|All the photos were taken in October 2014 at Sydenham|
I have been making an effort to discover all the interesting parks around London. It is easy enough to see a green blob on the map, but finding out whether it is a plain piece of uninteresting grassland or a manicured park takes a little more digging around, and an image search is the quickest way to sort out which ones will be worth the time to go and see. Last October I visited a park whose name conjures up all sorts of images - Crystal Palace, although if you don't have an interest in history, this would merely be the name of a London football team. I remember going to see the life-size Victorian model dinosaurs there very many years ago, but could remember nothing of the rest of the park, which I think we probably did not roam around at that time, consumed as we were by our fascination with the prehistoric beasts.
It was a breezy sunny* morning and we rode in pleasant anticipation on the train to Sydenham. We were not really expecting the weather to be so mild and the lateness of the season made the day out even more appreciated, as it could easily have been cold and wet at that time of year. We walked round the lake and took pictures of the dinosaurs from every angle, more than 45 years after the first visit, this time with our digital cameras and their unlimited capacity for photos and movies. We then wandered up the hill, past the sports arenas, and onto the site where the Crystal Palace once stood. This is an entirely open grassy area, with only the ornate front parapet and central stone staircase left to show the enormous size of the building. The only reminders* of past days were two lonely and thoughtful sphinxes and a few headless statues, and the only crowds, other than a few walkers, were the crows, using the top of the parapet as a small cliff face to perch on.
* Always insert vowel in "sunny", compare "snowy"
* Insert diphthong, as it could look like "remains" if not neatly written, which would also make sense
There is a far-reaching view from the hill, over a mixture of distant suburbs and countryside, not quite as magnificent as it must have been* in the eighteen hundreds* when it was all farmland and woods. We walked the length of the building and although it was pleasant to be out in the open in the sunshine, my thoughts turned constantly to what it might have been like when the Crystal Palace was here, the noise, crowds, exhibits, gardens and fountains. I think those people would hardly believe their eyes, if they could see the site now, looking as empty as it was before the building ever arrived.
* Omission phrase "as it must (have) been"
* Stroke N for "hundred" is used only with a numeral, not an outline
|Plaque on Joseph Paxton's plinth|
* A short line struck through indicates past tense for contractions
The main building in Hyde Park was constructed in the five months between the last day of July 1850 and the end of the year. It covered 19 acres and enclosed 355,000 cubic feet*. It was 1,848 feet long, 408 feet wide and 66 feet high, with a transept 108 feet in height. It used 4,500* tons of iron, over 293,000 panes of glass, 24 miles of guttering and 60,000* cubic feet of timber. It was built in nine months by 2,000* men, at a cost of £79,800*. All this provided just under a million square feet of exhibition floor space. There were one hundred thousand exhibits, and the number of exhibitors was nearly 14,000, just over half of which were British.
* The first "feet" has the vowel, all the others can omit it. If "foot" was used that would need a vowel. "Foot" is often used when it is an adjective e.g. "a 50 foot bridge".
* "4,500" You do not need to write in the Ith stroke, but if you find you have already written it, just leave a small space, then write the 5 and its N stroke. Similarly with "79,800"
* The outline for "sixty" is quicker than writing the numerals
* "2,000" A single outline/phrase is much quicker than writing numeral two and a separate Ith stroke
The number of visitors was just over six million, and three quarters* of a million of these were season ticket holders. It was opened with great ceremony by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who visited it regularly during the exhibition run. One slight problem was the arrival and multiplication of sparrows, which were doing no favours to the high quality and expensive exhibits located below their perching places and under their flight paths. No-one knew what to do, until this perplexing problem was eventually solved by Queen Victoria requesting the Duke of Wellington's advice on the matter - his answer was to introduce sparrowhawks.
* Optional contraction
|Visitors still enjoy the water features|
* The diphthong is normally written outside the shun hook, but here it has nowhere else it can be written
It remained in operation for 85 years, despite a fire in 1866 which destroyed the north transept and wing, which was never rebuilt. It declined in popularity in the later years and on 30 November 1936 it was completely destroyed by fire. The fire started in one of the staff toilets and rapidly spread to engulf the whole building, fuelled by the wooden floorboards and walls. Half of London's firemen turned out to fight the fire but their efforts were to no avail, and indeed were hampered by the crowds flocking to witness the conflagration. Overnight the Palace became a giant heap of molten iron and glass. To many Victorians the Crystal Palace was a magnificent example of engineering innovation and a symbol of their desire for peace and prosperity, but these noble aspirations had already crumbled at the beginning of the 20th century with the Great War of 1914. Standing on the empty foundations, one not only tries to imagine the presence of the building, exhibits and people, but also the fire, noise and smoke.
|Something similar not far away|
at Hays Galleria on the Thames
Further reading: The Crystal Palace by Patrick Beaver, informative, entertaining and packed with photographs and Victorian illustrations
|Spot the palindrome - hieroglyphs as ornament, devoid of meaning.|
Maybe they should be on the nearby sports centre - footballs, sails,
helmets, bats, flags and tennis racquet.