Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!
Last week, I gushed over Mary Poppins Returns. Heather enjoyed A Modest Independence by Mimi Matthews, a romance that takes the reader from London to India in Victorian times. Becky read The Tempest by William Shakespeare and shares some great quotes. Gaele reviewed The Silver Ladies of Penny Lane by Dee MacDonald and They Call Me the Cat Lady by Amy Miller — both with intriguing titles!
The Crystal Palace keeps invading my thoughts recently.
I’ll start with the sad part, so we can move on to happier things. The Crystal Palace was destroyed by fire in 1936. The historic photo, available on Wikipedia, feels particularly painful after watching the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral a few weeks ago.
As we saw in Paris, a huge crowd developed to watch the fire. In 1936, the crowd included Winston Churchill who said, “This is the end of an age.” Besides the loss of the structure, Churchill and other Londoners were likely also thinking of the abdication crisis broiling at that moment, causing many people to question the idea of what it meant to be British.
At the end of the Great Exhibition, the Crystal Palace was moved to the top of Sydenham Hill in southeast London, and substantially redesigned in the process. It housed many exhibits over the years. During World War I it was used as a training ground for sailors. After the war, it became the first site of the Imperial War Museum. It went into decline in the Edwardian period but had been restored and was returning to popularity at the time of the fire in 1936.
I was motivated to learn the later history because of a scene in Mary Poppins Returns. “Trip a Little Light Fantastic,” reminiscent of “Step in Time” from the original Mary Poppins, is an athletic dance routine performed by London’s lamplighters in front of the Crystal Palace.
Nothing in the film says that the big glass building in the background is the Crystal Palace, but I’m not the only one who thinks so. BBC America published several of the concept art pieces in this article and they, also, identified the location as the Crystal Palace.
See what you think:
These feels like the lines for our times:
So when life is getting scary
Be your own illuminary,
Who can shine the light for all the world to see,
As you trip a little light fantastic with me.