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Victorian inventions: the Crystal Palace

Victorian inventions: building the Crystal Palace

The story is told by John Russell, an engineer who worked on the construction of the Crystal Palace.

Russell describes the remarkable story of how the Crystal Palace came to be built.

Russell and the other two members of the organising committee - the famous engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Sir George Airy, a leading scientist - were considering designs submitted for a building to house the Great Exhibition.

Initially they were dismissive of the plans submitted by one Joseph Paxton - a gardener - and likened his design for a large building made of glass and iron to an oversized greenhouse.

However, the public liked the idea and the committee was forced to adopt it. Despite their reservations that it should not be possible to build something so large out of metal that might bend and glass that might break, the Crystal Palace was successfully built and was opened by Queen Victoria at a magnificent ceremony. When even the striking up of the orchestra failed to shatter the glass, the two engineers were forced to admit their admiration for the building...and, indeed, Isambard Kingdom Brunel based his design for his next project, Paddington Station, on the Crystal Palace.

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