The Crystal Palace Resurrected
Roger Hudson details the rebuilding of the world’s first theme park in south London in 1853.
The Palace cost £150,000 in 1851 but by the time work at Sydenham was complete, £1.3 million had been spent, some £800,000 over budget. It now had five rather than three floors and curved-roof transepts north and south to accompany the original central one, which itself had been added to avoid having to cut down three large Hyde Park elms, in response to a public outcry. Much of the extra expense was down to the elaborate gardens with their terracing and fountains (12,000 jets of water in all), statuary, maze and (inaccurate) life-size models of dinosaurs. There were also two 284-ft-high brick water towers designed by Brunel. Inside there was a concert hall, complete with vast organ, and Pugin’s original 1851 fine art Medieval Court was now joined by Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Pompeian, Moorish, Byzantine, Renaissance, Indian and Chinese ones, full of plaster casts of sculpture collected round the world by Owen Jones.