All the World Under One Roof |

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All the World Under One Roof

The world fair of 1851 was the biggest event of the 19th century, bringing eclectic exhibits of industrial, artistic and exotic natures from around the globe inside one spectacular building…


THE PLACE TO BE Visitors thronged to Knightsbridge in 1851, when a palace made of glass was filled with fascinating sights to behold from all over the globe


The building’s iron pillars and girders were painted blue, yellow and red, while one of the upstairs galleries was walled with stained glass through which the sun streamed.

May 1851. London was abuzz with excitement at the opening of a new international exhibition of trade and commerce in Hyde Park. Travellers crammed onto the many horse-drawn buses that served as the city’s public transport system, and craned their necks as they swept along Knightsbridge, anxious to catch a glimpse of the Crystal Palace that had sprung up in one of London’s largest public spaces.


Joseph Paxton drew this sketch of his Crystal Palace at a board meeting of the Midland Railway company in c1850.

Glittering in the sunlight, it was truly a sight to behold. The first prefabricated building of its kind, the enormous glasshouse incorporated 300,000 sheets of glass in the largest size then ever made, held in position with some 24 miles of patent guttering. In just nine months, this magnificent building had become a shining landmark on the capital’s skyline.

AT THE HELM Prince Albert presides over a meeting of the first Royal Commission of the Great Exhibition
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About BBC History Revealed Magazine

The September 2015 issue of History Revealed