Victorian London - Education - Professional/Technical Colleges - Polytechnic Institution, Regent St.

    Looking upon thoroughfares as the arteries of London, the Polytechnic Institution may be termed the anastomosing branch between Regent-street and Cavendish-square, inasmuch as, if an aneurismal gas pipe or compound fracture of wood-pavement was to stop the current of vitality, this establishment could still keep up the circulation by its valves or doors, at either end, communicating with both these places.
    The Polytechnic Institution is founded for the exhibition of objects of art among its curiosities, and occasional objects of nature among its visitors. It is best approached from Regent Street, by the grand postern, outside which are displayed the banners of the establishment. The passage is guarded by a retainer, who lies in ambush upon the right as you enter, and who is empowered to exact the toll of one shilling from all travellers. In exchange for this you receive a bone medal, which is meant to act as a check upon your further progress, until you have undergone a rigid examination by another sentinel upon the left, at the entrance of the HALL OF MANUFACTURES.
    If you have any concealed arms about you, they are immediately seized, as well as all sticks and umbrellas; but a small pasteboard guarantee for their safe return is presented to you, on which the lover of literature may peruse the proclamation issued by the secretary against any bribe being offered to the Usher of the Canes in Waiting. The Hall of Manufactures is a very singular place and has the air of a street of shops all knocked into one by the abolition of party walls and windows. But this part of the exhibition is generally inspected last, from the eager anxiety of the visitor to behold the hidden wonders of the interior.
    . . . . . 
    People of weak nerves should venture very cautiously into the Polytechnic Institution. For, at first entrance, there is such a whirlwind of machinery in full action - wonderful things going up, and coming down, and turning round all at once, that the mere view of them acting through the retina, might well addle the brains of ordinary visitors. But having recovered from the first confusion, you proceed to inspect the Tank, and all its "means and appliances to boot".
    A careful analysis, by the professor of chemistry, of the fluid in this wonderful triumph of human ingenuity, has proved it to be river water, containing a large proportion of saltpetre, resulting from the explosion of the little ship which is frequently blown up therein, (as well as the man who conducts the experiment, should it not succeed,) with bulls'-eyes in solution, heedlessly dropped in by juvenile visitors, peeping over the ledge. Every accommodation for playing with it is afforded by numerous pumps, squirts and beer-engines fixed round the edge, which are constantly in work from morning till night; and impinging pon the large reservoir are two small basins, in which the water is politely bewitched for the lovers of galvanism.
    The real subaqeous Temple of Temperance, the Diving-Bell, is hung under the gallery at the end of the canal, and somewhat resembles an immense thimble, fitted up as a house, with windows and skylights. There is also a knocker humorously affixed inside, having a distinct action from knockers in general, being used for getting out of the bell instead of into it, as well as, under peculiar circumstances, for raising the wind, which two results have both the same object in view, although in a difference sense - keeping your head above water. An extra shilling is demanded for the submersion, and no trust is given; it is, therefore, impossible to get over head and ears in debt in the diving-bell, for divers reasons. The book tells us that "a powerful crab is employed to let down the bell and pull it up again." We were not favoured with a view of this gigantic creature, who doubtless lives underground, but believe it to be the first application of shell-fish power to machinery. Visitors are enlivened by a gratuitous concert in their ears during the whole time of the submersion.
    At the edge of the tank is the wringing-machine, for drying clothes by centrifugal force. Several pieces of flannel are introduced as examples of its power, and the most advantageous social effects are looked forward to with respect to wet blankets in general.
    There are two monstrous discs at the extremities of the gallery, used to cook beefsteaks by reflection; by which method also a great many people dine, in that contemplative repast which may be had for nothing outside an eating-house window-especially those fortunate individuals attached to science or literature, who depend a great deal upon reflection for their subsistence.
    There are two lecture-rooms attached to this institution. One, on the ground-floor, is chiefly for subjects of natural philosophy. We learnt there, last week, that, in the lecturer's experience, plants had four stages of existence-viz., germination, development, reproduction, and decomposure. We, ourselves, only knew of two, before, which were comprised in 1st, being exchanged at the door for old pairs of boots; and, 2dly, invariably dying the text morning. But it is a great thing to have one a intellects expanded. On the top of the house, visitors are regaled with microscopes and dissolving views as well as the offering of the electrical pledge to various batches of visitors. The former exhibition is conducted by an invisible gentleman (who may be termed a scientific jack-in-the-box), and contains three jokes, which, unlike the electrifying-machine in wet weather, never hang fire, but are always applauded. The two first are the enlarged representations of a piece of delicate cambric and a fine needle, about each of which the lecturer makes a speech: the thread of the former and the point of the latter are never lost upon the audience. The remaining joke consists in the display of various animated tadpoles of restless habits, who perform an intricate quadrille amidst the cheers of the spectators.
    At the end of this, the lecturer becomes nearly as exhausted as the receivers of his own air-pump, and a band of music supplies his place, to illustrate the dissolving views, or art of phantasmagoric evaporation; at the conclusion of which the lamps are turned on, the oxy-hydrogen turned off, the visitors turned out, their heads somewhat turned round with what they have seen, and the turn-up bedstead of the resident man-of-all-work turned down for his own especial solace and refreshment, as he turns in for the night. And having come to the end of the exhibition, to which we may some day possibly once more allude, we will ourselves turn to another subject with the hope that we have done a good one to the Polytechnic by thus describing it with such a perfect couleur de rose.

