Thursday, August 12, 2010

Crystal Palace And Me

My visit to the dinosaur models in Crystal Palace Park wasn't my first encounter with Crystal Palace and the Great Exhibition. When I was born, my family lived in a cottage rented from Sir John Stanley Marling, 4th Baronet of Stanley Park and Sedbury Park. To mark the event, he gave my mother ten shillings, to invest on my behalf. Even in Stroud, which in the mid-1950s was still coming to terms with the twentieth century, acts of noblesse oblige like this weren't exactly usual. But Sir John came from a old family, with deep roots in the area.

They made their fortune in wool, the main industry in that part of the Cotswolds for several centuries. His great-grandfather, Sir Samuel Marling, the first Baronet, was one of the people responsible for founding the grammar school, Marling School, I later attended. Before that, I was at Selsley Primary School, which was associated with the church Sir Samuel built for the village, next door to the family seat. Most of the church's stained class was by William Morris & Co; it was Morris's first real commission, with contributions from Philip Webb, Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown and George Campfield. And in the field behind the church was a lone pillar; made of Cornish granite, it was bought by Sir Samuel Marling at the Great Exhibition in Crystal Palace, where he had a display of his woollen cloth.

Those Victorians had a long reach . . .


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