De La Rue
De La Rue plc is a British banknote manufacturing, security printing of passports and tax stamps, brand authentication and paper-making company with headquarters in Basingstoke, England. It has a factory on the Team Valley Trading Estate in Gateshead, other facilities in Loughton and Bathford. There are overseas offices in Sri Lanka and Malta, it is listed on the London Stock Exchange. The company was founded by Thomas de la Rue, who moved from Guernsey to London in 1821 and set up in business as a'Leghorn' straw hat maker as a stationer and printer. In 1831 he secured his business a Royal Warrant to produce playing cards. In 1855 it started printing postage stamps and in 1860 banknotes. In 1896, the family partnership was converted into a private company. In 1921, the de la Rue family sold their interests; the company was first listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1947. Called Thomas De La Rue & Company, Limited, it changed its name in 1958 to The De La Rue Company Limited. A takeover bid for De La Rue was made by the Rank Organisation in 1968, but this was rejected by the Monopolies commission as being against the public interest.
In 1991 the company's name was changed again – this time to De La Rue plc. In 1965 De La Rue established a joint venture with the Italian printer and inventor Gualtiero Giori called De La Rue Giori. Based in Switzerland, the company specialized in building banknote printing equipment; the company printed banknotes for the Central Bank of Iran during the 1960s. In 1995, the company acquired Portals Limited, listed on the London stock market since 1904. For 300 years Portals had been regarded as the leading banknote paper manufacturer in the world, having manufactured banknote paper for the Bank of England since 1724. In 1997, De La Rue acquired Harrison and Sons, the stamp and banknote printers based in High Wycombe; the factory closed permanently in 2003. In early 2002, De La Rue purchased Smurfit Diamond Packaging Corporation of Sequoia Voting Systems, a California based company, a large provider of electronic voting systems in the United States, for $23 million. After losing money for three years in a business way out of the company's traditional lines, on March 2005 Sequoia was sold to Smartmatic, a multi-national technology company which had developed advanced election systems, voting machines included.
In 2003, the company acquired the Debden based banknote printing operations of the Bank of England. In 2003 and 2004 the company supplied banknotes to Iraq; the company was recognised by Hermann Simon as a role model for other small- to medium-sized businesses in his book Hidden Champions. The Highest Perfection, a history of De La Rue was published in 2011. Written by Peter Pugh for De La Rue, it covered the years 1712–2003. In August 2014, the company announced the appointment of Martin Sutherland as chief executive officer. In 2016, the Cash Handling division was sold to Privet Capital. In September 2016, the Bank of England issued its polymer five pound note, the first note from the bank to be printed on polymer. In December 2016, the company announced. In March 2018, the company sold the paper business. De La Rue retained a 10 % share in Portals. In April 2018, the company decided to appeal against the decision of the British government to manufacture passports in France, it subsequently decided against appealing.
De La Rue sells high-security printing technology for over 150 national currencies. De La Rue produces a wide range of other secure documents, including: Bank cheques Driving licences Passports Postage stamps Tax stamps Traveller's cheques Vouchers In 1843 De La Rue established its first overseas trade, as de la Rue's brother Paul travelled to Russia to advise on the making of playing cards. Thomas de la Rue's designs for playing cards are the basis for the modern standard design; the playing card business was sold to John Waddington in 1969. The company has printed postage stamps for the United Kingdom and some of its colonies, for Italy and for the Confederate States of America; some famous stamps such as the Cape of Good Hope triangulars were printed by De La Rue & Co. after Perkins Bacon fell out of favour with the postal authorities of the time. The first 50 years of postage stamp production were chronicled in John Easton's The De La Rue History of British and Foreign Postage Stamps 1855–1901.
