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Bradshaw’s Guide

Crystal Palace Sydenham

Crystal Palace

Situated about half way between Sydenham and Anerley station, on the right side of the railway from London to Croydon, the site of the Crystal Palace on the summit of Penge Park, is one of the most beautiful in the world. Standing on the brow of the hill, some two hundred feet above the valley through which the railway passes, the building is visible for many miles in every direction. But when the train approaches the spot where the brilliant and airy fabric, in the midst of the most enchanting scenery, is revealed suddenly to the eye, the impression produced elicits our warmest admiration. The models of the diluvian and antediluvian extinct animals, the Irish elk with its magnificently branching antlers, the two Iguanodons, the Megalosaurus, &c., &c., in the foreground among the Geological Islands and Lakes; the cascades and terraces, the luxuriant foliage, flower-beds and fountains, ascending up to the splendid and unrivalled fabric of glass which rears its radiant and glittering bulk upon the Surrey hill, form a coup d’oeil of wonderful beauty, magnificence, and grandeur, the view of which we may envy the Brighton Railway traveller who enjoys the sight daily, in virtue of his season ticket.

Any one who appreciates the beautiful will always feel gratified even with a passing view; but every person who can spare the time should visit it on a fete day.

Excursion trains to and from London Bridge afford every facility. The building, the grounds or park, the salubrity of the air, the waterworks, the garden inside and out, the fine art courts and collections, form a combination of attractions unsurpassed in any country.

The visitor from London is conveyed to the station of the Crystal Palace in twenty minutes. On emerging from the train he ascends the flight of stairs in the south wing and reaches the centre nave or great transept in a few moments, and immediately beholds that unrivalled view which we all admire with feelings of pride and satisfaction as the most wonderful work human hands and mind have yet achieved.

The whole of the sides of the nave and the divisions on either side are lined with plants and trees from every clime, interspersed with statues and works of art, and embellished with beautiful fountains in the centre. The great transept, with its trees and flowers and fountains divides the nave into two equal parts—the northern division dedicated to art, and the southern to commerce, or to the industrial display of the manufactures of the United Kingdom, which, by the way, under injudicious management is becoming not only less attractive than formerly, but quite contemptible. The transept has the appearance of an immense conservatory embellished with the finest and rarest models and chefs d’oeuvres of ancient and modern statuary. This series of courts represents and illustrates the architecture of ancient art.

The Pompeian Court is the exact facsimile the interior of a building discovered in the ruins of Pompeii. Mosaic pavements and walls, divided into compartments, in which mythological subjects are beautifully painted.

The Egyptian Court is highly suggestive of the grand and massive character of Egyptian architecture and its lion-faced Sphinxes, its solemn heads colossal women, its gigantic figures, and its walls covered with hieroglyphics.

The Greek Court, containing copies of unrivalled works of sculpture, groups of great beauty, specimens of perfect architecture.

The Roman Court, richly stored with Roman models, and curious gems.

The Alhambra Court, representing several courts of the famous palace of the Moorish Kings of Granada, the Court of Lions, and Hall of Justice.

The Assyrian and Nineveh Court, displaying the wonders of Nineveh, with its colossal divinities, Ehea, and the gigantic Sphinxes, its eagle-winged and human-headed bulls, and its cuneiform hieroglyphics. And then on the opposite side are the several courts, in which are given illustrations of the Byzantine, Mediaeval, and Renaissance styles of architecture, including models of the French, English, German, and Italian schools, each court being complete in itself, and entered by a characteristic doorway.

Modern Picture Gallery. — In this extensive space will be found one of the best lighted and most spacious galleries of modern pictures to be found in England. These works of art have been contributed by proprietors, and also by artists, and many of them arc deposited here for sale. Thus tins portion of the building combines the attractions of private collections and public exhibitions, with the additional advantage, that only the best works of art are accepted for exhibition.

On leaving the central transept the visitor descends a flight of granite steps leading to the Upper Terrace, which extends within the two advancing wings of the palace, and commands a splendid view of the gardens, and of the whole country beyond the railway, to the summit of the Surrey hills.

The Terrace Garden is adorned with a central circular basin, throwing out a Jet d’Eau, besides others of an elliptical shape. At the extremity of each wing there is a tower in the form of a Greek Cross, which have each on their summit a tank, containing 924 tons of water, to be distributed for any purposes throughout the building. The high towers, of which there are two, one at each end of the building, have been erected for the purpose of carrying the tanks that supply the fountains in the lower basin, and are, with the exception of the tank and stays, constructed of cast-iron.

Flights of steps lead to the Italian and Flower Garden and Terrace below, and to a series of basins and caves, receiving fountains, and waterfalls, containing six times the amount of water thrown up by the Grand Eaux at Versailles.

Along the great walk the water of the upper basin flows down in a series of cascades, until it falls into an open colonnade, and then rushes into falls on each side of the walk, half a mile in length, which supply numerous other fountains.

On ordinary occasions the basins and fountains give life and freshness to the garden, but on fete days the vast waters are unloosed, and rushing upwards in a thousand streams, or dashing over the colonnades, make the whole garden ring with their tumultuous murmurings, producing a magnificent effect, a splendid brilliancy in the sunbeam, joined to the fragrance and freshness of the flowers, of which few can form a conception who have not witnessed it. One of the most curious features of the Palace is the Geological Islands, and the specimens of the extinct animals, life-like gigantic models of which are distributed over the islands and lakes.

There is a splendid Refreshment Room for the first class visitors, where parties can have hot dinners served in first-rate style, at not unreasonable prices.

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Places nearby

  • Berkshire : Windsor

    The seat of her majesty the Queen, and of her ancestors from the period of the Conquest. Eton College also is within a short distance.

  • Hertfordshire : St. Albans

    This ancient town of Herts, should be visited for its venerable abbey church, and that of St. Michael’s, which contains an excellent full-length statue of Lord Bacon.

  • Kent : Maidstone

    The capital of Kent, on the Medway, and in a tract of land of great fertility, among orchards, hop grounds, and woodlands.