The Palace of Crystal

Hyde Park swelled with crowds of people and the sounds of music and festivity.  Under the brilliant May Day sun, the Crystal Palace gleamed, its glass windows winking in the light.  Inside, jewel-bright flags of foreign nations fluttered from towering columns.  It was the opening day of the Great Exhibition of 1851.  Queen Victoria wrote later in her journal, “This day is one of the greatest and most glorious of our lives…It is a day which makes my heart swell with thankfulness…The tremendous cheering, the joy expressed in every face, the vastness of the building, with all its decoration and exhibits, the sound of the organ…all this was indeed moving” (“Queen Victoria’s Journal”).  The Crystal Palace fulfilled many roles through the years, first holding the Great Exhibition, and then functioning as a museum, winter garden, and Royal Navy base.  From 1851 to 1936, the Crystal Palace served Britain and the world in many valuable ways.

Reasons for the Crystal Palace

The Crystal Palace was initially built to house Britain’s Great Exhibition of 1851.  Victoria Regia Water LilyClearly, the thousands of people and exhibits that the Royal Society expected at the Exhibition called for a special structure that was large, open, and distinctly British.  This made British architect Joseph Paxton’s glass-and-steel mammoth an excellent choice.  With its replication of the shape of the Victoria Regia water lily, the building honored Queen Victoria, and its soaring ceilings and wide avenues made it perfect for the hall of the Great Exhibition.

One reason why the Royal Society chose to build the Crystal Palace specifically was because it displayed the innovative architectural techniques of the day.  A new cast-iron style of architecture was emerging during the 1800s, and, with its use of wood, iron, glass, and prefabrication, the Crystal Palace became one of the first and most notable examples of this novel style (“Cast-Iron Architecture”).  To the foreign visitors who attended the Great Exhibition, the Crystal Palace served as an imposing example of Britain’s industrial prowess and technology.

In addition to giving it an imposing look, the style of the Crystal Palace was also very practical.  The iron skeleton of the Crystal Palace allowed it to be large, perfect for holding huge crowds and the Great Exhibition’s more than 14,000 exhibits (“Crystal Palace”).  Because of its strong iron girders, the Palace required fewer walls and columns than a normal 19th Century building.  TreeThis gave it an openness which aided the flow of large crowds and allowed for the window-filled walls which flooded the interior with natural light.  Two other ways in which the style of the Palace proved practical were that it enabled the building to be very tall and composed of prefabricated parts (“Cast-Iron Architecture”).  Because of these two features, builders were able to erect the Crystal Palace over the ancient elms in Hyde Park – saving them from being cut down, and workers were also able to assemble and disassemble the Palace easily (Piggott 8).

Constructing the Crystal Palace

Work on the Crystal Palace began on September 26, 1850, and ended on February 1, 1851 (Stevenson 68).  Because of its prefabricated design, the Crystal Palace was easy to erect.  It required only a maximum of 2,260 people working on it at a time, and these workers completed it in less than six months (Piggott 47; Stevenson 68).

The Palm House
The Palm House

Joseph Paxton, an architect who had previously worked as head gardener to the Duke of Devonshire, designed the Crystal Palace.  Some of Paxton’s previous work for the duke aided him in the Crystal Palace project.  According to one historian, the Palm House, a greenhouse for which Paxton had developed the construction system, “served as a prototype for the design of the Crystal Palace” (Stevenson 69).

Not surprisingly, an edifice like the Crystal Palace required some special features in order to function well, and Paxton’s structure contained several clever systems.  One was a gutter design.  On the roof of the Crystal Palace stretched 24 miles of gutters.  These gutters were made of machine-profiled timber, formed into trusses in the shape of a bow, and had cast-iron brackets and wrought-iron cords (Stevenson 68).  This construction strengthened the roof, while at the same time channeling rain down the main structural columns, which were hollow.  Paxton’s second system controlled air circulation.  The Crystal Palace contained steel louvers which could be mechanically operated to control ventilation.  Also, for hot days, the glass roof of the Crystal Palace had retractable canvas awnings to cover it, which workers could spray with cool water (Stevenson 68).