Punch, Jul.-Dec. 1843

    At eight o'clock the lecturer received the word to go a-head easy; and explained the theory of steam electricity by dropping a live ember into a tumbler of fluid, until which instant MR. PUNCH was not aware of the scientific interest attached to the common phrase, "A glass of water with the chill off, and a cinder in it." How intimately are science and sport connected! The steam was then let off to generate the electricity; and all doubt was at once removed as to the certainty of its making a great noise in the philosophical circles. The rapid manner in which its action caused tin to melt and disappear, told rather against its pecuniary success; - but this was counterbalanced by the liberal style in which it came down with the dust, upon stirring the fire. A chain of pith and cork was then suspended from the ceiling, and on connecting it with the boiler a series of bright reports - if we may so term them - were produced. Its effects were stated to be very powerful - sufficient to knock down a regiment of men, so that in the event of another Cesar's invasion or of Rebecca coming to London, the Institution could stand any siege, for which it is fully prepared. Polytechnic reviews, and inspections of the magazines, would keep its troops in fine order. The batteries, as at present, would be under the command of the electrical lecturer; and the professor of chemistry would arrange the mortars; whilst the Daguerrotypist has declared his ability to take anybody off in a minute; and not only to take him off, but fix him where he was placed ; and the microscopic demonstrator would be applied to in dilemmas for his enlarged views upon any subject.
    At the conclusion of the discourse, the lecturer took half-a-turn astern, and retired amongst the cheers of the spectators. As gastronomy has been discovered by the British Association to be inseparable from science, a banquet on a scientific plan next awaited the company. Everything was conducted in the best spirit of philosophical liberality. Some beautiful combinations of the animal and vegetable kingdom existed in the form of lobster-salads; and the tenacity of animal fibre was exhibited in a fowl placed opposite to a gentleman who could not carve. The decrease of volume and evolution of caloric upon mixing alcohol with water was show when the grog came upon the table; and the different degrees of fermentation were demonstrated by the wine and vinegar upon the festive board - the candles giving the most interesting examples of the oxidation of matter by combustion.
    Altogether it was a most agreeable soirée and gave great satisfaction to all parties. During the evening the following polytechnic toasts were drunk
    "Water-the source of all legitimate power."
    "The tank, the bell, and the boiler."
    "May we ne'er want a visitor, nor a slight shock to give him."
    "May our animosities dissolve like our views, and our friendship enlarge like our flea."
    "The mental electrotype, which invests all it publishes with gold."
    "Success to all lectures, except curtain lectures," &c., &c., &c., &c.

Punch, Jul.-Dec. 1843

Polytechnic Institution, The ... is open every day, Sunday excepted, from 11 till 5 in the daytime, and from 7 to 10 in the evening. Admission 1s. Catalogue 1s.

