Antiques Column: The best of the Victorians on show
Last week, in connection with a pot cupboard, The Great Exhibition came into a conversation I was having with a client.
This exhibition was one of the most successful things to happen in Victorian England and has influenced many styles and manufacturing processes since.
It was housed in a 19-acre glass structure which occupied part of the 26-acre site in Hyde Park.
It took just four months to build and because of all the glass, was christened “Crystal Palace” by Punch Magazine.
The doors opened on May 1, 1851 and closed on October 11.
There were almost 14,000 exhibitions and more than six million people visited in the 141 days the exhibition was open (no Sunday trading in Victorian England).
It was an attempt (and a very successful one) to give a living picture of the point at which the world had reached in design and manufacturing.
More than 6,500 of the 14,000 exhibitors were foreign so everyone who visited could see what life was like everywhere in the world.
The exhibition also acted as a platform for the further development of 19th century style and design.
After the exhibition many debates took place about the future of the Crystal Palace.
Eventually it was decided to dismantle it and rebuild it at Sydenham, where it was opened in 1854, eventually burning down in November 1936.
The pot cupboard I was referring to was a mid Victorian piece, so it was produced around the time of the Great Exhibition.
A similar example would almost certainly have been seen at the Crystal Palace, along with everything from babies’ bonnets to four poster beds and agricultural machinery.