When it was finally complete, the Crystal Palace extended 1,848 feet long and 408 feet wide, occupied around 18 acres of ground, contained a total floor area of about 990,000 square feet, and reached a height of 108 feet in its central transept (“Crystal Palace”).  During the Great Exhibition, there were more than 8 miles of display tables on the ground floor and in the galleries.

The Effects of the Crystal Palace

The Great Exhibition of 1851During the five months and eleven days of its occupation by the Great Exhibition of 1851, the Palace became an icon to the world and a model for succeeding exhibitions (Piggott 29).  According to one historian, “The Crystal Palace established an architectural standard for later international fairs and exhibitions that likewise were housed in glass conservatories” (“Crystal Palace”).  Some examples include the Cork Exhibition of 1852, the Dublin and New York City expositions of 1853, the Munich Exhibition of 1854, and the Paris Exposition of 1855.

One of the first schemes for what to do with the Crystal Palace after the Exhibition finished was to sell it and ship it overseas to New York for the upcoming New York Exhibition (Piggott 9).  This plan was rejected, however, and after much debate Parliament formed a Crystal Palace Company to oversee the building and sold the Palace to Francis Fuller for £70,000.  Fuller, who was acting on behalf of some railway proprietors and others, moved the structure to Sydenham, where, as at Hyde Park, the Crystal Palace served primarily as a museum and winter garden (Piggott 34; Piggott 11).  According to Fuller and his friends, their aim for the Crystal Palace was “floriculture and the fine arts” (Piggott 34).  Workers disassembled the Palace in 1852 and finished reassembling it at Sydenham in 1854 (“Crystal Palace”).  Upon its relocation, the Crystal Palace received alterations and became nearly 50% larger, with almost twice the amount of glass (Piggott 40).

After being transferred from Hyde Park to Sydenham, the Crystal Palace became home to an Egyptian Exhibit which greatly influenced the British people.  Egyptian ArtOne of the reasons why the exhibit had a great impact was because it “provided the strongest visual impression of ancient Egypt available in nineteenth century Britain” (Schoer 6).  In the Crystal Palace, the British were able, for the first time, to somewhat experience Egypt and the ancient Egyptian monuments without leaving their native soil.  Being easily accessible to the common people, the Crystal Palace and its Egyptian Exhibit generated British interest in Egyptology.

When World War I began, the Crystal Palace served as a base for the Royal Naval Division and the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Force.  On February 9, 1915, for perhaps the first time in its existence, the Crystal Palace and its grounds became entirely closed to the public (Piggott 179).  Soon after its occupation by the forces of the Royal Navy training establishment HMS Victory IV, the Crystal Palace earned the division the popular name HMS Crystal Palace.  And, despite the fact that authorities tried to resist the popular nickname, it stuck (Piggott 178).

Although its leaking roof and Fine Arts Courts full of delicate valuables and unclad statues made the Crystal Palace hardly ideal for a military base, its spacious interior and grounds proved useful to the occupying soldiers (Piggott 179).  Sleeping quarters and mess-rooms spread throughout the courts of the Crystal Palace.  Outside, men trained in boats on a lake on the edge of the Crystal Palace grounds, on the “battleship” marked out on the Terrace, and on the stone stairs, where some men practiced a visual signal system called semaphore.

With its new occupants and purpose, the Crystal Palace gained new, nautical names.  The Lower Terrace was now the “Quarter-Deck.”  Officers gave the palace “port” and “starboard” watches, and men went “ashore” when they left the Palace on alternate nights (Piggott 179).

In the midst of the destruction of nearby London, the Crystal Palace survived the First World War unscathed, largely because German pilots used its prominent towers as bombing landmarks (Piggott 179).  Following the end of the war, the Crystal Palace served as a mass demobilization center for nine months.  Then, on January 1, 1920, the Navy departed (Piggott 179).  Once again the Palace was a museum.

On June 9, 1920, King George V opened a new Victory Exhibition within the Crystal Palace, which contained “the lumbering and menacing objects salvaged from the continental battle fields as mementoes” (Piggott 182).  Other war memorials at the Crystal Palace included a trophy and bell situated on the Lower Terrace.  These commemorated the four years during which the Royal Naval Division and the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserves occupied the Crystal Palace (Piggott 179).

