The Exposition des produits de l'industrie française (Exhibition of Products of French Industry) organized in Paris, France, from 1798 to 1849 impressed the British public so much so that under increasing public pressure the British government reluctantly set up a Royal Commission to investigate the idea of London Exhibition. National pride dictated that the exhibition must bigger and better than anything French could organize.
A competition to design an exhibition building was won by the firm of Fox and Henderson, with plans based upon a design by Joseph Paxton and adapted from a glass and iron conservatory produced for the Duke of Devonshire’s Chatsworth House. The design of the impressive glass and iron conservatory or Crystal Palace was amended to accommodate the
Hyde Park's large elm trees. The building was 1,850 feet (564 m) long, and 108 feet (33 m) high. Shortly after the exhibition, the whole structure was removed from Hyde Park site and re-erected at Sydenham, then a sleepy hamlet in the Kent countryside, now a multi-ethnic part of South East London. The building was destroyed by fire on the 30th November 1936.
The Great Exhibition was opened by Queen Victoria on 1st May 1851.
The opening of the Great Expedition happened to coincide with the great innovation of the Industrial Revolution. The Exhibition of 1851 ran from May to October and was visited by six million people. The event became one of the defining points of the nineteenth century.
The exhibits included every marvel of the Victorian age, including pottery, porcelain, ironwork, furniture, perfumes, pianos, firearms, fabrics, steam hammers, hydraulic presses and even the odd house or two.
Although the original aim of the world fair had been as a celebration of art in industry for the benefit of All Nations, it turned into a showcase of British manufacturing: more than half the 100,000 objects on display were from Britain and the British Empire.