Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Exhibitions - International Exhibition of 1873



The Exhibition of 1873 is the third of a series of ten which are to be held annually at South Kensington, and was open to the public on the 1st of May. It is contained in the buildings surrounding the Royal Horticultural Gardens, with the Royal Albert Hall and Kensington-road on the north, Cromwell-road on the south, the Exhibition-road on the east, and Prince Albert's-road on the west. It consists of two long basement galleries on the east and west of the gardens, two shorter basement galleries on the north and south, which complete the enclosure, and corresponding galleries above each of these, that at the north consisting of the conservatory and entrance to the Albert hall. The greater part of the basement at the southern end is occupied by the dining and refreshment department, which is under the direction of those well-known caterers, Messrs. Spiers and Pond, whose kitchens, cellars, and culinary establishment occupy the same site as those of the former Great Exhibition - At this southern end are varieties of stoves, kitcheners, and apparatus for cooking, as well as a large exhibition of carriages and vehicles of almost every description. Each extremity of the southern end is occupied, that on the southeast by the Indian Court, and that on the south-west by the departments devoted to Terra Cotta. The Indian Court is immediately reached by the south-eastern entrance, which is nearest for the visitor who goes by the Thames Embankment Railway from Mansion House or Blackfriars Stations.
    It should be remembered that in this Exhibition, space is only allotted and objects of interest, received after the examination and selection by the Committee or Jury for the particular department to which each article belongs, so that within a comparatively small space there are a number of representative objects of a very high character, and the visitor is not confused by a crowd of objects, each of which differs little from the other. This renders the display valuable as an exhibition of artistic and industrial progress. It must be remembered, too, that the Exhibition will be annual, so that various manufactures will receive attention on succeeding occasions. Examples of silk manufactures and of fabrics in silk and velvet, manufactures in steel, surgical instruments and appliances, vessels and implements used in drinking, and various forms of tobacco and pipes used for smoking are among the chief objects represented this year. A large section is occupied with food products, agricultural substances, and the science and practice of cookery, upon which experimental lectures are given daily by Mr. Buckmaster in the experimental cookery department situated on the eastern side in the space which was last year devoted to the "machinery annexe."
    The French court is also on the Eastern side, while the Queensland annexe, the machinery annexe, and the Colonial court are also to be reached in proceeding along this section. The main building on this side is devoted on the ground floor to silks and velvets, and implements used in smoking amid drinking while the gallery above contains collections of pictures by Philip and Creswick and other paintings together with miscellaneous objects of art. In the western courts on the opposite side are to be found processes in the manufacture of silk and food, while the galleries contain British and Foreign pictures both in oil amid water colours.
    The quadrants near the Albert Hall ate likewise occupied with food products. It should be remembered that the objects of art comprise tapestries, carpets, embroideries, shawls, lace, &c., exhibited for their designs, forms, and colours while copies of ancient mosaics and enamels and other works of Antique Art form a considerable part of the collection. On the other hand the "preparation of food" section comprises biscuit making, soda-water making, the progress of manufacturing maccaroni, and various kinds of confectionery.


    The International Exhibition is reached from various directions amid by different means. Omnibuses, river steamers, and the Metropolitan Railway alike carry visitors to South Kensington or its neighbourhood. The trip from Old Swan Pier, London Bridge, to Chelsea, along the river, and past the Embankments and the Houses of Parliament, is a very pleasant one, and so little fatiguing as to conmpensate perhaps for a walk at the end of the journey; but at present that route is not likely to be convenient.
    Omnibuses running from Kensington, Hammersmith, and all that region, put down passengers at the Royal Albert Hall, whence they can enter the Exhibition building ; while other omnibuses, from London-bridge, the City, and the south and east of London, run to the Cromwell-road, and pass near to one or other of the entrances to the building. Now that the Thames Embankment section of the Metropolitan Railway is completed as far as the Mansion House, that is the easiest, quickest, and most economical route for those embarking from the City, or anywhere between Blackfriars and Pimlico. Those who are near to any of the stations on the Metropolitan Underground from Moorgate-street to Edgware-road, can take a ticket to Gloucester-road station, which is also quite close to the Exhibition.
    From the Mansion House the passenger can book through to the South Kensington station. The station is but a street's length off, just opposite the end of the Exhibition-road, and near to the South Kensington Museum also but for those who do not choose to walk,  handsome new saloon omnibuses are in waiting to convey them that short distance.


