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Architectural sketch - The Great Exhibition building
  • The Great Exhibition building
    Paxton, Joseph Sir, born 1803 - died 1865
  • Enlarge image

The Great Exhibition building

  • Object:

    Architectural sketch

  • Place of origin:

    Derby (made)

  • Date:

    11/06/1850 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Paxton, Joseph Sir, born 1803 - died 1865 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pen and ink on pink blotting paper, mounted on a sheet of woven paper with a telegram form

  • Museum number:

    E.575-1985

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 122, case WN

Object Type
These sketches are Joseph Paxton's first thoughts for the building for the Great Exhibition of 1851, later known as the Crystal Palace. He drew them during a Midland Railway board meeting in Derby. The two sketches show the side elevation and cross section. They are mounted with a telegram that was sent to Paxton's wife confirming acceptance of the plan.

Design & Designing
Within a week, the sketches were converted into proper drawings and presented to the Commission board. Paxton's design was accepted by the Royal Commissioners for the Great Exhibition partly because all the other architects' schemes had been rejected. Time was running out and Paxton's idea of building a glass and iron structure from prefabricated sections meant that the building could be constructed quickly.

Place
Paxton had successfully designed and built glass houses at Chatsworth, in Derbyshire, where he had been head gardener. These sketches for a building made of glass and iron were based on the lines of the Lily House at Chatsworth. Paxton used many of the same principles for both buildings. The Crystal Palace was the first structure to use iron on such a large scale.

Physical description

The two images on the blotting paper show the fundamental idea for the Great Exhibition building, later known as the Crystal Palace. A week after he created the rough sketch, Joseph Paxton has his horticultural staff draft proper drawings.
As these designs were later accepted for use, the telegram to Mrs. Paxton announcing this fact is mounted on the sketch.

Place of Origin

Derby (made)

Date

11/06/1850 (made)

Artist/maker

Paxton, Joseph Sir, born 1803 - died 1865 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Pen and ink on pink blotting paper, mounted on a sheet of woven paper with a telegram form

Dimensions

Height: 39.1 cm unframed, Width: 28 cm unframed

Object history note

Drawn in Derby by Sir Joseph Paxton (born in Milton Bryant, Bedfordshire, 1801, died in Sydenham, Kent, 1865)

Descriptive line

First sketch of Crystal Palace, Great Exhibition 1851, by Paxton

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This first sketch for what was to become one of the most famous buildings of its time, was drawn on blotting paper by the architect Joseph Paxton, while he was attending a Midland Railway board meeting in Derby. The two sketches of the side elevation are mounted with a telegram to Mrs Paxton confirming that his design had been accepted. The sketches were converted into engineering drawings within a week. [27/03/2003]

Subjects depicted

Great Exhibition Building; Architecture

Categories

British Galleries; Designs; Great Exhibition; Architecture

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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