Alnwick, Probus

Narrowgate in Alnwick
Narrowgate in Alnwick

Plans for a palace

The Alnwick Probus group held its AGM on October 12.

Chairman Ian Webb reflected on the past year and thanked the committee for its hard work. Treasurer John Edwards gave the treasurer’s report. The secretary gave a summary of past speakers and it was hoped the members had appreciated the varied topics covered.

A list of speakers were given for the coming year, which include talks on the coalfields, history of Blackshaws development, Cragside, and driving, as well as the life of a geologist, and HM Coastguard.

Bill Bland was elected chairman, John Edwards as treasurer, and Ed McElhone as secretary. Two new members were voted onto the committee, Colin Smith and Mike Boughen.

After the AGM, the meeting continued with the speaker, who coincidentally was newly-elected chairman Bill Bland, who gave a talk on Sir Joseph Paxton and Crystal Palace.

Crystal Palace was built for the Great Exhibition of 1851 by Joseph Paxton. He had started life as a gardener for the Chatsworth estate in Derbyshire in 1826. By 1840 he was the estate manager and 10 years later he had risen to be a director of all the rail companies in the UK, except Great Western.

In 1849 they needed a design for the Great Exhibition, which was to be held two years later. A total of 282 designs were submitted, however, Paxton’s was the only one to be built of cast iron, timber and glass. His great friends George and Robert Stephenson, as well as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, discussed the plan and it was agreed to put it to the committee.

It was accepted and work began, seven days a week, 17 hours a day, to finish in time. Many objections were raised against the plan, however, it was opened on time on May 1, 1851, by Prince Albert.

Six million people visited the exhibition and it was hailed a great success. The story continues as the Crystal Palace was moved to Sydenham many years later.

A vote of thanks was given by the outgoing chairman, Ian Webb.