News / City Life

These then-and-now photos show London’s lost Crystal Palace

Then & Now: the Crystal Palace
Then: Collage – The London Picture Archive. Now: Andy Parsons

Back in the nineteenth century, various Victorian bigwigs decided to put on a massive exhibition showcasing Britain’s world-leading industrial technology. But there wasn’t anywhere big enough to house such a show, so one Joseph Paxton was commissioned to create the largest glass building ever seen. His ‘Crystal Palace’ popped up in Hyde Park for six months in 1851 and the Great Exhibition was a huge success. But what to do with the epic edifice after that? The solution: move it to Penge. The Crystal Palace was soon rebuilt on Sydenham Hill, with photographer Philip Henry Delamotte documenting the process.

The Crystal Palace

Collage – The London Picture Archive

Set on Italian-style terraces in a new park full of fountains and sculptures, the building became a London landmark, hosting concerts, festivals, circuses, diplomatic receptions and even the world’s first cat show. Over the years, the surrounding area became known as Crystal Palace. But in 1936 the building burned to the ground, watched by 100,000 people. All that is left today are those Italianate terraces and the park’s famous dinosaur statues.

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