De La Rue claims to have developed the first practical fountain pen in 1881 and was a leading manufacturer of fountain pens in Britain. Products were marketed under the "Onoto" brand. Production of fountain pens by De La Rue ceased in Britain in 1958 but continued for a few more years in Australia. During the 1930s De La Rue created a number of board games; these included a cricket game, produced in a number of different editions, Round The Horn, a game which re-created the annual race of grain-laden, square-rigged sailing cargo ships from Australia to London. The games used playing cards as part of the component set. List of mints Banknotes of the pound sterling Commonwealth banknote-issuing institutions Gemalto - a competitor Giesecke & Devrient – a competitor based in Munich Hong Kong Note Printing – founded in 1984 by Thomas De La Rue Official website History of De La Rue’s playing cards A research website with more detail of De La Rue company history Article and images of 1930s De La Rue Board Game, Stumpz
Chromolithography is a unique method for making multi-colour prints. This type of colour printing stemmed from the process of lithography, includes all types of lithography that are printed in colour; when chromolithography is used to reproduce photographs, the term photochrome is used. Lithographers sought to find a way to print on flat surfaces with the use of chemicals instead of raised relief or recessed intaglio techniques. Chromolithography became the most successful of several methods of colour printing developed by the 19th century. Hand-colouring remained important; the initial technique involved the use of multiple lithographic stones, one for each colour, was still expensive when done for the best quality results. Depending on the number of colours present, a chromolithograph could take very skilled workers months to produce; however much cheaper prints could be produced by simplifying both the number of colours used, the refinement of the detail in the image. Cheaper images, like advertisements, relied on an initial black print, on which colours were overprinted.
To make an expensive reproduction print as what was once referred to as a "chromo", a lithographer, with a finished painting in front of him created and corrected the many stones using proofs to look as much as possible like the painting, sometimes using dozens of layers. Chromolithography is a chemical process; the process is based on the rejection of grease by water. The image is applied to stone, grained zinc or aluminium surfaces, with a grease-based crayon or ink. Limestone and zinc are two used materials in the production of chromolithographs, as aluminium corrodes easily. After the image is drawn onto one of these surfaces, the image is gummed-up with a gum arabic solution and weak nitric acid to desensitize the surface. Before printing, the image is proved before inking up the image with oil based transfer or printing ink; the inked image under pressure is transposed onto a sheet of paper using a flat-bed press. This describes the direct form of printing; the offset indirect method uses a rubber-covered cylinder that transfers the image from printing surface to the paper.
Colours may be overprinted by using additional stones or plates to achieve a closer reproduction of the original. Accurate registration for multi-coloured work is achieved by the use of a key outline image and registration bars which are applied to each stone or plate before drawing the solid or tone image. Ben-Day medium uses a raised gelatin stipple image to give tone gradation. An air-brush sprays ink to give soft edges; these are just two methods used to achieve gradations of tone. The use of twelve overprinted colours would not be considered unusual; each sheet of paper will therefore pass through the printing press as many times as there are colours in the final print. In order that each colour is placed in the right position, each stone or plate must be precisely'registered,' or lined up, on the paper using a system of register marks. Chromolithographs are considered to be reproductions that are smaller than double demi, are of finer quality than lithographic drawings which are concerned with large posters.
Autolithographs are prints where the artist draws and prints his or her own limited number of reproductions. This is the true lithographic art form. Alois Senefelder, the inventor of lithography, introduced the subject of colored lithography in his 1818 Vollstaendiges Lehrbuch der Steindruckerey, where he told of his plans to print using colour and explained the colours he wished to be able to print someday. Although Senefelder recorded plans for chromolithography, printers in other countries, such as France and England, were trying to find a new way to print in colour. Godefroy Engelmann of Mulhouse in France was awarded a patent on chromolithography in July 1837, but there are disputes over whether chromolithography was in use before this date, as some sources say, pointing to areas of printing such as the production of playing cards; the first American chromolithograph—a portrait of Reverend F. W. P. Greenwood—was created by William Sharp in 1840. Many of the chromolithographs were purchased in urban areas.
The paintings were used as decoration in American parlours as well as for decoration within middle-class homes. They were prominent after the Civil War because of their low production costs and ability to be mass-produced, because the methods allowed pictures to look more like hand-painted oil paintings. Production costs were only low if the chromolithographs were cheaply produced, but top-quality chromos were costly to produce because of the necessary months of work and the thousands of dollars worth of equipment that had to be used. Although chromos could be mass-produced, it took about three months to draw colours onto the stones and another five months to print a thousand copies. Chromolithographs became so popular in American culture that the era has been labeled as "chromo civilization". Over time, during the Victorian era, chromolithographs populated children's and fine arts publications, as well as advertising art, in trade cards and posters, they were once used for advertisements, popular prints, medical or scientific books.
