Crystal Palace Company formed in 1852 to purchase the glasshouse and remains of the 1851 Great Exhibition and somehow – no plan was clear at the start – restart it in another location. Sydenham was chosen for the location of the new Crystal Palace. The project had the enthusiastic support of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
Very quickly, Crystal Palace Company became a complex organisation. Disassembling and moving the glasshouse was a mammoth. Property acquisition was underway. New design was needed. Staff were needed. Transport. Financing. Legalities. Publicity. Designers. And so on.
Information about the Crystal Palace Company – as a going concern – is scattered. Records are held at National Archives, normally via London Metropolitan Archives. Research by Crystal Palace Foundation fills many gaps. Most books about Crystal Palace in Sydenham say some things about managed, but a corporate history is sorely needed.
Directors of the Crystal Palace Company included:
- Samuel Laing, MP, chair
- Arthur Anderson
- E.S.P. Calvert
- Thomas Newman Farquhar
- Charles Geach
- Charles Lushington
- John Scott Russell, FRS
Francis Fuller was Managing Director.
What’s immediately clear about these directors is how intertwined their other business interests are with this project. Lists of directors changed over time. I will not attempt here to cover that complex evolution.
Crystal Palace Company Officers and Contractors (1855)
An unlikely detailed source of information – though its value is revealed in its full title – is a volume of photographs produced by Philip H. Delamotte for the Crystal Palace Company showing works leading to the attraction’s opening. The full title of the book is: Photographic Views of the Progress of the Crystal Palace, Sydenham. Taken during the progress of works, by desire of the directors, by Philip H. Delamotte. Together with a list of directors and officers of the company, etc. Delamotte’s photographs are republished in A Victorian Pleasure Dome Revealed by Ian Leith.
Source: Delamotte, Philip H. 1855. Photographic Views of the Progress of the Crystal Palace, Sydenham. Taken during the progress of works, by desire of the directors, by Philip H. Delamotte. Together with a list of directors and officers of the company, etc. (London).
First Annual General Meeting
The Crystal Palace Company held its first annual general meeting on 08 August 1853. The page presents the formal meeting papers for this meeting.
The General Meeting papers includes a summary of audited accounts. This shows the approximate spending up to August 1853 on geology (including the ‘Extinct Animals’ project of Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins), zoology, ethnology, and other natural history. It allows a comparison of spending in those elements against the historical courts, fine arts, landscaping, and other elements of the attraction.
Source: British Library Add MS 50150 f4-5. Photo: ProfJoeCain CC BY-NC.