Great Exhibition Commemorative Plaques

Above: The site of the Great Exhibition is now a grassed open area, lined by trees. The aerial view shows part of Hyde Park. Part of The Serpentine is at the top right. Part of the road through the park is on the far left and meets up with Exhibition Road (E). Knightsbridge runs along the bottom of the view. The tall building, casting a long shadow is the Knightsbridge Barracks (K). The coloured dots are explained in the text.

Commemorating the site of the Great Exhibition, in 1851, and to celebrate 160 years of London’s Royal Parks, five plaques were unveiled on 10 May 2011 in Hyde Park. They are still to be seen today. The project, funded by the Royal Commission for the Royal Parks, was to erect five concrete and recycled glass plaques.

The enormous building, designed by William Paxton and constructed of glass and steel, using 293,655 panes of glass. The value of the exhibits, excluding the Koh-i-Noor diamond, was around two million pounds. The name ‘Crystal Palace’ came about due to an article in the satirical magazine called ‘Punch’. An article by the playwright Douglas Jerrold, in July 1850 called the building a ‘palace of very crystal’.

The plaques, designed by Virginia Nimarkoh, an artist based in London, mark out the original site of the exhibition building which covered ten times the area of St Paul’s Cathedral. Each plaque contains interesting facts about the original exhibition. For example, the exhibition was visited by more than six million people during the five and a half months that it was open.

Five markers have been placed on the footpaths and their position is also shown on the top image. The four markers (shown in RED) show the four corners of the structure. The fifth marker (shown in GREEN) shows the main entrance to the building. All five round plaques carry different facts about the Great Exhibition.

Above: The fifth marker, at the position of the main entrance to the Great Exhibition.

Above: The view of the entire site of the Crystal Palace, It was taken from the approximate site of the eastern edge of the building and looks west with the Albert Memorial just visible in the distance.

Above: Part of a map of London by Smith in 1860. For some reason, best known to the mapmaker, the outline of the structure was still shown in the park – nine years after the event! By then the Great Exhibition had been removed from Hyde Park and rebuilt on the top of a large hill at Sydenham, in 1854.

After so many years since the Great Exhibition was held, it is high time that these markers were placed in Hyde Park. The structure became greatly loved by the people of Victorian London. It was only intended to be a temporary structure but, when the time came to take it down, there was a clamour by the public to have the structure resited. After a long period of consultation, a position on Sydenham Hill was chosen and led to the immediate area being called Crystal Palace. Sadly, due to a fire, the whole structure was destroyed in 1936. The specially designed park still remains beside Crystal Palace Parade.


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