Though chromolithographs served many uses within society at the time, many were opposed to the idea of them because of their perceived lack of authenticity. The new forms of art were sometimes tagged as "
Gottfried Semper was a German architect, art critic, professor of architecture, who designed and built the Semper Opera House in Dresden between 1838 and 1841. In 1849 he was put on the government's wanted list. Semper fled first to Zürich and to London, he returned to Germany after the 1862 amnesty granted to the revolutionaries. Semper wrote extensively about the origins of architecture in his book The Four Elements of Architecture from 1851, he was one of the major figures in the controversy surrounding the polychrome architectural style of ancient Greece. Semper designed works at all scales, from major urban interventions like the re-design of the Ringstraße in Vienna, to a baton for Richard Wagner, his unrealised design for an opera house in Munich was adapted by Wagner for the Bayreuth Festspielhaus. Semper was born into a well-to-do industrialist family in Altona; the fifth of eight children, he attended the Gelehrtenschule des Johanneums in Hamburg before starting his university education at Göttingen in 1823, where he studied historiography and mathematics.
He subsequently studied architecture in 1825 at the University of Munich under Friedrich von Gärtner. In 1826, Semper travelled to Paris in order to work for the architect Franz Christian Gau, he was present when the July Revolution of 1830 broke out. Between 1830 and 1833 he travelled to Italy and Greece in order to study the architecture and designs of antiquity. In 1832 he participated for four months in archaeological research at the Acropolis in Athens. During this period he became interested in the Biedermeier-inspired polychromy debate, which centred on the question whether buildings in Ancient Greece and Rome had been colorfully painted or not; the drawn reconstructions of the painterly decorations of ancient villas he created in Athens inspired his designs for the painted decorations in Dresden and Vienna. His 1834 publication Vorläufige Bemerkungen über bemalte Architectur und Plastik bei den Alten, in which he took a strong position in favor of polychromy - supported by his investigation of pigments on the Trajan's column in Rome - brought him sudden recognition in architectural and aesthetic circles across Europe.
On September 30, 1834 Semper obtained a post as Professor of Architecture at the Königlichen Akademie der bildenden Künste in Dresden thanks to the efforts and support of his former teacher Franz Christian Gau and swore an oath of allegiance to the King of Saxony, Anthony Clement. The flourishing growth of Dresden during this period provided the young architect with considerable creative opportunities. In 1838-40 a synagogue was built in Dresden to Semper's design, it was afterward called the Semper Synagogue and is noted for its Moorish Revival interior style; the Synagogue's exterior was built in romanesque style. The interior design included not only the Moorish inspired wall decorations, but furnishings: a silver lamp of eternal light, which caught Richard Wagner and his wife Cosima's fancy, they gave a great deal of effort to have a copy of this lamp. Semper's student, Otto Simonson would construct the magnificent Moorish Revival Leipzig synagogue in 1855. Certain civic structures remain today, such as the Elbe-facing gallery of the Zwinger Palace complex.
His first building for the Dresden Hoftheater burnt down, the second, today called the Semperoper, was built in 1841. Other buildings remain indelibly attached to his name, such as the Maternity Hospital, the Synagogue, the Oppenheim Palace, the Villa Rosa built for the banker Martin Wilhelm Oppenheim; this last construction stands as a prototype of German villa architecture. On September 1, 1835 Semper married Bertha Thimmig; the marriage produced six children. A convinced Republican, Semper took a leading role, along with his friend Richard Wagner, in the May 1849 uprising which swept over the city, he helped to erect barricades in the streets. When the rebellion collapsed, Semper was considered a leading agitator for democratic change and a ringleader against government authority and he was forced to flee the city, he was destined never to return to the city that would become most associated with his architectural legacy. The Saxon government maintained a warrant for his arrest until 1863; when the Semper-designed Hoftheater burnt down in 1869, King John, on the urging of the citizenry, commissioned Semper to build a new one.
