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

SOUTH LONDON WORKING CLASSES INDUSTRIAL EXHIBITION. On Tuesday, the 1st instant, a new exhibition of an interesting character was added to the numerous collections which already exist in the metropolis. The South London Working Classes Industrial Exhibition was formally opened, in the presence of a number of distinguished visitors. The exhibition, the contents of which, as its name indicates, are almost exclusively supplied by working men-is held in a commodious hall at the Lambeth Baths, Westminster-road. The hall, on the occasion of the inauguration, was gaily decorated with flags. The exhibition has been got up chiefly under the auspices of the Surrey Chapel Southwark Mission, and the Working Men's Committee of the Hawkstone-hall Evening Service, Mr. G. M. Murphy acting as secretary. The hall is filled with articles of every variety, which .how the intelligence and the ingenuity of the working men. The objects are stated to be the bringing to light the ingenious contrivances of working men; to show that hours well improved (instead of being spent in idleness, or, worse still, the public-house} may produce results astonishing to the working men themselves; to call attention if possible, to the patent laws by which many of the useful inventions of poor inventors are to them almost useless, notwithstanding the thought, time, and toil spent in their production; and to give an impetus to the holding of similar exhibitions to" the, present in different parts of the country. The plan pursued was to go to as little expenses as possible and to try that, whatever the expense, it may be met by the exhibition. The number of exhibitors was stated to be 125, and articles exhibited 500, and these are classified under seven heads. 1. Useful. 2. Ingenious. 3. Ornamental. 4. Scientific. 5 and 9 Artistic and Literary. 7. Curious and Amusing. A catalogue is sold for one penny; the admission is two pence each person. A memento of the exhibition is to be given to each exhibitor, and prizes to the most meritorious. The exhibition is to be considered in the light of an experiment, which, if successful, will be repeated in subsequent years. It is hoped that the money taken for admissions will repay the expenses. The exhibition was inaugurated under the presidency of the Earl of Shaftesbury, and the meeting was addressed by his lordship, the Rev. S. Newman Hall, Sir Samuel Morton Peto, Bart., MP., Messrs. J. Bright, M.P., Warner, M.P., S. Morley, Johnson, and Burgess. The exhibition will remain open till Saturday, the 12th of March.

Journal of the Society of Arts, p. 255, March 4 1864#

SOUTH LONDON WORKING CLASSES INDUSTRIAL EXHIBITION. The distribution of prizes to the successful competitors at this exhibition took place on Thursday evening the 17th of March. Mr. Samuel Morley, who opened the proceedings by calling on Mr. Murphy the secretary, to read the report, took the chair. From this it appears that the exhibition has been most successful, both as to the number of exhibitors and the attendance. During the nine days it was open, it was visited by no less than 30,000 persons, and the money taken at the doors is said to have been more than sufficient to cover the expenses. The entrance fees and the sale of a few small articles have realised the sum of 288.
    The CHAIRMAN congratulated the exhibitors on the success the scheme had met with. He felt assured from what he had seen that there was a large amount of latent I intelligence and genius among the masses of the population, which only wanted bringing out by means like the present. The temperance movement had a great deal to do with the success of this exhibition, for the time which the men had hitherto spent in public houses was now devoted to the designing and manufacture of the useful and artistic objects with which they were surrounded. Numerous well-meant attempts had been made to force on the working classes schemes with which they could have no sympathy, but the numerous articles exhibited, and the large number of visitors plainly showed that this was a matter into which the working men threw themselves heart and soul. He concluded by urging the exhibitors to exert their influence on their friends, to induce them to join in similar occupations.
    Mr. WASHINGTON WILKS, in referring to the very gratifying experiment that had been made, said that the self-elevation of working people was promoted by the useful or thoughtful employment of their spare time. Habitual work did not require much thought, and it was only when a man employed himself at some occupation; to which he was totally unaccustomed that his mind became expanded. The articles exhibited were not all first-rate, but they had not been made with the idea or being exhibited or rewarded. Now that the idea Was fairly started he expected that when the men knew that the articles they made would be submitted to the scrutinizing gaze of the public, and to the competition of their fellow labourers, they would take infinitely more pains in perfecting them. The Chairman proceeded to distribute the prizes, which consisted of chromo-lithographs, framed and glazed, inscribed with the name of the exhibitor, and giving a short description of the articles for which the award had been given. They were divided into four classes of merit-first-class, second-class, highly com- mended, and commended. When the whole had been distributed the chairman said he had the satisfaction of' informing them that their good example had already been followed, for the working men of the east end of London had commenced a similar industrial exhibition. The proceedings concluded by the presentation of an address from the exhibitors to Mr. Murphy, the secretary. It was written by James Durrant, a tinplate-worker. During the evening a large chamber organ, the work or Charles Meachim, a journeyman carpenter, performed & number of popular airs.

Journal of the Society of Arts (Vol. 12 p..304) 25th March 1864


The South London Industrial Exhibition has proved, a most decided success, and well have its promoters deserved that their untiring- and zealous efforts in its behalf should be met by the general support of London operatives. It is not, however, to the working classes alone that the South London Exhibition owes its entire success. The Exhibitions of past years have proved to the nobly descended and moneyed classes of England, that however high they may have graduated at Oxford or Cambridge, they have yet much to learn from the thinking and inventive mechanic. Greek, Latin, and deep dipping into the classics and modern polite literature, when backed by agreeable manners and the science of a Bond-street tailor, may enable the most soft-brained sprig of nobility to keep afloat in society so long as his tradesmen have faith. But the wonderful progress of science has even awoke something like a feeling of interest among the vapid votaries of fashion, and it is now thought the thing in the higher circles of society to patronize the mechanic by visiting industrial exhibitions, to stare at and admire the products of thoughtful brains and skilled hands, and to return home with a vague notion that an inventive brain cannot be purchased like the freehold of a ten-acre field. So the South London Industrial Exhibition met with a fair share of patronage from the nobility and gentry of the metropolis, and being exceedingly well managed, all visitors departed highly pleased with the arrangements of the building and the numerous objects of art and science they had inspected. The total of the -visitors approached closely to two hundred thousand. Last week the prizes were awarded, and strange to say they were so justly distributed that none were dissatisfied. This is perhaps owing to the adjudicators, who were well-known men of talent, being elected by vote by the exhibitors. Our limited space will not permit of oar giving a complete list of the prize awards, but we select the following as most applicable to our pages ...

English Mechanic, p.5, March 31 1865