Great Exhibition

Location of Crystal Palace

Aerial view of Crystal Palace

Lithograph by Charles Burton
Copyright: V&A Images. Museum number: 19614

This lithograph shows Joseph Paxton's massive glass house, or Crystal Palace as it came to be known, in its original location in Hyde Park looking south eastwards towards Chelsea. It covered almost 19 acres of the park with its structure measuring 1,848 feet (about 563 metres) long by 454 feet (about 138 metres) wide. The large rectangular building consisted of three stepped storeys and a barrel vaulted transept, which Paxton added to his original design to accommodate some trees on the park site.

The building sat in the park to the south of the Serpentine lake, stretching from what is now Exhibition Road up to Knightsbridge Barracks. The entrance was via the transept to the building, nearly opposite Prince of Wales Gate. This site can be seen in the estate plan c.1862 and the aerial photograph of 1944.

Opposition to the exhibition

Initially there was unexpected opposition to having the exhibition in Hyde Park, fearing unruly crowds. This turned out to be unfounded as the exhibition proved to be a remarkable success with almost no crime.

Crystal Palace as an icon

Crystal Palace became an icon for modernists and was the first building to use iron on such a large scale. Le Corbusier described it as the 'herald of a new age' and Henry-Russell Hitchcock used a photo of it as the frontispiece of his book Modern Architecture in England, published 1937.