Semper left the actual construction to his son, Manfred. "What must I have done in 48, that one persecutes me forever? One single barricade did I construct - it held, because it was practical, as it was practical, it was beautiful", wrote Semper in dismay. After stays in Zwickau, Hof and Strasbourg, Semper ended up back in Paris, like many other disillusioned Republicans from the 1848 Revolutions. In the fall of 1850, he travelled to England, but while he was able to pick up occasional contracts — including participation in the design of the funeral carriage for the Duke of Wellington and the designs of the Canadian, Danish and Ottoman sections of the 1851 Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace — he found no steady employment. If his stay in London was disappointing professionally, however, it proved a fertile period for Semper's theoretical and academic development, he published Die vier Elemente der Baukuns
Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is the world's largest museum of applied and decorative arts and design, as well as sculpture, housing a permanent collection of over 2.27 million objects. It was named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert; the V&A is located in the Brompton district of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in an area that has become known as "Albertopolis" because of its association with Prince Albert, the Albert Memorial and the major cultural institutions with which he was associated. These include the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the Royal Albert Hall and Imperial College London; the museum is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture and Sport. As with other national British museums, entrance is free; the V&A covers 145 galleries. Its collection spans 5,000 years of art, from ancient times to the present day, from the cultures of Europe, North America and North Africa. However, the art of antiquity in most areas is not collected.
The holdings of ceramics, textiles, silver, jewellery, medieval objects, sculpture and printmaking, drawings and photographs are among the largest and most comprehensive in the world. The museum owns the world's largest collection of post-classical sculpture, with the holdings of Italian Renaissance items being the largest outside Italy; the departments of Asia include art from South Asia, Japan and the Islamic world. The East Asian collections are among the best in Europe, with particular strengths in ceramics and metalwork, while the Islamic collection is amongst the largest in the Western world. Overall, it is one of the largest museums in the world. Since 2001 the museum has embarked on a major £150m renovation programme. New 17th- and 18th-century European galleries were opened on 9 December 2015; these restored the original Aston Webb interiors and host the European collections 1600–1815. The V&A Museum of Childhood in East London is a branch of the museum, a new branch in London is being planned.
The Victoria and Albert Museum has its origins in the Great Exhibition of 1851, with which Henry Cole, the museum's first director, was involved in planning. It was known as the Museum of Manufactures, first opening in May 1852 at Marlborough House, but by September had been transferred to Somerset House. At this stage the collections covered both applied science. Several of the exhibits from the Exhibition were purchased to form the nucleus of the collection. By February 1854 discussions were underway to transfer the museum to the current site and it was renamed South Kensington Museum. In 1855 the German architect Gottfried Semper, at the request of Cole, produced a design for the museum, but it was rejected by the Board of Trade as too expensive; the site was occupied by Brompton Park House. The official opening by Queen Victoria was on 20 June 1857. In the following year, late night openings were introduced, made possible by the use of gas lighting; this was to enable in the words of Cole "to ascertain what hours are most convenient to the working classes"—this was linked to the use of the collections of both applied art and science as educational resources to help boost productive industry.
In these early years the practical use of the collection was much emphasised as opposed to that of "High Art" at the National Gallery and scholarship at the British Museum. George Wallis, the first Keeper of Fine Art Collection, passionately promoted the idea of wide art education through the museum collections; this led to the transfer to the museum of the School of Design, founded in 1837 at Somerset House. From the 1860s to the 1880s the scientific collections had been moved from the main museum site to various improvised galleries to the west of Exhibition Road. In 1893 the "Science Museum" had come into existence when a separate director was appointed; the laying of the foundation stone of the Aston Webb building on 17 May 1899 was the last official public appearance by Queen Victoria. It was during this ceremony that the change of name from the South Kensington Museum to the Victoria and Albert Museum was made public. Queen Victoria's address during the ceremony, as recorded in The London Gazette, ended: "I trust that it will remain for ages a Monument of discerning Liberality and a Source of Refinement and Progress."The exhibition which the museum organised to celebrate the centennial of the 1899 renaming, "A Grand Design", first toured in North America from 1997, returning to London in 1999.
