Albert's Idea, together with Joseph Paxton's genius, resulted in a truly amazing building. The Crystal Palace was beautiful. It glittered in the sun: flags of all nations flew from the curved roof. Inside it was light and airy, and painted in pale blue and yellow, with scarlet hangings here and there. Besides the great elm trees there were palms,banks of flowers and pot plants, and a 27 foot high pink glass fountain. On the second level there was a gallery all round,and everywhere new things to see.
Each country had a section of its own. The Indian Court was draped with coloured silks & had an enormous stuffed elephant.
There was a stained glass gallery, and a Machinery Court with all kinds of working machines, weaving,making & folding envelopes,printing and making lace.
The envelope making machine was the most popular and most frequently visited in the Court.
In the Mining Court were great lumps of gold and coal,and the Koh-in-oor diamond was displayed.
Here we see Prince Albert and the young Queen admiring it.
There were carriages,carpets,porcelain and silverware,furs of beaver & wolf from the outposts of the Empire,fabrics and clocks; in the grounds there were even workers' cottages and cannon.
The cottages were set up again aftrewards, at Kennington.
Individuals had been encouraged to send in articles for display,and there were some odd and interesting exhibits - hats made from cabbage-tree leaves by prisoners in Australia,cuffs spun and knitted from the hair of French poodles,and a stove made to look like a suit of armour.
If you saw the bed in Wallace and Gromit, the one that tipped Wallace out, you may be amused to learn that there was an 'alarm bed' in the Great Exhibition that tipped its owner out in exactly the same way!
There was even a working fire-engine on display.
Other unusual exhibits included a garden-seat for Osborne made out of coal, champagne made from rhubarb, a safety swimming swan for shipwrecks, the 'char - volant'(a carriage pulled by kites), a pulpit connected by tubes to the pews of the deaf, a doctor's walking-stick which contained an enema,and a group of stuffed frogs, one holding up an umbrella, from Germany.
There was at first anxiety about the idea of hundreds of lower-class visitors travelling to the Exhibition, bringing crime and showing lack of due respect to the exhibits.
At first,therefore, the tickets were five shillings - well out of the range of the commoners, who perhaps would not know how to behave.
However, the prophets of gloom were proved entirely wrong.
THERE WAS NO DAMAGE OR DISTURBANCE
When the 'shilling days' were introduced, hundreds of country-folk poured into the building, and behaved(surprise!?!) perfectly. On 12th May,800 people from 3 villages walked in quietly, 2 by 2. They were wearing traditional smocks. They had saved up for weeks to pay 2/6 each (two shillings and sixpence) which included the train fare. On another day the Great Western Railway ran a train with 151 coaches, carrying 5,000 ticket-holders.
Even Prince Albert had to have a season ticket...
In August Mary Kerlynack,84, a fisherwoman, WALKED 265 miles to London from Penzance. It took her 5 WEEKS!
Here is a print of the time.
She had only five pence and a halfpenny left after her visit, so she went to the Lord Mayor for help. He gave her a gold sovereign & the Lady Mayor gave her tea. She was given lodgings & was able to go to the Exhibition again,see the Queen and wave to her.
The Queen went often to Albert's building. She took the oldest children and walked round with them. For her the Crystal Palace simply confirmed her love and admiration for Albert; and the attitude of the press and people certainly changed after the worldwide success of the Great Exhibition.
There were long-lasting changes in Victorian life due to the Crystal Palace:
1 Marble Arch was moved from the grounds to the NE corner of Hyde Park.
2 Trafalgar Square was completed( although no lions yet).
3 Slums were ploughed up to open Victoria Street.
4 New railway junctions were created,since thousands of visitors were travelling in.
5 Tourist Travel developed. Among others, a small travel firm called THOMAS COOK arranged cheap railway excursions & block bookings to the Exhibition.
Today his name is known world-wide.....
6 A tea-merchant opened a small grocery store nearby & was made rich by the passing trade.
His name was HARROD!
The building was dismantled in the summer of 1852, but rebuilt at Sydenham in 1853 - 4. You can read the story in 'Dinosaurs in the Park.'
The foundations still lie under the turf in Hyde Park.
Prince Albert's 'Model Workmen's Cottages' were rebuilt at Kennington.
The iron gates from inside the Exhibition are now between Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.
On the Albert Memorial by the embankment, Prince Albert can be seen holding a catalogue from the Exhibition.
The Royal Commission still exists and meets: a member of the Royal Family is always President. Even today,scholarships,educational projects & research funds all benefit from their donations. THE PROFIT was £186,437(an enormous amount at that time).
It was used to purchase land in South Kensington. Land which has served us well.
The Science,Natural History,V&A and Geological Museums all stand on that land, and the Royal Albert Hall also owes its existence to
ALBERT'S GOOD IDEA