Wyld’s Great Globe

60 feet and 4 inches in diameter ‘Wyld’s Great Globe’ was truly a wondrous fabrication that we only just discovered! You know how we love huge globes…..

four-stage viewing gallery inside Wyld's Great Globe in 1851 is presented here. Passages for exhibiting maps and dioramas were between the rotunda wall and the curved surface of the globe

Inside Wyld’s Great Globe.

Situated in Leicester Square, it was the earth in miniature, easily navigated and traversed by the viewing citizen. This eccentric entity was designed to coincide with the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park.

At a cost of one shilling a curious visitor would enter, or rather emerge, from the southern part of the Pacific Ocean. Antarctica was absent, Wyld dismissing the presence of a great southern polar continent as an absurd notion. He did, however, find a use for the void space in the less romantic fashion of staircase supports. The North Pole did, on the other hand, exist in the form of a somewhat inadequate ventilation system that caused the tourist to perspire to the extreme.

1851 is south from Coventry Street across Leicester Square

Exterior of the building that housed Wyld’s Great Globe.

An exercise in cartographic amusement: the globe featured placidly serene rivers and fiery molten lava volcanoes. After taking a few steps forward past the Cape of Good Hope the viewer would fly over the Indian Ocean and reach Australia; taking flight up more steps, the west coast of Africa, the Atlantic and Panama; the next level, the central Pacific, Asia, North Africa; the final fourth gallery, and highest accent of mankind, Europe, and North America. As an attraction it proved popular. Just as the Great Exhibition itself, it drew in the massed multitude as well as the aristocratic notables.

Inside the giant Globe was a building containing Wlyd’s own atlases and maps; educating and advertising, acting as school and gigantic billboard in one. The Globe lasted just ten years, but commercially it was a triumph with Wyld recouping his expenses in the first year alone. In 1853 1.2 million visited. It was also a coup in didactic education.

photo copy 2

Handmade Churchill Globe by Bellerby & Co.

School parties were given access for half-price and the whole project was remarkably modern in its novel notion: providing knowledge via an interactively quirky exhibition, appealing to commoner and gentleman alike and enduring longer in span than its approximates 150 years later.

For now we are left to marvel at our own own great Churchill…. not quite as huge but interactive in its own special way.

Bellerby & Co Globemakers

Bellerby & Co Globemakers; Creators of high quality, beautiful handmade world globes. Combining traditional techniques with pioneering design. Handcrafted terrestrial and celestial globes in London. We create models of many sizes and styles, and offer a bespoke service.