To accompany and support the exhibition, the museum published a book, Grand Design, which it has made available for reading online on its website. The opening ceremony for the Aston Webb building by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra took place on 26 June 1909. In 1914 the construction commenced of the Science Museum, signalling the final split of the science and art collections. In 1939 on the outbreak of World War II, most of the collection was sent to a quarry in Wiltshire, to Montacute House in Somerset, or to a tunnel near Aldwych tube station, with larger items remaining in situ, sand-bagged and bricked in. Between 1941 and 1944 some galleries were used as a school for chil
Christopher Dresser was a designer and design theorist, now known as one of the first and most important, independent designers. He was a pivotal figure in the Aesthetic Movement and a major contributor to the allied Anglo-Japanese or Modern English style, both of which originated in England and had long-lasting international influence. Dresser was born in Scotland, of a Yorkshire family. At age 13, he began attending the Government School of Somerset House, London, he took botany as his specialization. He lectured on the new subject of Art Botany to complete his studies before his appointment in 1855 as Professor of Artistic Botany in the Department of Science and Art, South Kensington, he wrote a series of articles that appeared in the Art Journal in 1857, "Botany as Adapted to the Arts and Art Manufactures". In 1858 he sold his first designs. In 1850 the University of Jena, where Schleiden held the chair, granted a conventional doctorate to Dresser on his submission of his books Rudiments of Botany and Unity in Variety and a short paper on plant structure.
From this early date his design work widened to include carpets, furniture, graphics, including silver and electroplate, textiles printed and woven. He claimed to have designed "as much as any man" at the International Exhibition London 1862; as early as 1865 the Building News reported that in the early part of his career he had been active as a designer of wallpapers and carpets, the most active revolutioniser in the decorative art of the day. He wrote several books on design and ornament, including The Art of Decorative Design, The Development of Ornamental Art in the International Exhibition, Principles of Design, addressed in the preface to "working men". In 1899 The Studio magazine found it was possible to quote this book "page after page and not find a line, scarcely a word, that would not be endorsed by the most critical member of the Arts and Crafts Association today." In effect Dresser set the agenda adopted by the Arts and Crafts movement at a date. In 1873 he was requested by the American Government to write a report on the design of household goods.
En route for Japan in 1876 he delivered a series of three lectures in the Philadelphia Museum and School of Industrial Art and supervised the manufacture of wallpapers to his design for Wilson Fennimore. He was commissioned by Messrs Tiffany of New York to form a collection, whilst in Japan, of art objects both old and new that should illustrate the manufactures of that country. In four months in 1876/1877 Dresser travelled about 2000 miles in Japan, recording his impressions in Japan, its Architecture and Art-Manufactures, he represented the South Kensington Museum whilst in Japan, was received at court by the Emperor, who ordered Dresser to be treated as a guest of the nation – all doors were open to him. He was requested by the Japanese Government to write a report on'Trade with Europe', his pioneering study of Japanese art is evident in much of his work, considered typical of the Anglo-Japanese style. From 1879 to 1882 Dresser was in partnership with Charles Holme as Dresser & Holme, wholesale importers of Oriental goods, with a warehouse at 7 Farringdon Road, next door to those of the American inventor and abolitionist, Thaddeus Hyatt.
Between 1879 and 1882, as Art Superintendent at the Linthorpe Art Pottery in Linthorpe in Middlesbrough he designed over 1,000 pots. If his ceramic work from the 1860s onwards is considered, he must be amongst the most influential ceramic designers of any period. Much of his other work remains to be identified, although wallpaper designs for American, textiles for French and German manufacturers have been located. A significant Dresser collection is held by the Dorman Museum in Middlesbrough. A Heritage Lottery Funded project draws attention to this; some of Dresser’s metalwork designs are still in production, such as his oil and vinegar sets and toast rack designs, now manufactured by Alessi. Alberto Alessi goes so far as to say Dresser'knew the techniques of metal production better than any designer who has come to Alessi'. One of his Old Hall designs is thought to have inspired Alan Garner's 1967 novel The Owl Service. Unity in Variety, as Deduced from the Vegetable Kingdom. London: James S. Virtue.
1860. The Rudiments of Botany and Physiological. London: James S. Virtue. 1859. Popular manual of Botany. 1860. The Art of Decorative Design. Day & Son. 1862. Development of Ornamental Art in the International Exhibition General Principles of Art and Pictorial, with hints on colour, its harmonies and contrasts Principles of Decorative Design Studies in Design Japan, its Architecture and Art-Manufactures Modern Ornamentation Works by Christopher Dresser at Project Gutenberg Works by Christopher Dresser at Faded Page Works by or about Christopher Dresser at Internet Archive
An antiquarian or antiquary is an aficionado or student of antiquities or things of the past. More the term is used for those who study history with particular attention to ancient artifacts and historic sites, or historic archives and manuscripts; the essence of antiquarianism is a focus on the empirical evidence of the past, is best encapsulated in the motto adopted by the 18th-century antiquary Sir Richard Colt Hoare, "We speak from facts, not theory." Today the term is used in a pejorative sense, to refer to an excessively narrow focus on factual historical trivia, to the exclusion of a sense of historical context or process. During the Song Dynasty, the scholar Ouyang Xiu analyzed alleged ancient artifacts bearing archaic inscriptions in bronze and stone, which he preserved in a collection of some 400 rubbings. Patricia Ebrey writes; the Kaogutu or "Illustrated Catalogue of Examined Antiquity" compiled by Lü Dalin is one of the oldest known catalogues to systematically describe and classify ancient artifacts which were unearthed.