Polytechnic Exhibition- - the Polytechnic Exhibition, at the upper end of Regent Street, occupying a spacious gallery and series of smaller apartments, is, in style and manner, so very similar to the Royal Adelaide Gallery of Practical Science (fully described at page 117. of this work) as to render unnecessary a repetition of the various articles here displayed; in addition to which may be witnessed the descent of the Diving-bell,- whose powers of preservation in safety under water visitors are, upon payment of an additional shilling, hourly permitted to put to practical proof. The Polytechnic Exhibition is an object of great attraction; it is fully and fashionably attended, and a visit to its rooms will amply repay, by the abundance and variety of its riches, and excellence of its general arrangement, every admirer of art and science; who will, while listening to the various lectures daily delivered here, become acquainted with the latest discoveries, the result of philosophical research in various branches of optics, in magnetic and mechanical electricity, and experimental chemistry; and, in addition, be introduced to a knowledge of every mathematical, mechanical, and musical invention and improvement. Admission 1s. Catalogue 1s.

Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844

Ah me! the Polytechnic, with its diving-bell, the descent in which was so pleasantly productive of imminent head-splitting; its diver, who rapped his helmet playfully with the coppers which had been thrown at him; its half-globes, brass pillars, and water-troughs so charged with electricity as nearly to dislocate the arms of those that touched them; with its microscope, wherein the infinitesimal creatures in a drop of Thames water appeared like antediluvian animals engaged in combat; with its lectures, in which Professor Bachhoffner was always exhibiting chemistry to "the tyro;" with its dissolving views of "A Ship," afterwards "on fi-er," and an illustration of - as explained by the unseen chorus - "The Hall of Waters - at Constant - nopull - where an unfort - nate Englishman lost his life - attempting - to discover the passage!"- with all these attractions, and a hundred more which I have forgotten, no wonder that the Polytechnic cast the old Adelaide Gallery into the shade, and that the proprietors of the latter were fain to welcome an entire and sweeping change of programme.

Edmund Yates, His Recollections and Experiences, 1885
[chapter on 1847-1852]

POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTION, ( ROYAL) 309, REGENT STREET, and 5, CAVENDISH SQUARE. Incorporated 1838, for the advancement of the Arts and Practical Science, especially in connexion with Agriculture, Mining, Machinery, Manufactures, and other branches of industry. Admission to the morning and evening exhibitions, one shilling each ; schools, half price. Annual subscription, one guinea. Annual subscribers of two guineas have the privilege of personally introducing a friend, or two children under twelve years of age. The collection is very miscellaneous, and will repay a visit. The articles exhibited are chiefly deposited by the inventors, or others having a pecuniary interest in them. Observe.- The Diving-bell in the Great Hall, composed of cast-iron, open at the bottom, with Beats around, and of the weight of three tons ; the interior, for the divers, is lighted by openings in the crown, of thick plate glass, firmly secured by brass frames, screwed to the bell; it is suspended by a massive chain to a large swing crane, with a powerful crab, the windlass of which is grooved spirally, and the chain passes four times over it into a well beneath, to which chain is suspended the compensation weights. It is so accurately arranged, that the weight of the bell is, at all depths, counterpoised by the weights acting upon the spiral shaft. The bell is supplied with air from two powerful air-pumps, of eight-inch cylinder, conveyed by the leather hose to any depth, and is put into action several times daily. Visitors may safely descend a considerable depth into the tank, which, with the canals, holds nearly ten thousand gallons of water, and can, if required, be emptied in less than one minute. This is an interesting and instructive exhibition, worthy of a visit from every stranger in London.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

Victorian London - Photography and Optical - Victorian Optical Devices - Photodrome

POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTION. Among the pantomimes of the season we must not forget to mention the dissolving-view representation of Cinderella at this hall of science. Both as a fairy tale and a pantomime this performance is excellent, and includes some new effects which will ensure its complete popularity. ..... Professor Pepper, too, in "A Strange Lecture" explains some of the wonders produced by the "Photodrome" a new and beautiful optical apparatus invented and constructed by Thomas Rose, Esq., of Glasgow, which causes phantoms to appear at will, so as to produce the full impression of reality, though at the same time a real body will pass through them. A new source of illusion is thus prepared for the stage, and will be taken advantage of by experienced managers.

