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Interior of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham Opened by Her Majesty 10th June 1854

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    ca.1854 (printed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hand-coloured etching

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The Great Exhibition in its magnificent building designed by Joseph Paxton ran from May to October 1851. After its closure in Hyde Park it was moved to Sydenham and rebuilt in even grander form there between 1852 and 1854, using twice the amount of glass, with barrel-vaulted transepts at both ends of the nave. Situated in landscaped gardens it became one of Lonon's major tourist attractions until its destruction by fire in 1936.

This print depicts the opening ceremony on 10th June 1854, when Michael Costa conducted a vast orchestra and choir of over 1,700 performers featuring three military bands, the orchestra from Covent Garden Theatre, and a chorus recruited from twenty-one provincial choirs on a 6,000 square foot stage at a 42 degree rake so that they could all see the conductor. The audience of over
30,000 witnessed a magnificent state spectacle which marked the turning point in large-scale performances in Britain.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were the guests of honour, and the Queen noted in her journal: 'I cannot describe the splendid effect of the music, it was beyond all description & most imposing. Clara Novello's fine voice sounded so well in that large space. Most conspicuous among the singers were good old Lablache, Formes, & Hözel. After the National Anthem was sung the Address was read by the Chairman, describing the origin & objects of the undertaking & I read my answer. Medals & books were presented. When Paxton came up the steps of the dais, he was immensely cheered, but he himself was low & sad, his dear & revered Master, & benefactor, the Duke of Devonshire being had a stroke, & though going on well, is still feeble & confined to bed. We now walked round the whole building, in procession, after which the 100th Psalm was sung, the Archbishop of Canterbury, invoked the Divine Blessing on this great work, & the Hallelujah Chorus was most magnificently sung. Then, Ld Breadalbane announced that the Crystal Palace was opened. This & the singing of the National Anthem concluded the interesting & really imposing ceremony. I fervently hope that so great & noble an undertaking may be crowned with success. There were immense crowds all along the road.'

Physical description

Hand-coloured engraving depicting the orchestra and choir in front of the organ at the opening of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham, with members of the audience seated in galleries and standing in the hall. Possibly a plate removed from a volume.

Place of Origin

London (made)


ca.1854 (printed)


Unknown (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Hand-coloured etching


Height: 30.4 cm, Width: 23.4 cm

Descriptive line

The opening concert in the central transept of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham in the presence of Queen Victoria, 10th June 1854. Hand-coloured etching. Anonymous.


Printing ink; Watercolour; Paper


Printing; Etching (printing process)


Entertainment & Leisure; Crystal Palace; Royalty; Architecture; Audiences


Theatre and Performance Collection

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