In 1936 a fire started in the Crystal Palace and destroyed most of the building.  FireNo one knows exactly how the fire began, but fires were not unknown in the Palace, and throughout its history it had suffered from small ones.  The Crystal Palace was never rebuilt.  For many years it remained in ruin, until the British government demolished what remained of the Palace in 1941 so that its surviving towers would not serve as guides to enemy bombing planes during World War II (Columbia University).

Though it only survived for 85 years, the Crystal Palace had a remarkable impact worldwide.  It faithfully served in many varying capacities and shone as a bright reminder of the glory of the Victorian Era and the British Empire and of the beginning of modern architecture.  Beautiful in a way that no building had ever been before, it stood as an example of what man’s creativity and ingenuity could accomplish.  And, although fire devastated it in 1936 and the government destroyed its surviving towers during the Second World War, the Crystal Palace continues on, for its legacy of innovation, beauty, and service to Britain and the world are memorialized forever.

Works Cited

Columbia University, Press. “Cast-Iron Architecture.” Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition (2013): 1. History Reference Center. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.

“Crystal Palace.”  Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.  Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014.  Web.  14 Apr. 2014.  <;

“Joseph Paxton (1803-1865).”  Victoria Adventure.  28 Apr. 2014.

Piggott, J. R.  Palace of the People.  Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2004.

Schoer, Birgit. “Egypt At The Crystal Palace.” Ancient Egypt Magazine 12.3 (2011): 18-24.  Humanities International Complete. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.

Stevenson, Neil.  Architecture.  New York: DK Publishing Inc., 1997.

“The Great Exhibition: Queen Victoria’s Journal.”  V&A.  8 Apr. 2014.

Quick and Dirty Manga Shakespeare Impressions

Globe 1614


  • Story: A self-centered prince alienates anyone sympathetic to his cause. Nearly everyone dies. Oh, and the adapter made sure the Oedipal undertones came through in Hamlet’s scenes with Gertrude.
  • Art Style and Setting: Saturday morning futuristic cartoon anime with the least visually distinct characters of the series. None of the characters have much detail, and even though I have read the original play several times, I was still flipping to the front to figure out who was who.

Julius Caesar

  • Story: A noble leader must choose between his ideals and his friend. Nearly everyone dies.
  • Art Style and Setting: Contemporary military with a dash of the fantastic. I really like the characters, but the war scenes used so much black that it looked like the printer malfunctioned.

The Merchant of Venice

  • Story: A money-lender learns to word his contracts more carefully. I really enjoyed this story. After reading so many plays with dysfunctional families and relationships, I was happy to see people who had their lives together and intelligent women who weren’t either miserable or dead at the end.
  • Art Style and Setting: Unabashed Western fantasy. All the characters are elves in odd colors: peach, gray, purple, and green. Most of the panels are quite elegant and detailed, but the particularly frivolous scenes are illustrated using chibis. It makes the “oh, you have GOT to be kidding me” over-dramatic dialog funny instead of grating.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

  • Story: Three couples show romantic love requires misery. And lies. And drugs. Maybe. Okay, I couldn’t really find a proper plot or point to this play.
  • Art Style and Setting: Ancient Greece meets modern technology. This title too has the overly emotional lines delivered by chibis. Hee.


  • Story: A husband decides to murder his wife rather than talk with her. Nice.
  • Art Style and Setting: Alice in Wonderland meets Dante’s Inferno. It’s odd, but at least I had no trouble differentiating the characters.

Richard III

  • Story: A horrible hunch-back stabs and decapitates his way to the British crown before being killed by the totally awesome King Henry VII. It gets a little silly towards the end, like Shakespeare’s in the back yelling “Can I mention again how much I ❤ your ancestor?” to the reigning monarch. Still, I enjoyed this one. Richard knows what he wants and goes after it.
  • Art Style and Setting: Believable 1400s England. The castle, tent, and battlefield sets are simple and let the characters’ interactions be the sole focus.

