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Crystal Palace (1851 - 1936)



  • Existence: 1 May 1851 - 30 November 1936


The Crystal Palace was a cast iron and glass building designed by Joseph Paxton for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park, London.

Joseph Paxton was a renowned gardener, employed as Head Gardener for the Duke of Devonshire to look after the grounds at Chatsworth House. Before his involvement with The Crystal Palace, Joseph had experimented extensively with glasshouse constructions and developed his own solutions to the building of modular constructions, which inspire his design for The Crystal Palace. The building mirrored an enormous flat roofed glass house with a barrel vaulted roof in the central transept, a rectangular hall, a large open gallery running along the main axis and wings extending down either side.

Joseph Paxton, achieved international acclaim for his design and was knighted by Queen Victoria in recognition of his work. The project was engineered by Sir William Cubitt, the ironwork was provided by Sir Charles Fox, who was also knighted for his contribution, and the glass was provided by the Chance Brothers glassworks in Smethwick.

The Great Exhibition was opened on 1 May 1851 by Queen Victoria and it was the first ever World's Fair exhibitions of culture and industry. The site displayed around 100,000 examples of the latest technological developments of the Industrial Revolution by over 15,000 exhibitors from countries around the world. The exhibition was estimated to have been attended by over six million paying visitors, which generated a surplus after covering the expenses of the construction work. This money was paid for the construction of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum in London.

After the great exhibition, a consortium of eight businessmen formed a holding company to relocate the palace to Penge Place at the top of Sydenham Hill in 1852. The Crystal Palace remained in this location, providing a venue for concerts, events and entertainment until its destruction by fire in November 1936.

During the First World War, it was used as a naval training site, between the 1920s and 1930s it was the home of the Imperial War Museum. On 30 November 1936 the building was destroyed by fire and any remaining structure was finally removed during WWII. The site had various functions thereafter including, a motor racing circuit, the Crystal Palace transmitting station and an open air concert theatre.

Found in 14 Collections and/or Records:

Circus Friends Association Collection

Reference code: NFA0122
Scope and Contents

This collection consists of a large library of books and journals, as well as archival material including posters, programmes, photographs, films, handbills, research material, scrapbooks, original artwork and many other items of ephemera relating to British, Irish and European circuses

Dates: 1795 - 2020

Correspondence, c1900 - 2008

Reference code: 178F20
Scope and Contents

Items of personal correspondence and correspondence related to the Sanger and Ohmy families.

Dates: c1900 - 2008

Crystal Palace Programme, 12 December 1896

Reference code: 178K53.90
Scope and Contents

Black illustrations of musical instruments and a woman holding a small harp and black type on orange background on the front cover, inside details of concerts including lyrics and sheet music with informatioin about the music and listing of performers including, Akimoto's Royal Yedo Japanese Troupe, Mr Snazelle and Mdame Hoyce Maas, also listing of other events including picture galleries, Panoramas and Dioramas and Wulff's Great Continental Circus, 22p.p.

Dates: 12 December 1896

Crystal Palace Programme, 18 March 1893

Reference code: 178K53.91
Scope and Contents

Black illustrations of musical instruments and a woman holding a small harp and black type on orange background on the front cover, inside details of concerts including lyrics and sheet music with informatioin about the music and listing of performers including, Mr Fleming Norton, Mr Robert Ganthony, Mr R.A. Roberts and The Siege of Paris Panorama, 20p.p.

Dates: 18 March 1893

Cyril Critchlow Collection

Reference code: NFA0089
Scope and Contents The Cyril Critchlow collection contains programmes, posters, handbills, books and magic journals, many of which relate to shows in Blackpool where Cyril resided and includes material on entertainment venues such as Blackpool’s North Pier, Central Pier, South Pier, Tower Circus and a small collection of programmes from other national venues. Additionally, it contains circus photographs and postcards mainly of the Ohmy Circus and Sanger Circus including individual circus troupes and performers...
Dates: c1837 - 2008

Frankie Roberto Collection

Reference code: NFA0155
Scope and Contents

Photographs, programmes, plans, trade and advertising material, tickets, badges and other items of ephemera for British theme parks and attractions, including Alton Towers, Pleasure Land, Thorpe Park and Legoland.

Dates: c1900 - 2006

Letter from the General Manager of Crystal Palace, 26 November 1930

Reference code: 178F20.14
Scope and Contents

Letter to Lily Sanger Ohmy from General Manager of Crystal Palace. Typescript.

Dates: 26 November 1930

Newspaper Cuttings and Scapbooks, 1838 - 2007

Reference code: 178G21
Scope and Contents

A collection of newspaper cuttings on circus, circus proprietors and performers and scrapbooks containing newspaper cuttings, posters, programmes and other items of ephemera, covering mainly British circuses and venues such as Belle Vue and also some international circuses.

Dates: 1838 - 2007

Photographs, c1900 - 1999

Reference code: 178C117
Scope and Contents

Photographs and postcards of Alton Towers, Chessington World of Adverntures, Crystal Palace and Thorpe Park, showing sites, rides and other amusements.

Dates: c1900 - 1999

Programmes, c1800 - 2019

Reference code: 178K43
Scope and Contents

A collection of mainly British and international circus programmes and some variety and music hall programmes containing circus acts.

Dates: c1800 - 2019

Programmes for Circuses at Various Locations, 1924 - 1975

Reference code: 178K43.675
Scope and Contents

Circus programmes at Paignton Zoo, Skegness Winter Gardens, Liverpool Stadium, Charing Cross Coliseum, Crystal Palace, Earls Court, The South London Palace, Clacton Pier, Scarborough Gala Land, Newcastle Theatre Royal, The Croydon Empire, Maple Leaf Gardens, Leicester Granby Halls, Collins Music Hall, Orpheum Theatre, The Sunderland Empire, Cardiff Empire, Arcadia Theatre, The Metropole Theatre, The Empress Hall, Reading Palace Theatre and Cardiff Sophia Gardens Pavillion.

Dates: 1924 - 1975

Scrapbook of Multiple Circuses, 1929 - 1936

Reference code: 178G21.7
Scope and Contents

Scrapbook of newspaper cuttings and black and white photographs, relating to multiple circuses and acts including Fossett's, Rosaire's, Blackpool Tower, John Duffy and Sons and Crystal Palace, 61p.p.

Dates: 1929 - 1936

Scrapbook of Multiple Circuses, 1925 - 1937

Reference code: 178G21.10
Scope and Contents

Scrapbook of newspaper cuttings, black and white photographs and advertisments, relating to multiple circuses and acts including Chapman's, Lord John Sanger's, Astley's, Blackpool Tower, Crystal Palace and Belle Vue, 61p.p

Dates: 1925 - 1937

Topsy-Turvy Postcard, c1900 - 1929

Reference code: 178C117.5
Scope and Contents

Colour postcard of the Topsy-Turvy Railway at Crystal Palace.

Dates: c1900 - 1929

Additional filters:

Archival Object 11
Collection 3
Acrobats 3
Aerialists 4
Amusement parks 3
Amusement rides 3
Animal trainers 4