The Great Exhibition

Posted by Oliver, on 31 Aug 2013, in History
‘1851 Great Exhibition’, © 2006 Neil Cummings, used under a Creative Commons Attribution License

‘1851 Great Exhibition’, © 2006 Neil Cummings, used under a Creative Commons Attribution License

When guests stay at one of the classic Kensington hotels in London, they are there for the extensive history and culture that Kensington is known for. One of the best parts of Kensington history, so I think, is the legacy of The Great Exhibition of 1851. The second half of the nineteenth century was a golden age for innovation and modern inventions. Under the rule of the great Queen Victoria, England made leaps and bounds to become the impressive empire it was. She was quite the woman was she not? Reminds me a bit of my own mum, always had something up her sleeve!

The most impressive part of this whole ordeal to my guests of Kensington hotels in London was the Crystal Palace. This was a dream of Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert. Albert’s passion was innovation; with this awe-inspiring structure, he crushed any doubt that England was not a country to be trifled with. Close your eyes and imagine walking in Knightsbridge and seeing this glittering palace that peaked through the trees in the distance. As you walked closer the monstrous building made entirely of glass would have been filled with people itching to see the latest inventions.

The palace was the site of the Great Exhibition, and held over 100,000 objects from 15,000 vendors across the British Empire and other countries like France and the United States. With hundreds of stalls showing off new carriages, faster printing presses, and an array of beautiful tapestries and modern furniture, the exhibition was a sight to behold. Sometimes I wish I could find a genie and wish to travel back in time to experience this golden age of Britain. One can dream I suppose…

When the exhibition concluded in October of 1851, over six million people had passed through the glass doors. In 1852 the building was moved to Sydenham Hill. Through the years it hosted many English organizations and societies like the National Temperance League. With great success comes great disappointment in this case I am afraid. When guests of Kesington hotels in London ask me where they can behold this masterpiece I have to inform them that it was destroyed in a fire in 1936. As the bulldog Churchill himself put it “[it] is an end of an age”.

Although the beauty of this Crystal Palace can no longer be seen, visitors can see the design inspirations in many of the classic Kensington hotels. In London there is so much history to learn about and see; I can never get enough!