors from half over forty foreign countries, half of the British Empire, were divided into four sections that were taken during the post World Fairs: raw materials, machines, manufactures, works of art. It was later expanded and moved to the top of Sydenham Hill, south London in 1854, when Queen Victoria inaugurated for the second time.Just like in 1866, when a fire destroyed the north transept, the Palace blazed within hours November 30, 1936, visible 10 miles away. The Crystal Palace Foundation was established in 1979 to defend and respect the memory of this place, a symbol of a glorious period in English history. A Chinese conglomerate Zhongrong, established in 1992 in Shanghai by the current billionaire president Ni Zhaoxing, proposed a project of construction of an exact replica of the Victorian Crystal Palace by the end of 2018.


View 1 : The Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace, 1851, Add. MS 35255 © The British Library Board

View 2 : Crystal Palace. Lithograph by George Baxter

The front of the Crystal Palace. Gravure, 1852

View 3 : Crystal Palace. Lithograph by T. Picken, after a painting by Philip Brannan

from the North-East from Dickinson's Comprehensive Pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851, published 1854

View 4 : The Crystal Palace in its original location; the South-Eastern corner of Hyde Park

View 5 : Crystal Palace. Coloured lithograph by Augustus Butler © Science & Society Picture Library/Getty ImagesThe Crystal Palace

View 6 : The Great Exhibition 1851. Lithograh by Ackerman

View 7 : Joseph Paxton's first sketch for the Crystal Palace, june 1850. Première esquisse de Crystal Palace par Joseph Baxton, juin 1850

View 8 : Inside the Crystal Palace by Joseph Nash

View 9 : Queen Victoria opens the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London in 1851. Colour lithograph by Louis Haghe © Victoria & Albert Museum.

View 10 : Nave looking to the 'foreign' exhibits

View 11 : Crystal Palace. Interior transept by Joseph Nash and Haghe Roberts, 1854. British Library

View 12 : Interior view of the Crystal Palace, 1851 © Victoria & Albert Museum

View 13 : Crystal Palace. Visit of the Emperor and Empress of the French and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Estampe, 1855 © BNF

Palais de Cristal. Visite de l'empereur et de l'impératrice des Français: Napoléon III  et Eugénie avec la reine Victoria et le prince Albert. Estampe, 1855 © BNF

View 14 : Crystal Palace. Opening by Queen Victoria, 10 June 1854. Watercolour by Joseph Nash

View 15 : Crystal Palace in Sydenham, 1870 © Crystal Palace Museum

View 16 : Crystal Palace in Sydenham. General view from Water Temple, 1854. Photograph by Philip Henry Delamotte.

View 17 : Crystal Palace in Sydenham. From Italian terrace. Postcard.

View 18 : Remains of the north end after 1866 fire © Crystal Palace Museum

View 19 : Crystal Palace destruction after 1866 fire © Crystal Palace Museum

View 20 : Crystal Palace in fire. November 30th 1936 © London Illustrated News

View 21 : Crystal Palace's awful aftermath after 1936 fire © London Illustrated News


These six images are the only colour photographs ever taken of the Crystal Palace before the fire destroyed the building. Photographed in Dufay coulour by Arthur Talbot, August 1936 © Crystal Palace Museum :


View 22 : Nave - Osler's Fountain and the Great Clock.

View 23 : Centre Transept - North West Corner.

View 24 : Pompeian Court - The Atrium and Impluvium.

View 25 : Pompeian Court - Detail of Atrium Decoration.

View 26  : Egyptian Court - Temple of Rameses II, Abu Simbel.

View 27  : Egyptian Court - Detail of the Philae Portico.





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