Another catalogue was the Chong xiu Xuanhe bogutu or "Revised Illustrated Catalogue of Xuanhe Profoundly Learned Antiquity", commissioned by Emperor Huizong of Song, featured illustrations of some 840 vessels and rubbings. Interests in antiquarian studies of ancient inscriptions and artifacts waned after the Song Dynasty, but were revived by early Qing Dynasty scholars such as Gu Yanwu and Yan Ruoju. In ancient Rome, a strong sense of traditionalism motivated an interest in studying and recording the "monuments" of the past. Books on antiquarian topics covered such subjects as the origin of customs, religious rituals, political institutions. Annals and histories might include sections pertaining to these subjects, but annals are chronological in structure, Roman histories, such as those of Livy and Tacitus, are both chronological and offer an overarching narrative and interpretation of events. By contrast, antiquarian works as a literary form are organized by topic, any narrative is short and illustrative, in the form of anecdotes.
Major antiquarian Latin writers with surviving works include Varro, Pliny the Elder, Aulus Gellius, Macrobius. The Roman emperor Claudius published antiquarian works, none of, extant; some of Cicero's treatises his work on divination, show strong antiquarian interests, but their primary purpose is the exploration of philosophical questions. Roman-era Greek writers dealt with antiquarian material, such as Plutarch in his Roman Questions and the Deipnosophistae of Athenaeus; the aim of Latin antiquarian works is to collect a great number of possible explanations, with less emphasis on arriving at a truth than in compiling the evidence. The antiquarians are used as sources by the ancient historians, many antiquarian writers are known only through these citations. Despite the importance of antiquarian writing in the literature of ancient Rome, some scholars view antiquarianism as emerging only in the Middle Ages. Medieval antiquarians sometimes made collections of inscriptions or records of monuments, but the Varro-inspired concept of antiquitates among the Romans as the "systematic collections of all the relics of the past" faded.
Antiquarianism's wider flowering is more associated with the Renaissance, with the critical assessment and questioning of classical texts undertaken in that period by humanist scholars. Textual criticism soon broadened into an awareness of the supplementary perspectives on the past which could be offered by the study of coins and other archaeological remains, as well as documents from medieval periods. Antiquaries formed collections of these and other objects; the importance placed on lineage in early modern Europe meant that antiquarianism was closely associated with genealogy, a number of prominent antiquaries held office as professional heralds. The development of genealogy as a "scientific" discipline went hand-in-hand with the development of antiquarianism. Genealogical antiquaries recognised the evidential value for their researches of non-textual sources, including seals and church monuments. Many early modern antiquaries were chorographers:, to say, they recorded landscapes and monuments within regional or national descriptions.
In England, some of the most important of these took the form of county histories. In the context of the 17th-century scientific revolution, more that of the "Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns" in England and France, the antiquaries were on the side of the "Moderns", they argued that empirical primary evidence could be used to refine and challenge the received interpretations of history handed down from literary authorities. By the end of the 19th century, antiquarianism had diverged into a number of more specialized academic disciplines including archaeology, art history, sigillography, literary studies and diplomatics. Antiquaries had al
Sir Joseph Paxton was an English gardener and Member of Parliament, best known for designing the Crystal Palace, for cultivating the Cavendish banana, the most consumed banana in the Western world. Paxton was born in the seventh son of a farming family, in Milton Bryan, Bedfordshire; some references, list his birth year as 1801. This is, as he admitted in life, a result of misinformation he provided in his teens, which enabled him to enrol at Chiswick Gardens, he became a garden boy at the age of fifteen for Sir Gregory Osborne Page-Turner at Battlesden Park, near Woburn. After several moves, he obtained a position in 1823 at the Horticultural Society's Chiswick Gardens; the Horticultural Society's gardens were close to the gardens of William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire at Chiswick House. The duke met the young gardener as he strolled in his gardens and became impressed with his skill and enthusiasm, he offered the 20-year-old Paxton the position of head gardener at Chatsworth, considered one of the finest landscaped gardens of the time.
