Lithgow History Avenue

1836 Platypus

Designer Phil Spark's comment:

"The gold rush was an obvious date to include but I wanted to include the Great Exhibition which, with the festival of Britain in 1951, bracket a hundred years of Britain as an industrial power. The exhibition was held in a glass and cast iron building called the Crystal Palace. Colin Dray from Bellingen made this. It’s the second heaviest piece and the post has a bit more bracing."


Crystal Palace
London Crystal Palace

While Australians were eking out a rough and tumble existence on the goldfields, the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations was held in the splendid Crystal Palace. It was a bold statement about the progress of industry within Britain and the Empire, the sheer logistics of getting visitors and exhibitions to the site depended on the success of the new British Rail system, and the power of the age of steam.

The first event of its type, it was supported by Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, and ran from 1 May until 15 October 1851, attracting six million visitors to the breathtaking Crystal Palace. It set off an international fashion for World’s Fair exhibitions.

Garden Palace
Sydney Garden Palace

Australia’s own Great Exhibition was in 1879, in a stunning new building called The Garden Palace in Hyde Park. Exhibits came from around the world, but Australians were proud to show that they had developed their own manufacturing capacity. Lithgow Valley Colliery sent samples of its terracotta piping, receiving a commendation. But by far the most important contribution was made by the Eskbank Iron Works, which supplied the iron for the columns and arches, and for the tram rails. In a nice piece of symmetry, Daniel Williams, one of the owners of the iron works, had a brother Alfred, who had worked on the Crystal Palace.

Many of the exhibits from the Garden Palace were bought by the New South Wales Government, forming the nucleus of the Technological, Industrial and Sanitary Museum. However, before the new museum could open its doors to the public, the Garden Palace burnt down in a spectacular six-hour fire that destroyed the objects collected for the new museum, as well as countless valuable government records. The museum remained resolute, moving to the Agricultural Hall on the Domain, before settling in Ultimo and, eventually, evolving into the Powerhouse Museum. 

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Kenneth Spencer Research Library, The Great Exhibition of the Industry of all Nations, 1851
The Powerhouse, History of the Museum State Records NSW, Galleries, Garden Palace Fire, 1882
Bob McKillop, Furnace, Fire and Forge, 2006.



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