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.
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.
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.