The Great Exhibition of 1851
The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations, or simply the Great Exhibition, was created and organised by Henry Cole, backed by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce and its president, Prince Albert.
The exhibition displayed and celebrated contemporary industrial technology, craftsmanship, art and design from over 15,000 national and international exhibitors. There was however an ulterior motive for setting up this exhibition; to promote and highlight to the world Great Britain’s position at the forefront of industry.
The venue, designed by Joseph Paxton, and named ‘The Crystal Palace’, was an impressive 564 metre long, 138 metre wide cast iron and plate glass structure taking up 19 acres of London’s Hyde Park.
The exhibition was opened on the 1st May 1851 by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and ran for just over six months, before closing on the 11th October 1851. During this period, about six million people attended, making the exhibition a resounding success, whilst also creating a considerable profit; the proceeds of which, purchased 87 acres of land in London’s South Kensington, and helped to found the Victoria and Albert Museum, Science Museum, Natural History Museum, Royal Albert Hall, Imperial College, Royal College of Art, and the Royal College of Music.
Renowned manufacturers, notably Asprey, Aucoc, Edwards, Leuchars and Mechi, exhibited their finest dressing cases. Prize medals for excellence of workmanship were awarded to Aucoc, Audot, Edwards, Laurent and Leuchars, with Asprey, Austin and Strudwick receiving honourable mentions.