Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Theatres and Shows - Theatres and Venues - Agricultural Hall

AGRICULTURAL HALL COMPANY (Limited) was established in 1860, for the purpose of furnishing the Metropolis with a suitable building for the exhibition of agricultural implements, seeds, &c., but more especially for the Smithfield Club to hold their annual shows of fat cattle, &c., as the space at the Baker Street Bazaar was considerably smaller than what was required. The area of the building (which is situated in the Liverpool Road, Islington) is about 100,000 square feet, exclusive of' galleries, and it contains besides the space allotted to the Smithfield Club committee- rooms, salesmen's rooms, offices, and refreshment-rooms. 
    The foundation stone was laid by Lord Berners, on the 5th of November 1861. The cost of the building was about 25,0001.

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

AGRICULTURAL HALL, Islington, was built in 1862, and opened with the Smithfield Club Cattle Show, in December. The principal entrance is in Liverpool-road, beneath a lofty arch, flanked by towers, with cupolas, 95 feet high. The capital was raised by a Joint-Stock Company, Limited, composed of agriculturists, agricultural implement makers, and cattle salesmen. The whole sum expended in the building, fittings, &c., was 53,000l. The first chairman of the Company was the late Mr. Jonas Webb, of Babraham, the celebrated breeder of South-down sheep and short-horned cattle. The ground-plan and cattle fittings were designed by Mr. John Giblett, the eminent cattle- salesman, of the Metropolitan Market.. The vice-chairman is Mr. Shuttleworth, the agricultural implement maker, of Lincoln. The main hail is 384 feet in length, by 217 feet in breadth, and has galleries on the four sides, 30 feet wide. There is also a minor hall, 100 feet square; and an entrance-arcade 150 feet long from Islington Green. The great hail has an iron arched roof; glazed, 130 feet span. Mr. F. Peck was the architect. The first stone was laid by Lord Berners, as President of the Club.
    The Hall was originally established by members of the Smithfield Club, after an existence of more than sixty-two years. The Club has, since its first institution, had at least five different places of exhibition. In 1799 and 1800, the Club exhibited in Wootton's Livery Stables (Dolphin Yard), Smithfield; in 1804, the Show was held in Swan-yard; in 1805, the next selected spot was Dixon's Repository, in Barbican; the display for 1808 took place in Sadler's-yard, Goswell-street; and in 1839, the Club, moving westward, gave its first exhibition in Baker-street. From Mr. Brandreth Gibbs's History of the Origin and Progress of the Smithfield Club, we learn that, at the first exhibition, the Club only received from the public 40l. 3s. The receipts of the first Baker-street Show were 300l.
    At the first Cattle-show in the Agricultural Hall, in five days, 134,669 persons paid one shilling each for admission. Since that date, besides the annual Show of cattle, sheep, pigs, and agricultural implements, there have been held here four Dog-shows, at one of which 2000 dogs were entered: that held in 1863 brought 60,800 paying visitors. The first horse-show was held in 1864. The Hall Company have the credit of originating a Show of this description under cover, with horses exhibited, saddled and harnessed, in an arena sufficiently large to display their paces, and accommodations which have never been excelled. A Horse-show is now held here every year in the week between Epsom and Ascot Races, and attracts the most fashionable company in London. The judges are invariably selected from noblemen and gentlemen; as for instance, the Earls of Chesterfield and Portsmouth, Lords Suffield and Combermere.
    There are also at Christmas, Equestrian Performances, with chariot-races, &c., reminding one of the sports of Old Rome. There have likewise been several Industrial and Musical Exhibitions: the Metropolitan Working Men's Exhibition held here ten weeks in the autumn of 1866, was visited by more than half a million persons. One evening, when the Messiah oratorio was sung by the Tonic Sol-fa Association, upwards of 23,000 persons paid twopence each for admission in little more than. two hours. The Company, up to January, 1865, when the Cattle-show was seriously affected by the cattle plague, had paid four dividends, averaging eight pounds per cent. Mr. John Clayden of Littlebury, Essex, is the present chairman. The Secretary and Manager of the Hall is Mr. Samuel Sidney, a well-known writer on colonization, civil engineering, and agriculture.

John Timbs, Curiosities of London, 1867

see also James Payn in Lights and Shadows of London Life

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

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Agricultural Hall.— A large building of the railway-station order, close by the Angel at Islington. The great Christmas cattle show of the Smithfield Club is head here, as are also sundry horse and other shows. The building is now commonly opened during the winter holidays as a hippodrome. The hall has also been found convenient for the peculiar form of entertainment, first introduced to the public by Sir John Astley and Mr. E.P.Weston, and popularly known as “wobbles”. The Mohawk Minstrels permanently occupy the smaller hall with a negro minstrelsy entertainment. Nearest Railway Stat.King’s Cross; Omnibus Routes, Islington High-st, Pentonville-road, and City-road; Cab Rank, Upper St.   

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

Victorian London - Publications - History - The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 - The Military Pageant at the Royal Military Tournament, 1893

Royal Military Tournament - photograph


Each successive year the Royal Military Tournament seems better than before. It is held early in the London season at the Royal Agricultural Hall, Islington, anti every performance is as crowded as the one shown in our picture. The canopy shown on the right distinguishes the royal box. By a long process of weeding out, only the ablest men in the army take part in these contests. The musical rides of the Guards are always one of the most popular items in a generous programme but the first place must be given to the mimic battles, or combined displays of all arms. Our view reproduces the interesting display, undertaken by the 3rd (Kings Own) Hussars and the Buffs of the military dresses and the arms in use at various times, from and before the institution of a standing army to the present day.

Victorian London - Publications - History - The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 - The Cattle Show, 1895

The Cattle Show, 1895 -  photograph


Many Londoners never realise that Christmas is at hand until the Smithfield Club's annual Show of fat beasts is opened at the Agricultural Hall, Islington. Our view was taken after the judging was completed, and on the notices above the exhibits are recorded the awards won, the weights, and the names of the butchers who had purchased the beasts for Christmas beef. The splendid creature partitioned off in the foreground of the picture, the observed of all observers, was the champion of the whole show, a Shorthorn heifer bred by her Majesty at the Prince Consort farm near Windsor. Beneath the galleries, which are laden with agricultural implements, are pens of sheep, and in annexes pigs and dead poultry are exhibited.

... the following shows and exhibitions take place through the year.
Cruft's Dog Show (February)
Horse Shows (February and March)
Municipal and Public Health Exhibition (May)
Missionary Exhibition (June to July)
Confectioners (September)
Grocers (September)
Dairy (October)
Brewers (October)
Shoe and Leather (November)
Stanley Cycle (November)
whilst at and after Christmas is a variety entertainment under the title of the "World's Fair."

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