Leaving Hyde Park, 1851

The Crystal Palace - 1851 Great Exhibition from Rotton Row When the doors of the Great Exhibition closed in October 1851, it had already been agreed that Hyde Park had to be returned to its original state. From that arose the controversial question posed by Sir Joseph Paxton: 'What is to become of the Crystal Palace?' The building had become so popular that Paxton was, naturally enough, loath to see the end of his masterpiece and wanted to turn it into a 'Winter Park and Garden under Glass'.

He secured a reprieve from Parliament to leave the building where it was until May 1852, when a decision on its future would have to be made. However, on the 29th April Colonel Charles de Laet Waldo Sibthorpe, the ultra-Tory, ultra-right wing Protestant MP for Lincoln and staunch objector to the Great Exhibition, persuaded Parliament that it should be removed from the Park forthwith, calling the Palace a "transparent humbug and a bauble." Fox & Henderson were then served notice to dismantle the building and they looked for a market for the iron and glass.

Having battled with Sibthorpe to get the building built in the first place, Paxton foresaw the outcome of his Winter Garden proposal and had set up The Crystal Palace Company under a Royal Charter. The original Directors comprised Samuel Laing, Arthur Anderson, Charles Lushington, John Scott Russell, Francis Fuller, Thomas Newman Farquhar, Charles Geach and Edmund Sexton Pery Calvert. Between them they raised and contributed over £500,000 (over £25 million today) to buy the building and to re-erect it on a new site.

The site chosen comprised approximately 389 acres on Sydenham Hill, South East London and consisted of woodland and the grounds of the mansion known as Penge Place (located near the present concert platform), and owned by Paxton's friend and railway entrepreneur Leo Schuster. Shortly after the site was chosen, c17 acres were sold to the Brighton Railway Company to construct what became the Crystal Palace (Low Level) Railway Station. This was connected to the Crystal Palace (via the south wing) by a 720ft glass walkway known as the Crystal Colonnade. c130 acres were sold to another friend of Paxton - a George Wythes of Reigate, Surrey for house building land on Crystal Palace Park Road and Thicket Road.

The area of land owned and used by the Crystal Palace Company and (from 1914 the Crystal Palace Trustees) was 200 acres. The acreage has not changed to this day. The delination of the park was (and still is) Crystal Palace Parade - Anerley Hill - Thicket Road (from the railway bridge) - Crystal Palace Park Road / Westwood Hill.

For books on this subject please go to the Great Exhibition 1851 section of our shop.

Copyright Crystal Palace Foundation 2012
Compiled By Melvyn Harrison, Chairman