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Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions Great Exhibition of 1851 vs. 1951 Festival of Britain

Duncan Sparks


Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions Great Exhibition of 1851 vs. 1951 Festival of Britain

Author: Duncan Sparks, 391164 w: www.duncansparks.co.uk e: duncanjsparks@gmail.com

I affirm that this assignment, together with any supporting artefact, is offered for assessment as my original and unaided work, except insofar as any advice and/or assistance from any other named person in preparing it, and any quotation used from written sources are duly and appropriately acknowledged.

Text copyright © Duncan Sparks, University of Portsmouth - 2013.

Front cover: image © Google maps edited by author. Inside cover: image © author.

Printed and bound in Great Britain - University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth.


Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions Great Exhibition of 1851 vs. 1951 Festival of Britain

Duncan Sparks


Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions

Great Exhibition of 1851 vs. 1951 Festival of Britain

Author: Duncan Sparks, 391164 w: www.duncansparks.co.uk e: duncanjsparks@gmail.com

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Author’s Declaration Unit Title: Title of Assessment: Date of Submission:

Masters in Architecture - Unit 403: Written Thesis Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions 1st of February 2013

I affirm that this assignment, together with any supporting artefact, is

any advice and/or assistance from any other named person in preparing it, and any quotation used from written sources are duly and appropriately acknowledged.

Name:

Duncan James Sparks - 391164

Signature of Author: Date of Submitted:

1st of February 2013

Author’s Declaration

Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions

offered for assessment as my original and unaided work, except insofar as

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Abstract This thesis explores two key design-led events held in London, that transformed British national identity. The Great Exhibition of 1851 and the 1951 Festival of Britain. One hundred years apart, these two pivotal cultural events offered a forum for experimentation and debate over what it meant to be British. Drawing on remarkable sketches, plans, photographs and paintings, Transforming national identity & legacy through British

expositions attempts to reveal the story of the successes and failures of the Great Exhibition and the Festival of Britain. The written thesis explores the legacy and aspirations of the Great Exhibition and the Festival of Britain on

The introduction establishes the nature of both promotional expositions in London. The following two chapters examine the motives and aspirations that lay behind these extraordinary events that afford two unique snapshots of the state of Britain a century apart. Finally, in the interest of comparison the third chapter analyses the narrative and language of the two expositions in terms of venue, layout and design. The thesis concludes that it was the legacy of both exhibitions that defined their success. Two of London’s great museums, the Science Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum, were formed as a direct result of the Great Exhibition which had highlighted the country’s need for better education in the new age of science-based technologies and applied art. Furthermore, although the Festival of Britain was a momentary expression of British innovation, it was seen as a beacon for change. With its true contribution to the South Bank being the birth of a modern cultural centre, which now rivals any arts quarter across the world today. Both the Great Exhibition and Festival of Britain - the focus of my written thesis, engaged with their societies. So can the medium and method of the exposition, again manifest itself at present to reflect a new face of Britain? One which would promote British innovation and ingenuity to inspire growth not only

and British culture - a proposition that is investigated in my design thesis.

Keywords: Great Exhibition, Festival of Britain, South Bank, Legacy, National Identity, Empire, Second World War, Crystal Palace, Skylon.

Abstract

in terms of trade but in forging a new sense of pride in national identity

Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions

the reshaping of taste and development of 19th and 20th century Britain.

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Acknowledgements It would not have been possible to write this thesis without the help and support of the kind people around me, to only some of whom it is possible to give particular mention here. First and foremost I offer my sincerest gratitude to my studio tutors, Elizabeth Tuson and Tina Wallbridge, who have supported me throughout my thesis with their patience and knowledge whilst allowing me the freedom to work in my own way. I attribute the level of my Masters degree to their encouragement and effort and without them this thesis, too, would not have

Grover who has also offered invaluable guidance on where to focus my final year. The University of Portsmouth Library has offered numerous opportunities for research and information, therefore I would like express my gratitude to Librarians, Greta Friggens and Sharon Bittner. They have always been willing to help find an array of different materials. Research materials was sourced from a number of edifying institutes; the Victoria and Albert Museum, Museum of London, Royal Institute of British Architects Library, Oxford Central Library, Portsmouth Central Library and the Bodleian Library. My girlfriend, Abigail, for her continuing support and understanding for not only this thesis but the last two years of university. Thank you for your help, advice and unequivocal support throughout, for which my mere expression

Finally, I thank my parents for supporting me throughout my studies at University and their unconditional support and encouragement for my passion in architecture. My father, Keith, for his endless printing of projects and of course proofreading and mother, Sarah, for your endless enthusiasm for my work and for providing me a home in which to stay at in Somerset.

Acknowledgements

of gratitude likewise is not enough.

Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions

been completed or written. One simply could not wish for better tutors. Paul

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Table of Contents Author’s Declaration page v

Abstract page vii

Acknowledgements page ix

Contents

page xi

Introduction - Transformation of nation Chapter One - Crystal Palace: Reflections of Empire Aspirations - Optimism and the Empire

page 5

National Identity - The image of the Great Exhibition and Britain

page 13

Legacy - The Exhibition’s intentions

page 23

Chapter Two - South Bank Exhibition page 35

National Identity - Rebranding Character

page 43

Legacy - An Festival Style page 53

Table of Contents

Aspirations - Promoting British produce, post war celebration

Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions

List of Illustrations page xv

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Chapter Three - Exhibition and Festival: Empire to Pride

Crystal Palace - Opulence and Imperial Power

page 67

Crystal Palace - Global Competition

page 71

South Bank - A Template for the reconstruction of Britain

page 77

South Bank - Story of a timeless past

page 79

A 21st century future for Britain

page 93

References Glossary page 101

Sources of Illustrations page 105

References page 115

Appendices

Appendix B page 143

Appendix C

page 147

Appendix D page 149

Notes page 157

Table of Contents

Appendix A page 129

Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions

Conclusion

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List of Illustrations Cover Image Figure 0.1 - Kinetic London - Authors own illustration.

Introduction Figure 1.1 // pp. xxii - The Skylon at Night Figure 1.2 // pp. xxv - West transept of the Great Industrial Exhibition of all Nations, 1851 Figure 1.3 // pp. xxvi - Expectant crowds await the royal procession during the Diamond Jubilee in 2012 Figure 1.4 // pp. xxvii - The Great Exhibition of 1851 was housed in the Crystal Palace seen here from the north-east

Figure 1.6 // pp. xxx - The Opening of the Great Industrial Exhibition of all Nations, 1851. Queen Victoria opened the Great Exhibition on May Day 1851 Figure 1.7 // pp. xxx - Hyde Park on 1 May. The crowds stretched from the park back to Leicester Square. This image shows royal carriages passing from Constitution Hill into the park

Chapter One Figure 2.1 // pp. 1 - View inside the transept Figure 2.2 // pp. 3 - East transept of the Great Industrial Exhibition of all Nations, 1851 Figure 2.3 // pp. 4 - View of the South Side, From Near the Princes Gate, looking west Figure 2.4 // pp. 4 - The Western (British) nave of the Crystal Place Figure 2.5 // pp. 6 - The Transept of the Crystal Place, the two large existing elm trees were kept and featured inside Figure 2.6 // pp. 6 - The Transept from the Grand Entrance, the transept rose to a height of 108ft (33m) Figure 2.7 // pp. 7 - The following estimates are taken exclusively from the 2007 monograph Contours of the World Economy, 1–2030 AD Figure 2.8 // pp. 8 - Francis Xavier Winterhalter (1805-1873), Prince Albert, Oil on canvas, 1842

Figure 2.10 // pp. 12 - George Cruikshank’s, All the world going to see the Great Exhibition of 1851 Figure 2.11 // pp. 14 - George Cruikshank’s, The Dispersion of the Works of all Nations from the Great Exhibition of 1851 Figure 2.12 // pp. 14 - A hint to the commissioners Figure 2.13 // pp. 15 - Exhibition Supplement to The Illustrated London News Figure 2.14 // pp. 16 - Crossing boundaries, 19th century masquerade ball Figure 2.15 // pp. 16 - The Pound and the Shilling, Whoever thought of meeting you here? Figure 2.16 // pp. 18 - Manchester in 1851 - Jeffrey A. Auerbach, The Great Exhibition of 1851

List of Illustrations

Figure 2.9 // pp. 10- Building the Crystal Palace, raising the first transept rib

Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions

Figure 1.5 // pp. xxviii - Hoards of people wait to catch a glimpse of the King and Queen after his Majesty had declared the 1951 Festival of Britain open

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Figure 2.17 // pp. 18 - London in 1851 Figure 2.18 // pp. 20 - Map 1, The railway network in 1840 Figure 2.19 // pp. 21 - Map 2, The railway network in 1852 Figure 2.20 // pp. 22 - Indian Court at the Great Exhibition Figure 2.21 // pp. 22 - Turkish Court at the Great Exhibition Figure 2.22 // pp. 24 - Design for the conversion of the exhibition building into a tower Figure 2.23 // pp. 24 - The building committee design for an exhibition building Figure 2.24 // pp. 25 - The Brompton Boilers Figure 2.25 // pp. 26 - The north transept, Crystal Palace, Sydenham, 1857 Figure 2.26 // pp. 26 - Paris Exhibition 1889, a bird’s-eye view of the Champ de Mars

