For the origin of this street name we go back to the Great Exhibition of 1851, which opened Queen Victoria’s golden age and made London the focus of the world. The Crystal Palace, 454 feet wide 1851 feet long and 66 feet high, was built for the occasion.
Its walls of clear glass enclosed an area of 800,000 square feet, in which over 13,000 exhibitors, more than half of them non-British displayed their wares. Six million visitors came and marvelled.
The Times described the opening as “the first morning since creation . . . that all peoples have assembled from all parts of the world and done a common act.”
With buoyant, if somewhat arrogant, optimism the exhibition was hailed as a sign that international trade would ensure unlimited progress, unfailing good-will and unbroken peace for the whole world.
Tennyson “dipt into the future” and saw argosies of commerce delivering “costly bales”, silencing the “war drums”, furling the “battle flags” in ‘the Parliament of Man, the federation of the world”.
The excitement spread to the colonies. In 1854, the Victorian Government voted over £20,000 ($40,000) for the erection of a buildnig of wood, iron and glass, on the east side of William Street, between Latrobe and Little Lonsdale streets. In this “miniature Crystal Palace”, as it was called, Victoria held it’s first exhibition, displaying products that could not he sent to London in 1851.
The London exhibition was suggested by Prince Consort Albert in 1849. Its promotion was undertaken by Granville George Leveson-Gower, Earl Granville.
The success he made of it won him a seat in the Cabinet. He became the Queen’s favorite Liberal minister and the brilliant intermediary between her and Prime Minister Gladstone. His name was loudly applauded overseas.
When certain blocks of land were sold in Hotham early in September, 1852, the street running South to North between them was called Leveson; the only street of that name in Greater Melbourne.(1)
Source. (1) Northern Advertiser, 27/7/1972. Blanchard collection, “What’s in a Name” at North Melbourne Library.