Romeo and Juliet

  • Story: A clergyman capitalizes on two teenager’s obsession with one another to bring peace to his city. This was my least favorite of Shakespeare’s plays going in, but the manga version makes rereading it possible.
  • Art Style and Setting: Contemporary Japan; the Montagues and Capulets are now yakuza families. Again, exaggerated chibis make the overly-emotional scenes tolerable.

The Tempest

  • Story: A wrongfully exiled duke magically summons his enemies to his island and decides their fates. The plot didn’t capture my interest, but Duke Prospero fascinates me. I need to read the original play again.
  • Art Style and Setting: This one is a mutt of the fantastic and the believable, of different time periods and continents. Some of the characters’ clothing has an Asian monk influence, some a contemporary Western civilian influence, and others an 1800s Western military influence. The air spirit flies by the drunken Edwardian butler. None of it feels jarring though.

All the titles in the Manga Shakespeare series are faithful reworkings of the original plays. I may not enjoy a particular title, but these books provide a quick way to get a feel for the plot, numerous characters, and most famous quotes.



As may have become apparent from previously published posts, I am somewhat of a comic book fan. Regardless of genre, comics have always fascinated me as a medium that had the potential to seamlessly mesh both prose and art into one storytelling whole. One of my favorite writers in the comic book genre is Mark Waid. Probably best known for his super hero narratives (see Kingdom Come, among others), he has also written several other less well known stories, and it is one of these that I would like to share today.

Introduction and Characters

Simon Archard, Emma Bishop

“Ruse” follows the detective Simon Archard and his assistant Emma Bishop as they seek to battle crime in a Victorian-England-esque city. Anyone who is a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” series will probably find this short comic series appealing. Simon Archard is a detective who uses his above average brain to solve crimes, and he has some of the same cold, analytical, character traits that can be found in the character of Sherlock Holmes. Emma Bishop, however, is not John Watson. While still being the supportive character, and Archard’s only friend (much like Watson and Sherlock), she is more than meets the eye and plays a bigger role than simply recording the events of their adventures.

Story and Content

“Ruse” is largely episodic, following the two main characters as they solve various crimes, but does contain an overarching plotline that can be traced throughout. For those looking for a straight “realistic” or “Sherlock Holmes” mystery, “Ruse” is not the way to go. This is largely due to the fact that magic is present in this world that Waid has created. While Archard denies the supernatural and seeks for naturalistic explanations (reminiscent of Sherlock), Waid paints a picture that acknowledges powers beyond the comprehension of the analytical scientific mind. Whether Waid did this to make a point about the real world, or simply because the naturalist/supernatural tension made the story more interesting (more likely), he does an excellent job of balancing the two and creating a very interesting story. Finally, the series has never been finished, so it has never been satisfactorily closed with all of the plot-lines nicely tied up. I know that this might turn some people off, but what little there is in this short-lived series is definitely worth reading.


Ruse1The artwork in “Ruse” is largely of a very high quality. The inkwork and coloring are all topnotch, giving the characters and world a very vibrant and ‘real’ feel. The panels are laid out in an orderly manner for the most part, although I did get confused momentarily on some multi-page spreads. However, all in all, the artwork does a great job of accompanying and enhancing the prose of Waid.



“Ruse” is another hit by Mark Waid, who masterfully creates a world that engulfs the imagination: complete with interesting characters and masterful artwork, as well as an interesting plot, “Ruse” is a gripping read from beginning to end. While tragically short lived, this series is a little known gem that leaves the reader wanting more.

An Elegy for Moving

Boxes, boxes everywhere! It’s driving me to drink.
Watching so much being packed up gives me pause to think.
My life is more than I can pack, something I’m glad I know.
To live, to laugh, to love and be loved, and in Christ to grow!
And yet sadness twinges at the edge as I close a chapter
And start another anew. Goodbye, good friend, I’ll see you after!
My friend true has been my flatmate, and now we have to part.
And few will be around to joke and banter after I rip a fart.
Living with my best friend has never yet felt forced.
Maybe that’s why my moving out feels a bit like divorce.

