This text traces the rise and fall of what became known as "The People's Palace", the Crystal Palace at Sydenham in South London. With its stark geometrical design it was architecturally years ahead of its time, but it was also a fascinating and idealistic social laboratory of entertainment and information that foreshadowed much that we take for granted in today's theme parks, zoos and shopping malls. Based on Paxton's design for the Great Exhibition in 1851, after its relocation to Sydenham the Crystal Palace was much enlarged, with three transepts instead of one, and used twice the amount of glass as in Hyde Park in 1851. Among the topics explored by Jan Piggott are the personalities behind the Crystal Palace. He also investigates what went on there. He draws on eye-witness accounts, both from memoirs and newspapers, so that the reader gets a sense of what visiting Crystal Palace was like in an era before film or television. As much as the spectacular structure itself, the Crystal Palace drew visitors for over 80 years because of the amazing series of exhibitions and nationals ceremonials staged there. It also attracted the cream of British and European society.
Jan Piggott, FSA, PhD, is Keeper of Archives at Dulwich College, where he taught for thirty years after studying at Magdalen College, Oxford, and the University of California at Davis. He won a Volkswagen Scholarship in 1993 to curate an exhibition at the Tate on Turner's book-illustrations, 'Turner's Vignettes', and wrote a book and catalogue to accompany the show. In 2000 he organised an exhibition at Dulwich College about Ernest Shackleton, publishing Shackleton, the Antarctic and Endurance, and in February 2004 he is curating an exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery entitled 'The Crystal Palace at Sydenham'. The publication of this book is being timed to coincide with this exhibtion.