advertisement, Illustrated London News, Jan. 3rd 1863

The POLYTECHNIC, 309 Regent Street, offers an agreeable mélange of popular science and music, of lectures on scientific subjects, "made easy to the humblest capacity." In the centre hall, devoted to manufactures, are to be seen in operation several model machines; up-stairs is the theatre, in which lectures, on various branches of natural philosophy, are delivered on a most extensive scale; and in the new theatre, the oxyhydrogen microscopes, dissolving views, dissolving orrery, the physioscope (by which the human face is magnified to a gigantic size), and other apparatus, are exhibited. In the great hall there is a surface of 700 feet of water, and a diving-bell, with air-pumps, for four or five persons to descend with comfort ; and the floors and galleries are crowded with other interesting objects. A gymnasium has been erected in the upper gallery. This gymnasium is the same as that erected at the Crystal Palace, Sydenham, and is always open. An educational department has been formed, with suitable class-rooms, for the study of Art, Science, and Literature, for both male and female pupils, under the direction of the Rev. Charles Mackenzie, A.M., Honorary Director. The highly-important and interesting collection of models and drawings of inventions, calculated to promote the saving of life in railway travelling, is now open in the Picture Gallery behind the diving bell. There is also a series of pictures of the Statuary of the International Exhibition of 1862, which is well worthy the attention of all art-lovers.
    Admission, 1s. ; schools and children half-price; hours open, 12 to 5 and 7 to 10 p m.

Cruchley's London in 1865 : A Handbook for Strangers, 1865

POLYTECHNIC COLLEGE - The Polytechnic Institution in Regent Street has added another claim to its high reputation and usefulness as a place of popular education and entertainment. The "classes" for various branches of useful knowledge have been so successful that the patrons and friends of the Institution have put the arrangements on a more permanent footing, by establishing a new 'People's College' at the Polytechnic. The plan sketched by Lord Shaftesbury at the opening of the college in October is being well carried out, in female as well as in male branches of useful and practical knowledge. In the latter department a school of cookery might very well be added, if there is space, and if arrangements could be made with one of the great contracting firms, in whose hands the department would be a financial success from the number of visitors to the Polytechnic. Thus girls might obtain, on reasonable terms, instruction in an art in which young women and
young wives are too often deficient.'

The Leisure Hour, 14th December 1872

Routledge's Popular Guide to London, [c.1873]

Polytechnic Institution (Royal), 309, Regent-street. Variety of Musical, Scientific, and General Entertainments. Open from 12 till 5 and 7 till 10 daily. Admission, 1s. NEAREST Railway Stations, Portland-road and Charing-cross (Metropolitan and S.E. R.) ; Omnibus Routes, Regent-street, Oxford-street, and Great Portland-street; Cab Rank Langham-place.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dictionary of London, 1879

POLYTECHNIC (THE) SCIENCE, ART, TECHNICAL AND COMMERCIAL SCHOOLS, 307, 309, 311, Regent.st; Balderton-st. Oxford-st (between Nos. 429 and 431) and 14, 15 Langham-p1, London, W.
   
