Everyone knows about the Crystal Palace. It was erected for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park before being relocated to Sydenham. But hardly anyone knows about a second Crystal Palace, which started life in Dublin to help house the 1865 International Exhibition of Arts and Manufactures, only to be taken down a few years later, shipped to London, and re-erected next to Battersea Park.
Renamed the Albert Palace, its grand opening took place in 1885. It stood along what was then Prince of Wales Road and is now called Prince of Wales Drive. Augmented with stone from the old law courts at Westminster (which had been demolished two years earlier), a tea room and the Connaught Hall Concert Room, it reached an amazing 675 feet in length.
The project had plenty of attractions including a permanent orchestra, cat shows, bird shows, flower shows and an Indian village full of spinners, weavers and carpet makers. There was a diving bell, gymnastic displays and ballooning, though sadly these were not enough to make it viable for one simple reason: punters were reluctant to pay the admission charge when so much around them was free, namely Battersea Park itself.
The glass white elephant was permanently closed by 1888 and slowly decayed before being demolished by the end of the century. If you want to see a remnant of it, go to Fort Augustus Abbey in Scotland, where its huge organ was transported to. Otherwise, its memory lives on in the name of Albert Palace Mansions, which were built on the site in 1897.
Vic Keegan’s Lost London numbers 1-95 can be found here.
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