Historical beauties The 1924-5 British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Park attracted a staggering 27 million visitors to the borough, providing the curious with a taste of life from almost every
The bustling exhibition grounds boasted an amusement park and many restaurants as well as commercial kiosks, run by newspapers, cigarette companies and other businesses. The exhibition stands, designed by the architect Joseph Emberton (1889-1956), added an element of fantasy, and at the heart of the amusement park was one of the largest exhibition venues – Pears Palace of Beauty. The Palace of Beauty was white with two curved staircases leading up to a domed gazebo which was supported by columns and acted as an exhibition space. Visitors entered a ‘richly decorated hall’ with ‘luminous plaster’, ﬂanked by ten soundproofed, glass-fronted rooms, each containing an actress/model dressed as a beautiful woman from history, with accompanying reproduction furniture. The ten beauties were Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, Scheherazade, Dante’s Beatrice, Elizabeth Woodville (Edward IV’s Queen), Mary Queen of Scots, Nell Gwynn, Madame de Pompadour, the actress Mrs Siddons and Miss 1924. There were also two soap-related characters, Bubbles and The Spirit of Purity with souvenir soap also for sale. The palace was open 13 hours a day, so each beauty was depicted by two actresses/models working shifts. They had been selected from over 5,000 applicants, and were watched over by a chaperone. Fourteen of the performers were depicted on souvenir postcards. Although the ﬁrst three were not of European origin, the actresses were. There were also no black or Indian beauties from the Empire and two of the historical beauties were ﬁctitious. Admission was 1/3d for adults and 8d for children. Nearly 750,000 people visited the palace. Brent Archives has a number of photos of the exhibition as well as two postcards and a view of the palace. Visit Brent Archives today and take a look for yourself. www.brent.gov.uk/archives Left: Pear’s palace of beauty.
land in the Empire.
Main: Miss Dido Carter as Mrs Siddons.
FEBRUARY / MARCH 2013 THE BRENT MAGAZINE
The Brent Magazine issue 130 February M