Paxton’s Palace

This card, published by J. Beagles & Co of London, was posted from Beckenham to an address in Christchurch, New Zealand, on May 16 1907.

A vintage postcard view of Crystal Palace.

My Dear Jack,
We can see this place quite plainly from Beckenham and on a bright day the roof sparkles like the sun.
With Much love, D.E.

The Crystal Palace was built, in slightly less elaborate form, in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition of 1851. Its designer, Joseph Paxton (1803 – 1865), is sometimes described as the architect, or even engineer, although he probably had no formal training in either profession.

Although Paxton had a brilliant and inventive mind, he was primarily the head gardener at Chatsworth House who had developed a method of building greenhouses on a large scale. His inspiration for their framework came from studying the structure of a giant tropical water lily leaf that was strong enough to support the weight of his young daughter. So his world famous palace was, in effect, the biggest greenhouse ever seen.

After the Great Exhibition closed, the building was dismantled, transported to this location, which was outside London at that time, reassembled, and reopened with additions in 1854. The water towers at each end were designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel to power the new fountains in the grounds.

The palace was very expensive to maintain in the years that followed and some of its past glory had faded when, on 30th November 1936, it was lost to a fire hot enough to melt and buckle its iron frame. One of the towers remained until the outbreak of WWII when it was demolished so that it wouldn’t provide a landmark for German bombers.


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