Paxton's Derby Doodle spawned prince's Crystal Palace
IN 1850, Britain had reached the zenith of it's industrial might and Prince Albert wanted to create a Great Exhibition in Hyde Park to "show off" our achievements. No-one had come up with a suitable building that was big enough to house such a vast array of industrial exhibits.
Joseph Paxton, who had been head gardener at Chatsworth, had designed a glass conservatory to house a giant South American lily, which had leaves between 5 and 6ft in diameter. To demonstrate the strength of the leaves, Paxton stood his seven-year-old daughter on one of them. His roofing system for the conservatory was inspired by the underside of the giant lily.
By 1850, Paxton was a director of the Midland Railway Company whose headquarters were in Derby Midland Station. Paxton was at a board meeting and was observed sketching and scribbling on a piece of blotting paper on June 11, 1850.
This was the original design for the Crystal Palace. Detailed plans were sent to the Royal Commission and Paxton got the job.
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He needed an excellent engineer and where else would he come to find such a person – Derby. Paxton came to engage George Fox, who lived in the Wardwick. Fox had built the first narrow-gauge railway in India and the roofs of Paddington and Waterloo stations.
He and Paxton worked 18 hours a day for seven weeks to complete the Crystal Palace and were both knighted by Queen Victoria at the opening. When Fox returned to Derby, he built a replica on the Arboretum which survived until 1914.
This original piece of Midland Railway blotting paper, known as the Derby Doodle, is still preserved and can be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
For the 150th anniversary, I declared June 11, 2000 "Derby Doodle Day". A plaque was created with the doodle on it and was unveiled at Derby Midland Station by Joseph Paxton's great-granddaughter and great-great-grandson, while the Crystal Palace Brass Band played Rule Britannia on platform one.
Guess where the plaque is: Next to the gent's toilets.
The company that made the steel structure for the Crystal Palace is still in existence and it can still replicate the arches. Perhaps one in front of the station along with the plaque would not go amiss?