A Digital Literary Critic

Ernest Heminway, the app’s namesake

Hemingway is a quite unique web application. Instead of a simple spell-check of text you type, this app analyzes your writing and points out areas you may want to revise–usages of the passive voice, sentences that are wordy, etc. Plus, the app calculates what grade level your writing is suitable for (for example, I pasted my last TMW post into the app and it told me my writing was Grade 9).

The next time you’re writing an essay and the draft feels boring, think about dropping by Hemingway to see what it suggests!


Never! (Till I Feel Like it) (Part 3)

Chapter 3: The End

There was a din of trumpets. A woman arrayed in purple robes and dripping with gold jewelry burst through the doors. “Oh!—what’s his name again, dear Odyssey?—I knew you’d see reason at last!” Her blue eyes gazed adoringly out of a rather wrinkled, but sweet face. “It was all Odyssey’s idea you know,” she continued, clutching her fiancée’s arm, “She said that since you hated crows and cockroaches and sleep and that by sending them you’d be sure to come round eventually. She is so clever! Do you know she was the one who came up with the idea of me marrying you in the first place? Well of course I never thought of marrying again after my very dear Harold died. I’m really very comfortably circumstanced you know. I have all my little baubles and spells from my mother, but dear Odyssey said…”

Odyssey, hanging on the arm of the Prime Minister’s son (and vise versa), interrupted. “Remember our bargain,” she murmured to the Queen.

“Oh, yes!” The Queen beamed and turned back to her bridegroom. “Well you know dear when we’re married that makes me Queen of here too so I declare that the Prime Minister’s son shall marry dear Odyssey.”

“I beg your pardon?”



“Oh yes, that was our original bargain, you know,” explained the Queen, “Odyssey’s just a maid-of-all-work herself you see.” Odyssey sighed in exasperation as the Queen went on: “She worked in the castle a long time ago but she came to me and said she and the Prime Minister’s son had fallen in love. Dear Odyssey told me that the King would make and excellent match and she had it all worked out how I was to marry him and she would tell me if only I’d help her marry the Prime Minister’s son because only the King and Queen themselves could approve such a match. Now isn’t that romantic?”

“Do you not indeed feel relieved, my lord?” inquired Odyssey, sarcastically.

“I feel,” said the King, wearily, “like getting married. Let us all go across to the chapel—you too, Odyssey—kneel before the priest, and forget all about this for the rest of our lives.”


If thou, who art in thy ways cemented,

Shouldst be surrounded by new notions lamented,

Be forewarned that thou art a dying breed,

‘Tis the young set that now dost lead!

Is God Enough?

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” – 1 Timothy 6.6

Lately as I think on my selfish tendencies the words of a Bible study leader still sound in my ears: God saved you. Think about that for a moment. Is that enough?


And all too often contentment is fleeting because we want more. This sounds ludicrously ungrateful in light of what Jesus has done for believers–he died on the cross for them so that they could be righteous in God’s eyes, adopted into his family, able to call him “Father.” This father created all things, from the ground beneath our feet to the enormous titanosaurs that once roamed the earth (which, regardless of where the discovery leads, was still an incredibly large dinosaur).

Yet we all have certain expectations. If God loves me then he’ll give me… a beautiful wife, a loving husband, a satisfying job, a bunch of friends, good grades in school, children or siblings who grow up to be strong Christians, financial security. The list goes on and on.

And our desires seem like such vitally important things for a loving God to give us that we don’t even notice when these dreams begin to eclipse God and become new idols. “All I ask is…” we say, forgetting what God has already done for us. This robs us of contentment, so that instead of spending our lives in unceasing praise of what God has done, we pass our days fretting about what we still want God to do.eavesdropper

While there is nothing wrong with asking God for things (he is our father, after all!), we need to make sure we don’t fall into the trap of equating answered prayers with the amount of love God has for us.

He sent his Son to die on our behalf! What further proof do we need of God’s love for us? In our prayers we must never act as if “sure, God saved me, but I also expect…” Regardless of what happens, God saved us, and that should be enough. It is enough. Even if he takes away everything else and never answers a single one of our requests, he still saved us. Is that enough?

I for one need to think less about me–my holiness, my obedience, my victories, my struggles, my dreams–and gain a healthier focus on who God is and what he has done for his people in Christ. There, I believe, is the secret to contentment.