Although the duke was in Russia, Paxton set off for Chatsworth on the Chesterfield coach arriving at Chatsworth at half past four in the morning. By his own account he had explored the gardens after scaling the kitchen garden wall, set the staff to work, eaten breakfast with the housekeeper and met his future wife, Sarah Bown, the housekeeper's niece, completing his first morning's work before nine o'clock, he married Bown in 1827, she proved capable of managing his affairs, leaving him free to pursue his ideas. He enjoyed a friendly relationship with his employer who recognised his diverse talents and facilitated his rise to prominence. One of Paxton's first projects was to redesign the garden around the new north wing of the house and expand Chatsworth's collection of conifers into a 40-acre arboretum which still exists, he became skilled at moving mature trees. The largest, weighing about eight tons, was moved from Kedleston Road in Derby. Among several other large projects at Chatsworth were the rock garden, the Emperor Fountain and rebuilding Edensor village.
While at Chatsworth, he built the Emperor Fountain in 1844, it was twice the height of Nelson's Column and required the creation of a feeder lake on the hill above the gardens necessitating the excavation of 100,000 cu yd of earth. In 1832, Paxton developed an interest in greenhouses at Chatsworth where he designed a series of buildings with "forcing frames" for espalier trees and for the cultivation of exotic plants such as prized pineapples. At the time the use of glass houses was in its infancy and those at Chatsworth were dilapidated. After experimentation, he designed a glass house with a ridge and furrow roof that would be at right angles to the morning and evening sun and an ingenious frame design that would admit maximum light: the forerunner of the modern greenhouse; the next great building at Chatsworth was built for the first seeds of the Victoria regia lily, sent to Kew from the Amazon in 1836. Although they had germinated and grown they had not flowered and in 1849 a seedling was given to Paxton to try out at Chatsworth.
He entrusted it to Eduard Ortgies, a young gardener and within two months the leaves were 4.5 ft in diameter, a month it flowered. It continued growing and it became necessary to build a much larger house, the Victoria Regia House. Inspired by the waterlily's huge leaves –'a natural feat of engineering' – he found the structure for his conservatory which he tested by floating his daughter Annie on a leaf; the secret was in the rigidity provided by the radiating ribs connecting with flexible cross-ribs. Constant experimentation over a number of years led him to devise the glasshouse design that inspired the Crystal Palace. With a cheap and light wooden frame, the conservatory design had a ridge-and-furrow roof to let in more light and drained rainwater away, he used hollow pillars doubling as drain pipes and designed a special rafter that acted as an internal and external gutter. All the elements were pre-fabricated and, like modular buildings, could be produced in vast numbers and assembled into buildings of varied design.
In 1836, Paxton began the Great Conservatory, or Stove, a huge glasshouse, 227 ft long and 123 ft wide. The columns and beams were made of cast iron, the arched elements of laminated wood. At the time, the conservatory was the largest glass building in the world; the largest sheet glass available at that time, made by Robert Chance, was 3 ft long. Chance produced 4 ft sheets for Paxton's benefit; the structure was heated by eight boilers using seven miles of iron pipe and cost more than £30,000. It had a central carriageway and when the Queen was driven through, it was lit with twelve thousand lamps, it was prohibitively expensive to maintain, was not heated during the First World War. The plants died and it was demolished in the 1920s. In 1848 Paxton created the Conservative Wall, a glass house 331 ft long by 7 ft wide; the Great Conservatory was the test-bed for the prefabricated glass and iron structural techniques which Paxton pioneered and would employ for his masterpiece: The Crystal Palace of the Great Exhibition of 1851.
These techniques were made physically possible by recent technological advances in the manufacture of both glass and cast iron, financially possible by the dropping of a tax on glass. In 1850 the Royal Commission appointed to organise. An international competition to design a building to house the Exhibition had produced 245 designs, of which only two were remotely suitable, all would take too long to build and would be too permanent. There was an outcry by th