Main Interest

Your cart
is currently empty

Delamotte's Crystal Palace

Price: £19.99

by Ian Leith

The Crystal Palace Foundation has been given exclusive permission to reprint this fantastic book with such brilliant photographs.

In June 2005 English Heritage received an exciting call from an auction house. An amazing collection of photographs had come into their possession which would shortly be going under the hammer. These photographs were so unique that English Heritage felt they should be acquired for the nation. The 47 photographs were all taken in 1859 by Phiip Henry Delamotte and showed the interior of the Crystal Palace after it had been rebuilt and before it was destroyed for the first time by fire in 1866. This was a previously unknown collection.

English Heritage contacted Melvyn Harrison, Chairman, Crystal Palace Foundation to ask if they would like to offer finance to the sale and the opportunity was gladly accepted. Melvyn in turn contacted Derek Newman of the London Development Agency to see if they would like to participate and they also agreed. He then made a number of calls to other museums and institutions to ask if they would be bidding and they all said no they would not be. The bidding for the photographs was fierce with many private collectors desperate to acquire the pictures. However, English Heritage managed to hold firm and the photographs are now on show to the public in its photographic archive, the National Monuments Record in Swindon. The full story.

All 47 photographs are beautifully reproduced in this book, as well as shots of the building in its original Hyde Park site where it was built for the great exhibition of 1851. Also included are views of the Crystal Palace when it was rebuilt after the 1866 fire and then when it was destroyed again by fire in 1936. The book also tells the story of this legendary Victorian pleasure dome and its many incarnations. Much of our previous knowledge of this important building and its contents came almost entirely from engravings. The reproduction of these high-quality original photographs allows, for the first time, a much fuller appreciation of one of the most important architectural and cultural features of mid-Victorian England, which in its heyday was visited by many millions of people.

Book review
In July 2004 English Heritage was alerted to a forthcoming auction of 47 photographs of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham. They are a unique and complete set of images of this iconic building, at the height of its fame, in the middle 1850s. The entire set was purchased by English Heritage and are all reproduced in sepia, in this gorgeous book. The photographer - Philip Delamotte - was also a highly accomplished artist and lithographer. Many examples of his work, featuring the Crystal Palace, are also reproduced - some in colour. Only 6 colour prints, using the early 'Dufay' process are known to have been taken of the Palace - some of these also appear in the book, although they were taken much later 1n 1936. The images are further augmented by the work of other leading artists and photographers contemporary with Phillip Delamotte.

The Delamotte pictures were - of course - taken prior to the first disasterous fire in 1866, which consumed much of the northern end of the nave and the northern transept, and was never rebuilt. Consequently, there are images of objects including the giant 'Abu Simbel' figures, that occupied the transept - but were damaged beyond repair in the fire.

Although this book is largely a picture album, there are extended captions and a highly informative text covers the major characters involved in the Crystal Palace. One short chapter 'A Mythical End' poses the intriguing question of what would have become of the palace - had the fatal fire of 1936, which destroyed it utterly - never happened?

Almost every page is a joy to study, with so many sublime images to explore. The publishers have done a superb job! For anyone with an interest in this 'Victorian Pleasure Dome' this is one of the definitive, must have volumes!

To view the photographs in the book visit the Historic England website at:

Also available from Bookseller Crow, Westow Street, London, SE19

128 pages hardback 108 illustrations

Ian Leith obituary | Architecture | The Guardian
Blood Cancer UK | We're here to beat blood cancer