Lectures
Lectures are currently held on Zoom at 2pm normally on the last Wednesday of each month. They last for 1 - 1½ hours including a question and answer session at the end.
The Gardener and The Greenhouse
Edward E. Saunders      Wed 23rd May 2012
  Edward Saunders delivered an engrossing May lecture for KEDFAS on the considerable achievements of Joseph Paxton (1803 – 1865). Born in Milton Bryant, Beds, he later attended the “free” school at Woburn. On leaving, he became a garden boy but by 1823, was employed at the Horticultural Society’s gardens, close to the Duke of Devonshire’s Chiswick House.

Paxton was eventually offered the position of Head Gardener at Chatsworth and over the years he perfected large-scale design and construction skills. These included interlocking roofing, patented guttering systems and giant conservatories, one of which was the largest glass building in the world.
In 1851 Prince Albert, President of the Society of Arts, proposed an international Exhibition Hall. Hundreds of designs were reviewed, most failing the Prince’s insistence on a temporary building. A wealthy man by now, Paxton nevertheless accepted the Society’s invitation for a new design. He took one week to develop a complete set of drawings. These were approved with a 9-month target opening date of May 1st 1851!

The plan called for a 20-acre site in Hyde Park screened with wood-plank fences, later to be used as the hall’s flooring. Trees on site were enclosed. It took 2,000 men and boys to build the Hall at a cost of £79,000, all met by funds raised through public subscription and the sale of season tickets. The Great Exhibition Hall at 1,851 ft. long was built with the greatest amount of glass ever. No wonder Punch named it “The Crystal Palace”.

By June, it cost only one shilling to enter for the tens of thousands who came, most by train and probably the first time they had travelled further than to their nearest village. Specially screened ladies toilets were available for a 1p charge – hence “spend a penny”.

For his success Paxton was knighted by the Queen and he received a special payment of £5,000 for all his work, the equivalent of £5 million today. After closure the Hall was removed to Sydenham but was gutted by fire in 1936. The remains were smothered with rubble from the 1941 Blitz to avoid it being a beacon for the Luftwaffe.
Profits still remain from 1851 and these are distributed as grants every year by the Princess Royal on behalf of the Society.

Next month's lecture is given by Zara Fleming on Bhutan - The Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon. It will be on Wednesday 27th June at 7.30pm and Thursday 28th June at 10.30am at the Kings Arms.