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The Great Exhibition–Inside the Crystal Palace

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Let’s return to 1851 and the Crystal Palace, shall we?

A short walk from the [Victoria & Albert Museum] is Hyde Park, the original site of the Crystal Palace. The Crystal Palace was 563 metres long, 139 metres wide and over 30 metres high. Pre-fabricated parts meant the building went up in only 22 weeks. Work started in August 1850. First, the whole site was enclosed with hoardings. Trenches were dug, then the concrete foundation was laid. Underground iron pipes formed the base for the columns.

By the end of October, workmen were raising 200 columns a week. At the same time, girders were added to support the galleries and roof. The most difficult part of the job was hoisting the main ribs for the transept roof. All 16 were fixed in one week. The height of the roof was designed to leave the trees undisturbed. The roof for the main part of the building was added. Glazing wagons ran in grooves in the gutters, and in one week 80 men put in over 18,000 panes of glass. The boards from the hoardings were used to make the floor. The interior was painted red, yellow and blue.


“First sketch for the Great Exhibition Building by Sir Joseph Paxton. Museum no. E.575-1985.
First sketch for the Great Exhibition Building showing two elevation sketches of the
building with an attached telegraphic despatch or telegram below dated 15th July, 1850.”

“The Transept of The Crystal Palace, 1851 by Louis Haghe. Museum no. CIS 19604. The interior of the transept of The Great Exhibition of Crystal Palace of 1851, showing a vast exhibition area with large trees, surrounded by a wrought iron gate. On the ground floor is a large number of people, men, women and children, in dress of the period looking at sculptures of classical figures, satyrs, angels, and taking tea and being served refreshement by waiters.”

1 May 1851
This day is one of the greatest and most glorious of our lives… It is a day which makes my heart swell with thankfulness… The Park presented a wonderful spectacle, crowds streaming through it, – carriages and troops passing… The Green Park and Hyde Park were one mass of densely crowded human beings, in the highest good humour… before we neared the Crystal Palace, the sun shone and gleamed upon the gigantic edifice, upon which the flags of every nation were flying… The sight as we came to the centre where the steps and chair (on which I did not sit) was placed, facing the beautiful crystal fountain was magic and impressive. The tremendous cheering, the joy expressed in every face, the vastness of the building, with all its decoration and exhibits, the sound of the organ… all this was indeed moving.

From the Journal of Queen Victoria

“The Opening of the Great Exhibition” by Henry Courtney Selous

From Victoria & Albert, 2001, A&E Television Networks & British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

Transept of the Crystal Palace. (Getty Images)

Now, look at the background of the cover of Follow the Heart.

Didn’t the designer do a fabulous job?

  1. Wednesday, September 19, 2012 1:12 am

    OK, so that cover is just awesome! (And the guys aren’t bad looking either.)


    • Wednesday, September 19, 2012 10:05 am

      Thanks, Iola! I can’t tell you how tickled I am to have men on the cover of this book!


      • Sylvia M. permalink
        Wednesday, September 19, 2012 11:04 pm

        Is the one model on the cover (whose character you have chosen to be the hero of your last book) going to grace the cover of the last book or will they have to use someone else? I don’t want to cause spoilers, but I was just going by the summaries you had given of this series.


  2. debraemarvin permalink
    Wednesday, September 19, 2012 5:46 am

    I know it’s silly but I am always amazed at the work that gone done before the modern era of gasoline engines and giant machinery. All those panes of glass created and lifted!

    The cover is just perfect.


    • Wednesday, September 19, 2012 10:07 am

      Can you imagine how long it would take to build something as enormous as the Crystal Palace these days? What they did in 22 weeks with not much more than man- and steam-powered tools would probably take well over a year to do now with all of our modern equipment (and bureaucracy).


      • Sylvia M. permalink
        Wednesday, September 19, 2012 11:06 pm

        Now days there would be too much red tape! Do you know if anyone was killed in the process of this building?


  3. Wednesday, September 19, 2012 8:01 am

    Love it, Kaye!!! 🙂


  4. Misty permalink
    Wednesday, September 19, 2012 8:49 am

    Beautiful cover!! I’m so excited about the book!!!


    • Wednesday, September 19, 2012 10:08 am

      I’m excited about the series and what B&H is putting into it on my behalf.


  5. Wednesday, September 19, 2012 10:17 am

    It is a wonderful cover Kaye! It is fascinating what they accomplished back then. Victoria and Albert was the first time I had ever heard of The Great Exhibition. What an amazing thing to have witnessed! 🙂



  1. FOLLOW THE HEART: Setting the Scene |

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