    There are two official Catalogues, one of the Industrial, the other of the Fine Arts' department, the charge for which is one shilling each ;  amid of course it is desirable for those who wish to see the collection in detail to obtain these but it is not absolutely essential, for the objects exhibited in the various sections are for the most part accurately labelled and described, even the pictures usually bearing the titles of the subject and the name of the artist.
    It should be remembered that there are twenty-six departments besides the East and West Quadrants, the Albert Hall and its Gallery. This latter building now forms a part of the ordinary Exhibition, and a fine organ performance takes place each day for the benefit of visitors who can thus enjoy a rest when they have seen half of the Exhibition, and may also refresh themselves in one of the excellent tea-rooms which Messrs. Spiers and Pond have established in the principal corridor of the Hall itself. Indeed the means of obtaining both light and substantial refreshments are provided just at the points where such an arrangement is most desirable.
    Assuming that the reader has left the City by the Metropolitan (Embankment) line from the Mansion House, and gone thence to South Kensington, we will give some hints for guidance after entering by the southern entrance in Exhibition-road, which is the nearest point.
    Having passed the turnstile, you are at the eastern corner of the southern end of the Exhibition, close to the "Indian Court" and the "Carriage Department." By keeping as straight on as you can go, you will cross the lower end of the building from one basement arcade to the other, between the two great refreshment departments of Messrs. Spiers amid Pond. The first section contains examples of carriage building and a large collection of very handsome vehicles from the glorious state chariot to the light brougham, the wagonnette, and the curricle. It is in the room, No. 21, just beyond the Indian Court however that some of the choicer specimens may be seen. On the other side of this end of the building are the numerous cooking-stoves and appliances intended to effect a saving in fuel.
    Close to this sections is the staircase by which you can ascend to 


Devoted chiefly to British Oil and Water-Colour Paintings a collection which occupies Room 9. In these galleries there are also paintings by Foreign artists, both in oil and water colours, and charming objects in art of different descriptions. At the end of the gallery you ascend by the conservatory to the Royal Albert Hall, where, at three o'clock in the afternoon, there is frequently a concert of military music, while at twelve o'clock there is generally an organ performance of a very attractive character. Now cross to the 


Or Department of Fine Arts, containing some very fine pictures both British and Foreign, including paintings by Officers of the Army and Navy. In Rooms 16 and 17 of this gallery will be found the admirable collection of Spanish pictures by Mr. Philip and the equally charming works of Mr. Creswick, together with objects of art oh various descriptions, including a few fine models and several excellent sculptures. Belgian, French, Russian, and Swedish artists also find a place in the eastern gallery. Photographs, engravings, chromo-lithographs, architectural designs, lace, and needlework are to be seen in the Gallery of the Albert Hall.
    Having traversed the East gallery you have again arrived at the South end, where, having crossed the South gallery, you can descend to the


And come to the "machinery in motion," including silk manufactures and food in preparation.
    You may now pass out front the exterior arcade into the gardens, amid enter on the other side to the


To see the fine collection of modern and antique silks, brocrades, and velvets, and that of ancient and modern drinking vessels. You should also visit the outer arcades, where various admirable inventions are exhibited.


Even in the midst of the most aesthetic reflections we are reminded that we must eat and drink, and he would be a hardy sightseer who could spend a day at the Industrial Exhibition without some sustenance. There are frequent opportunities for obtaining light refreshment at the counters in the covered arcades and the terrace overlooking the Horticultural Gardens, and in the Tea Rooms of the Royal Albert Hall. Beside these there are in the gardens themselves an excellently managed French Cafe, near the French Court, a Vienna Bier Garten with open-air seats on the grounds on the western side, and a department of the Queensland annexe on the Eastern side. In both the latter places smoking will be permitted to those who find additional solace in a cigar.
    It is to the principal refreshment saloons that the tired and hungry visitor will repair, however, and it will be seen that our mode of surveying the building has conducted him thither when his work has begun to tell upon him - that is to say, when he comes down from the gallery at the southern end of the building.
    It is there that he will find two handsome dining-halls for cold collations, with dishes set out in appetizing fashion there he will find an English buffet, for which Messrs. Spiers and Pond are famous, and there, too, he will see at the bars and bufféts a practical exposition of the whole subject of food products and wine supply. In order to meet the requirements of all classes of customers, the experienced gentleman who has the management of the refreshment departments has greatly enlarged the second-class pavilion on the other side of the south corridor, where a cold dinner will be excellently served, and with all usual accessories. The dining- rooms are handsome, light, and well-ventilated, and the long experience of the celebrated refreshment contractors enables them to make arrangements with regard to the permanent comfort of their customers.
    The change for admission to the International Exhibition is now one shilling on every day except Wednesday, when the usual charge is half-a-crown.
    Admission to the Horticultural Gardens is sixpence extra; but as there will probably be flower-shows and horticultural displays open to those who are visitors to the Exhibition, this charge may include some such occasions. It may be noted, also, that the fine Conservatory of the Albert Hall is a flower show of itself.

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

Lecture on Cookery at the Exhibition, 1873 [ILN Picture Library]