We have launched a new website and are reviewing this page. Find out more
Open daily 10.00 to 17.45 Admission free Menu
Crystal Palace Peep Show ('Lane's Telescopic View'), England, c.1851. Museum no. E.2649-1953

Crystal Palace Peep Show ('Lane's Telescopic View'), England, c.1851. Museum no. E.2649-1953. Peep-show showing the central nave and the tree growing by the refreshment court.

William Makepeace Thackeray, one of the leading novelists of the Victorian era, was moved to write a poem about the opening of the Crystal Palace:

As though 'twere by a wizard's rod
As blazing arch of lucid glass
Leaps like a fountain from the grass
To meet the sun.

A quiet green, but few days since;
With cattle browsing in the shade,
And lo! long lines of bright arcade
In order raised!
A palace as for a fairy prince,
A rare pavilion, such as man
Saw never since mankind began,
And built and glazed.

A peaceful place it was but now,
And lo! within its shining streets
A multitude of nations meets;
A countless throng
I see beneath the crystal bow,
And Gaul and German, Russ and Turk,
Each with his native handiwork
And busy tongue.

I felt a thrill of love and awe
To mark the different garb of each,
The changing tongue, the various speech
Together blent:
A thrill, methinks, like His who saw
"All people dwelling upon earth
Praising our God with solemn mirth
And one consent."

Extract from 'A May Day Ode' by
William Makepeace Thackeray (1811 - 1863)
Published in The TImes, 1 May 1851


Become a V&A Member

V&A Members enjoy a wealth of benefits, including free entry to exhibitions, previews, exciting events and the V&A Members’ Room. In addition, you will be supporting the vital work of the V&A.

Buy or Renew Membership Online