Founder: Quintin Hogg. -
    GOVERNING BODY.-President: J. E. K. Studd, Esq. Vice-President: Douglas M. Hogg. Esq.; F. A. Bevan, Esq., Albert Dykes Spicer, Req., E. H. M. Denny, Esq. J. R. Diggle, Esq., H. Gooch, Esq., L.C.C., Rev. R. H. Hadden, V. R. Hoare, Esq., Lord Howard de Walden and Seaford, A. I. Leon, Esq., J.P., Howard Morley, Esq., W. E. Mullins, Esq, L.C.C., The Hon. T. H. W. Pelham, C.B., J. F. P. Rawlinson, Esq., K.C., M.P., Sir Owen Roberts, D.C.L., Stuart Sankey, Esq., L.C.C., Edward White, Esq., L.C.C. Consultative Member: Dr. Garnett. Chief Clerk Education Department: James Taylor. Chief Clerk General Department: T. Gardner. Secretary: Leonard H. Harris F.C.I.S.
    The question is frequently asked, "What is the Polytechnic"? The "Poly," as it is familiarly called, is at once the largest educational institution in the country, the greatest social club for young men and young women, and also one of the most important undenominational religious agencies in London.
    The Institution was founded in 1872 by the late Mr. Quintin Hogg, who devoted his life and his fortune to the interests of the young men and young women of our great city. In founding what has now developed into the Polytechnic, he gathered a few lads together and endeavoured to instil into them some of the same loving and devoted spirit by which he himself was animated, thus making them, in a sense, missionaries to their fellows and companions in their workshops and offices. In a few years he had gathered around him some hundreds, to many of whom he was more than a father, helping them in their various struggles, joining with them in their games, and continually planning how he could make them more fitted, not only for the life to come, but also for "that which now is." God greatly blessed his work, and being thus encouraged, he took advantage of the present buildings in Regent-st being then in the market. He purchased and fitted them for their present purposes, expending in all upon the work some £150,000. This was in 1882.
    The opening of the "Poly" was free from all the usual ceremonies with which such efforts are heralded. The ceremony consisted of a special gathering of the members of the Sunday Afternoon Bible Class, which Mr. Hogg conducted until the Sunday before his death on January 17, 1903. Here, surrounded by over 1,000 of the young men for whom he had laboured, the great work was dedicated to Him without whose blessing and help vain would have been the efforts of the builders. No advertisements had been issued, no reporters were present, but a mighty power was manifest, and ere the meeting closed a remarkable scene was witnessed, hundreds pledging themselves by the help of God to do all in their power to make the place a blessing to the countless thousands who afterwards should come under the influence of the Poly.
    One of Mr. Hogg's favourite sayings was, that a young man had four sides to his nature which required special caring for, viz., the spiritual, the social, the physical, and the mental. Nothing did he resent more than what is usually termed a "goody goody" young man. Athletic and other clubs and societies for their recreative needs were formed. A great scheme of technical education was developed, trade classes were formed in connection with the principal occupations of the City, and every effort was put forth to develop true men in the highest sense of the term. The success of the effort was spontaneous, some 3.000 young men. were added to the roll during the first week, and then onward, from year to year. the work grew in numbers and importance. Successes beyond anticipation were achieved in each of the departments. The Royal Commissioners on Technical Education visited the work when it was almost in its infancy, and the chairman made a striking public tribute to its efficiency. The success achieved resulted in a great scheme being formulated, whereby an Act of Parliament was passed enabling the Charity Commission to deal with a very large amount of money, by which some twelve other Polytechnics have been founded in different parts of London. As a result of its success, technical and other Institutions sprang up in different parts of the country. Officials of the Polytechnic were invited to America to assist in developing similar institutions there, and at the present time there is scarcely any important town it Great Britain that does not possess a technical Institution of its own. 
    Amidst all this growth the Poly still keeps to the front in popularity. Since its commencement over 200,000 young men and women have come directly under its influence, and every year hourly 20,000 join one or other of its active agencies. Over 15,000 last year joined one or other of the educational courses, and no less a sum thin £15,047 was paid in class fees alone, whilst the large sum of nearly £8,000 was earned in special grants from the Board of Education by the students of the science, art and technical classes, being far in excess of any amount earned by any other institution in the United Kingdom.
    On the death of the founder, Mr. Quintin Hogg, in January, 1903, considerable anxiety was felt as to the continuance of the work, so great had been his personal influence. In this emergency, Mr. J. E. K. Studd, the old Cambridge cricket captain, who had already devoted eighteen years to the service of the Polytechnic, first as hon. secretary and then as vice-president, was unanimously requested to succeed Mr. Hogg as president. Fortunately for the sake of the institution he consented to fill the breach, and, without fee or reward except the "joy of service", devotes the whole of his time to the work. He has many loyal helpers, amongst whom may be specially mentioned Mr. Robert Mitchell, who, first as secretary and subsequently as director of education, has taken a leading part in the work since 1872, when the institution was started. Mr. Douglas Hogg, son of the founder, acts as vice-president, and the governing body consists of a number of well-known gentlemen, all of whom take a deep interest in the work.
    That the institution may continue to flourish is the sincere desire of all interested in the Welfare of the young men and young women of our country.  All who take part in any of  the holiday tours have the satisfaction of knowing that they are conducted on a self-supporting basis, and considerably benefit the excellent work of the Polytechnic. 
    A series of holiday tours to all parts of the Continent, regularly every week are arranged, for particulars of which apply to the secretary.

Charles Dickens Jr. et al, Dickens Dictionary of London, c.1908 edition
(no date; based on internal evidence)