Happy 21st birthday Crystal Palace Museum

Barrie McKay in his museum

Barrie McKay in his museum


A museum founded by a former oil worker has defied doubters by celebrating its 21st anniversary.

Many thought the Crystal Palace Museum in Anerley Hill wouldn’t last long when Barry McKay established it in 1990.

He said: “Lots of people didn’t think the museum would last. People should remember this was like the Victorian O2. We need to try to keep the memory alive.”

Originally housing the temporary Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, the glass and iron Crystal Palace structure was moved to its permanent home in Crystal Palace Park in 1854 after being bought by entrepreneur Samuel Laing for £70,000.

He foresaw the attraction’s potential for massive profits. From 1854 to 1936, the palace attracted 90 million visitors and bank-rolled many of South Kensington’s museums, including the Victoria & Albert and the Natural History Museum.

Queen Victoria was huge fan, attending the opening ceremony, while other prominent visitors included Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Mr McKay was working for Dallas Oil in 1990 when he quit to make a success of the museum.

He said: “I have a passion for the architecture and the social history of the building.”

Mayor of Bromley David McBride helped mark the occasion with a champagne celebration and cake-cutting ceremony at the museum last Wednesday.

Mr McKay added: “The celebration went very well. The cake was in the shape of the Crystal Palace, which was wonderful.”

There was also a guided tour and a presentation.

The museum houses a large collection of photos of the palace and it is now the world’s leading authority on the building which burnt to the ground in November 1936.

Many schoolchildren also visit as the fire now features on the curriculum.

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