Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Exhibitions - North London Working Classes Industrial Exhibition

NORTH LONDON WORKING MEN'S EXHIBITION On Wednesday evening, the 17th of August, a meeting was held in Amwell-street schoolrooms, Clerkenwell, for the purpose of promoting an industrial exhibition similar to that held last winter in Lambeth, for the large and important industrial district comprised in that portion of north London covered by Clerkenwell, Islington, St. Luke's, Hoxton, Holborn, and St. Pancras. Mr. Thomas Winkworth, member of the Council of the Society of Arts, occupied the chair, and after giving a condensed history of the exhibition held in this country under the auspices of the Society, with the late Prince Consort at its head, went on to say that in those exhibitions the skilled artisan was to a great extent practically ignored, inasmuch as the persons invited to exhibit were, generally employers of labour, and not workmen. Hence the masters took the lion's share of the honour; but then it must not he forgotten that they found the capital and ran the risk. To obviate this apparent unfairness the Society of Arts determined to follow out its original idea of encouraging the talent of the workman, and offered prizes to artisans willing to compete in various important branches of skilled industry. The Lambeth Exhibition on this principle had been held last year, and he hoped to see the same thing repeated in North London. After other remarks, made for the encouragement of the intending exhibitors, explanations of the details of the proposed exhibition were given by the hon. secretary, Mr. Watts, by Mr. Wim. Harvey, and other gentlemen. The exhibition is to be held in October next, in the Islington Agricultural Hall, and the exhibitors are to he working men and women and small masters. Resolutions approving the exhibition were agreed to, and the meeting separated.

