20/05/2022

1886, London UK – Colonial and Indian Exhibition

Forward to 1886 Louisville US – Southern Exposition
Back to 1886, Liverpool UK – International Exhibition of Navigation, Commerce and Industry
Back to Getting Noticed – Back to VOLUME II Index – Back to bobdenton.com home

1886 London

Name:Colonial and Indian Exhibition
Dates:4 May – 10 Nov 1886
Days:164 days
Venue:Royal Horticultural Gardens – behind The Albert Hall – 13 acres
Theme:To show the development and progress made around the Empire, so expressly
for Colonial and Indian exhibits, British and foreign exhibits were excluded
Exhibitors:
Awards:
Visitors:5,550,745 – including 400,00 working-class visitors who had reduced charges
subsidised by the London Trades Council.
Legacy:Exhibits were used to found the Imperial Institute – c£35,000 profit

The Prince of Wales was the exhibition’s President, it was managed by Sir Cunliffe Owen. The Prince of Wales stated that it would ‘stimulate commerce and strengthen the bonds of union now existing in every portion of her Majesty’s Empire’.

Silk map of the Empire sold at the exhibition

The formal aim was to show the development and progress made around the Empire, so expressly for Colonial and Indian exhibits, British and foreign exhibits were excluded. This was propitious in that the ‘Scramble for Africa’ was under way, the Australian colonies were calling for sutonomy and the separatist Indian National Congress had been founded in 1885. It also presaged Victoria’s upcoming Golden Jubilee in June 1887.

Victoira opening 1886 London event
with Beefeaters (illustration)

The show was opened by Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales. The ceremony included odes by Alfred Lord Tennyson set to music by Arthur Sullivan, and perfomrances of Hayden’s Rule Britannia and the Hallelujah Chorus did present an imperial unity. But these aims were to some extent diluted by no planned layout scheme or system of classification of exhibits.

1883 London Fisheries Exhibition
1884 London Health Exhibition
1885 Inventions’ Exhibition

There were three themed exhibitions that presaged this – the 1883 Fisheries exhibition, 1884 Health exhibition and 1885 Inventions Exhibition. These were held on the Royal Horticultural Society Gardens and the old Crystal Palace site. They created a series of temporary buildings that this 1886 event was able to utilise.

1883 International Health Exhibition
‘Old London’ display
(Source Cambridge.org)

The show maintained features that had been created for those prior shows a large aquarium (Fisheries) and Old London (Health). Old London had full-size replicas of buildings and staff dressed in period costume. A similar approach as Old Edinburgh at 1886 Edinburgh.

India dominated the exhibits, providing a third of the whole space of the show, 9,569 sq m (103,000 sq ft), the area was designed and exhibits acquired by the India Office in London, the Indian Government and by Indian princes and states. This had a total cost of £22,000, £10k paid by the Indian Government and £12k by the Royal Commission.

Gwailor and Jaipur gates

An Indian Palace accessed via the Gwailor Gate (loaned by the V&A, first used at 1883-4 Calcutta exhibiton) and Jaipur gate (paid for by the Maharaja of Jaipur, which has been on show at the Hove Museum and Art Gallery since 1926). Sadly both were designed by British architects, not Indian.

Display of Indian Weavers

Indian crafts and professions were demonstrated at the event by thirty-four men from Agra, disturbingly they were recruited from the Agra Jail, rather than for their skills. The Durbar Hall exhibited at this exhibition is on display at the Hastings Museum and Art Gallery.

Australasia and Canada each occupied a quarter of the exhibition space. The New Zealand Court ranged from a fernery to frozen mutton, one of its recent agricultural advances.

1886 London, Ja,maica’s exhibits

The Royal Anthropological Society exhibited Darwinian thinking with its ‘Native Races of the British Possessions’ display, another example that in retrospect sounds like a ‘human zoo’.

1886 Daily Programme

Despite these points the event attracted over 5.5m, with 400,00 working-class visitors who had reduced charges provided by the London Trades Council. The event made a profit of c£35,000 and this was able to clear the debts accrued from the 1885 Inventions’ Exhibition.

1886 Medal – Prince of Wales

After the event, the exhibits prompted the foundation of the Imperial Institute, located on the site of today’s Imperial College. It was later modified to become the Commonwealth Institute and moved to Kensington High Street.

Forward to 1886 Louisville US – Southern Exposition
Back to 1886, Liverpool UK – International Exhibition of Navigation, Commerce and Industry
Back to Getting Noticed – Back to VOLUME II Index – Back to bobdenton.com home

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.