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Saturday, 29 December 2012

Curiosities in Crystal Palace.

Today I spent the afternoon looking for curiosities in Crystal Palace, I love this part of South London. It's full of nick nack junk shops, pretty pubs and dinosaurs. It's here I always manage to find a few bargain curiosities and a few pretty special ones that are a bit pricier! 

The area of Crystal Palace screams curiosities and collecting to me, due to its connection with the Great Exhibitions of 1851. The original 'Crystal Palace' was situated in Hyde park and held the Great Exhibition of 1851, a showcase of Victorian Culture and Technology  with 14,000 exhibitors from around the world celebrating Queen Victoria's British Empire, commerce and the industrial revolution. The exhibition had numerous  'celebrity' visitors such as Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens but it importantly inspired a new generation of academic celebrities - the Victorian middle class collectors.

The Great Exhibition 1851

 One of these in particular Frederick Horniman was unable to visit the Great Exhibition but through its relocation to South London in 1854, he became closely connected to it. Horniman from a family of tea traders was a wealthy middle class Victorian gentleman living in Coombe Cliff in Croydon, and its presence provided a constant reminder of the exhibition that bought together art, commerce and technology and of course displaying it for all to see. Horniman began his collection shortly afterwards in 1860, soon marrying and moving to Surrey House, 100 London Road, Forest Hill where he filled his house with predominantly ethnographic curiosities until his wife had enough and gave him the ultimatum her or the collection. Luckily for us he chose her and the Horniman Museum was donated to the London County Council in 1901. 

Frederick Horniman.

The Crystal Palace however was destroyed in 1936 by fire but the area remained prosperous. The grounds were the Palace stood are vast but the crystal palace dinosaurs make up for that! Today the streets of Crystal Palace hold a few great junk shops, today I found an awesome pink tobacco pot and a 20th century thermometer, but the seller wasn't in so I couldn't buy them :( 

My two favourite shops are: 

Belle Coco ( - a mixture of brilliant retro electronics, 70's lighting and fifties festival of Britain prints. Plus they sell amazing seventies Bar's in here that I'm desperate to get my hands on. My favourite curiosity today however was this  80's TV, with Super Mario! 

Belle Coco

Bambino (http://bambinocoffee.wordpress.com0  - is also pretty cool, its got a lovely coffee shop where you can sit amongst the curiosities, here is a wide selection of nick naks, bags and vintage coats, I've also spotted a few nice tables and medical pieces in here. 


After all of the hunting though I came away with some lovely candles from Milk House Candles, and a belly full of a yummy burger from Westow House pub (I'd recommend any pub in the Antic chain for great cask ales and burgers across South and South East London) 

Weird and Wonderful candle scents from Milkhouse Candles

Brilliant Burgers from Westow House

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