Journal of the Society of Arts (vol.12 p.661), 26 August 1864


This Exhibition was formally opened by Earl Russell in the Agricultural Hall, Islington, on Monday last, in  the presence of an immense concourse of people, all of whom were admitted by tickets at the prices of 2s. 6d. and 1s. each. The noble Earl arrived at the hall at 3 o'clock, and was conducted to a platform by the committee of officers. On his taking the chair, the ceremony commenced by a choir of 1,000 voices singing the Old Hundredth Psalm, accompanied by the organ, which was played by Dr. Wesley, organist of Winchester Cathedral and College. Mr. WATTS, the hon. secretary, read a report of the managing committee, composed of working men, stating the circumstances under which the Exhibition had been set on foot. They were encouraged, they said, to undertake it from the success which attended a Working Man's Exhibition in the south of London, and from a conviction that there was much talent among the working classes which lay dormant for want of fitting opportunities for its exercise and appreciation. They eventually resolved to form a North London Exhibition, including the districts of Clerkenwell, Islington, St. Pancras, St. Luke's. Hoxton, St. Andrew's (Holborn), and Bloomsbury, but not excluding exhibitors from other parts of the metropolis should the committee have sufficient space at their disposal. It was to consist of objects manufactured by the exhibitors, either as specimens of skilled workmanship, or examples of self taught handicraft, and they had been greatly assisted in carrying out the project by local committees. They at length placed themselves in communication with the directors of the Agricultural Hall, who entered into the scheme in a friendly and encouraging spirit, and offered them the use of their large hall upon liberal terms. With the aid of Mr. Le Neve Foster, the Secretary to the Society of Arts, they appointed adjudicators to award the prizes from among the council of that Society. The committee referred, in passing, to the success attending the guarantee fund for carrying out the objects of the Exhibition. The amount promised, if needed, was 350, 50 of which had been guaranteed by Miss Burdett Coutts, and 100 by Mr. Samuel Morley. The exhibitors were 866 in number, and the articles shown by them occupied 5,930 ft. of wall, 2,012ft. of counter, and 1,750ft. of floor. The classification adopted was as follows: -lst, professional workmanship; 2nd, amateur productions; 3rd, inventions and novel contrivances; 4th, mechanical models; 5th, architectural, marine, and ornamental models; 6th, artistic objects; 7th, ladies' work of all kinds; 8th, miscellaneous articles. These classes are thus represented: -Class1,skilled 233 ; 2, amateurs, 98; 3, inventions, 91 ; 4, mechanical models, 56; 5, marine, 30; and ornamental, 75; 6, artistic, 165; 7, ladies' work, 75; 8, miscellaneous, 85. It was impossible to refer to all who had kindly assisted in the undertaking, but special mention was made of Miss Louisa Pyne, Miss Leffler, Mr. Galer, Mr. Thomas, Dr. Wesley, Mr. W. H. Bellamy, and Mr. Glenn Wesley, for their kind and gratuitous services in the musical department. At the conclusion of the rl1port, the Chairman inspected the exhibition. On his return to the platform, Earl RUSSELL said, he had to congratulate them on the exhibition, which he had just seen. It had given him the greatest satisfaction to observe the works of skill and industry of the North London working classes, and they deserved the highest credit. It afforded him pride and pleasure to be the fellow-countryman of men who had so employed their time, who had exhibited the greatest ingenuity in the works that they had performed, and in that manner have done credit to the county to which they belong. Those who first conceived the thought of this Exhibition of Industry did but justice to the industry of their countrymen, and he congratulated them on the great success, which had already attended their efforts. It was thus that this country gave another proof that the working classes of London are, as he believed, the highest in the world, the most distinguished in the works that they perform, the most ready to accomplish anything that might be set before them, and thus make this great community that which it ought to be - the head of the civilized world in all those works which betoken civilization and progress. He was happy to accede to the proposal when a wish was expressed that he should preside at the opening of this Exhibition, and he must say that he had no conception that the works of industry which were to be shown would betoken so much skill and show such beautiful results of the operations of labour. A special ode appropriate to the occasion, written by Mr.W.H. Bellamy and the music of which was composed by Dr. Wesley, was then sung by Miss Louisa Pyne, Miss Susan Pyne, Miss Leffler, Mr. Elliot Galer, Mr. Lewis Thomas, and the choir. At its conclusion prayer was offered by the Rev. Robert Maguire, M.A., Incumbent of Clerkenwell; and " I know that my Redeemer liveth," was sung by Miss Louisa Pyne.
    Mr. Digby Seymour, M.P., proposed a vote of thanks to the Chairman. He said, if anything could enhance the admirable armaments of the committee under whose auspices the work had been undertaken and carried out, it was the selection of the noble and illustrious person who had presided at the opening ceremony. When they looked back on ,he career of Lord Russell, there was no public man, he thought, who had a higher claim on the gratitude of the working classes; During a long public life his name had always more or less been identified with the welfare and progress of the people, social and political, and no man had done more in his time to unshackle commerce and promote free trade, the benefits of which were now experienced in every grade of society. His labours had also tended to give material impetus to the intellectual development of the working classes by the establishment of a cheap press. He concluded by proposing that the thanks of the meeting be tendered to Earl Rusell for presiding at the opening ceremony of the Exhibition.
    The motion having been seconded by Mr. GEORGE CRUICKSHANK, was carried with acclamation.
    Earl Russell, in returning thanks, said he had himself been a workingman from an early period of a long life. He remembered that when a measure was brought into Parliament by Sir Robert Peel for promoting freedom of trade with regard to many articles of art and manufacture, many of those whom it affected came to him (Earl Russell) and complained that while they were exposed to competition, and while their trade would be thrown open to all the nations of Europe and the world, the bread which they ate was taxed, and they wished him to oppose the measure. He then told them that in his opinion no such injustice could long continue; that if trade was thrown open to the competition of the whole world corn would not be taxed for many years, but that all would have the benefit of tree trade. And so accordingly a few years afterwards the Corn Law was repealed. With that example before them he might well say, that while the working classes showed their present industry and skill whenever any question arose in which their rights and I privileges were concerned, whatever was just and for the common benefit was sure to be sanctioned by Parliament in the end. They might depend upon it that this was a country in which, by means of discussion, by means of the Press, by means of Parliament, by means of public opinion expressed in a thousand ways, truth at last would gain the supremacy, and, under God, every evil would be abolished.
    The choir and the assembly then sang the National Anthem, Miss Louisa Pyne taking the solo parts. There was a concert in the evening, at which portions, of the music used at the opening were repeated.
    The committee decided at the outset not to offer pecuniary premiums. They are, at the same time, desirous that the prizes shall be worthy mementoes of the occasion, and valued by the holders as marks of distinction. The adjudicators are Mr. Thomas Winkworth, Mr. Peter Graham, Mr. D. H. Clark, Mr. G. F. Wilson, Mr. J. A. Nicholay, Mr. Digby Wyatt, and Mr. Le Neve Foster.
    The Exhibition is open daily from 9 in the morning till 5 in the evening, admittance 6d. and from 7 till 10 in the evening at a charge of 2d.
    The number of paying visitors on the three days, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, amounted to 39,213. Of these, 20,116 entered on Wednesday.

Journal of the Society of Arts (Vol 12 p.760) 21st October 1864