The Crystal Palace was originally created by Joseph Paxton to house the Exhibition of the Industry of all Nations that was to be staged in Hyde Park, London in 1851.
When, after six months, the Great Exhibition closed its doors over six million people had visited it. Joseph Paxton was knighted and public opinion clamoured, without success, for the Crystal Palace to remain in the park. Fortunately nine businessmen came to the rescue by purchasing the complete structure from Fox Henderson, the contractors who had erected and owned the building.
In the summer of 1852 a new site was found for the now redesigned Crystal Palace on Sydenham Hill in south east London and reconstruction commenced.
Reopening in 1854, the Crystal Palace provided a national centre for the education and enjoyment of the people. The building featured courts depicting various periods of architecture as well as courts of art and manufacture.
The grounds of the palace contained magnificent fountains, an unrivaled collection of statuary, many fine specimens of trees and shrubs and full size models of prehistoric animals, which were to become world famous. In 1856 the magnificent fountains and Brunel’s great water towers were commissioned.
Later firework displays, ballooning, cycle racing, football cup finals, funfairs, motor racing and many other events took place in the grounds.
During WW1 the Crystal Palace and grounds were taken over by the Admiralty and became HMS Victory VI for the duration.
In November 1936 the Crystal Palace was tragically destroyed in a spectacular fire.