Figure 2.28 // pp. 28 - The Victoria and Albert Museum Lobby, 2012 Figure 2.29 // pp. 29 - Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei, 2012

Chapter Two Figure 3.1 // pp. 30 - View over the Festival of Britain centre concourse Figure 3.2 // pp. 32 - Bird’s-eye perspective of the South Bank Exhibition site Figure 3.3 // pp. 34 - The Skylon with Dome of Discovery in the foreground Figure 3.4 // pp. 36- Site map of the South Bank Exhibition Figure 3.5 // pp. 36 - Map of London in 1951 Figure 3.6 // pp. 38 - Rise and Fall of British Empire 1851 - 1990 Figure 3.7 // pp. 38 - View along the Piazza to Whitehall Court by Gordon Cullen, 1951 Figure 3.8 // pp. 39 - Map of Britain displaying the numerous locations of other festivals over the nation Figure 3.9 // pp. 40 - The Illustrated London News Festival of Britain Special Figure 3.10 // pp. 42 - Land of Britain map and entrance by Jim Cadbury Brown

Figure 3.12 // pp. 43 - Drawing of the initial design for the international exposition on the South Bank Figure 3.13 // pp. 44 - The way to go round, THE DOME Figure 3.14 // pp. 44 - Chichley Street Gate and Signage in the New Schools Pavilion Figure 3.15 // pp. 45 - French depicting British National Character in Punch Figure 3.16 // pp. 46 - Interior of the Dome of Discovery by Ralph Tubbs Figure 3.17 // pp. 48 - Ladies arriving at the Festival of Britain concourse Figure 3.18 // pp. 50 - Poster advertising the Stockholm Exhibition, 1930

List of Illustrations

Figure 3.11 // pp. 42 - Land of People map and entrance by Jim Cadbury Brown

Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions

Figure 2.27 // pp. 27 - Architectural proposals by Henry Cole, 1851

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Figure 3.19 // pp. 50 - Promenade and Pavilions, Stockholm Exhibition, 1930 Figure 3.20 // pp. 52 - The Skylon and Dome of Discovery at night Figure 3.21 // pp. 53 - Colourful sculptures were used to mask the surrounding warehouses of the South Bank Figure 3.22 // pp. 54 - Sculpture formed part of the entrance to the Lansbury Live Architecture Exhibition Figure 3.23 // pp. 54 - The Exhibition of Architecture site map Figure 3.24 // pp. 55 - Lansbury, Poplar advertising ‘See London’s new neighbourhood growing Figure 3.25 // pp. 56 - Festival signage lies in the scrapyard Figure 3.26 // pp. 57 - Aerial view of the South Bank Exhibition after the Festival in 1952 Figure 3.27 // pp. 58 - Queen Elizabeth Hall and Hayward Gallery

Figure 3.29 // pp. 61 - Sketch of the Hayward Gallery, by Kenneth Browne

Three Chapter Figure 4.1 // pp. 62 - The Skylon and the Dome of Discovery Figure 4.2 // pp. 65- Hand sketch of the Dome of Discovery Figure 4.3 // pp. 66 - Main entrance to the Crystal Palace Figure 4.4 // pp. 68 - The Indian tent at the Crystal Palace Figure 4.5 // pp. 68 - Pugin’s medieval court at the Crystal Palace Figure 4.6 // pp. 70 - Inside the Crystal Palace Figure 4.7 // pp. 72 - French sculptures at the Great Exhibition, 1851 Figure 4.8 // pp. 73 - The Gobelins Room, the heart of French aesthetic prowess Figure 4.9 // pp. 74 - ‘British industry and manufacture’ Figure 4.10 // pp. 76 - Section, Plan and Elevation of the Dome of Discovery designed by Ralph Tubbs, 1951 Figure 4.11 // pp. 78 - ‘The Way to go Round’ site map in The Festival of Britain Guide, 1951

Figure 4.13 // pp. 79 - Lion and the Unicorn Pavilion exterior Figure 4.14 // pp. 80 - ‘Juggling with three-dimensions’ Architectural Review. 1951 Figure 4.15 // pp. 82 - Site plans of previous exhibitions Figure 4.16 // pp. 84 - Landscape sketches and designs, for the pavilions of the Festival of Britain Figure 4.17 // pp. 84 - Lion and the Unicorn Pavilion interior Figure 4.18 // pp. 85 - ‘Machinery in motion at the Great Exhibition’ Figure 4.19 // pp. 87 - Colour coded plan of Great Exhibition

List of Illustrations

Figure 4.12 // pp. 78 - Exit from hotel courtyard to main square, Gordon Cullen, 1951

Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions

Figure 3.28 // pp. 60 - Flags and viewing stations hang over the river Thames

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Conclusion Figure 5.1 // pp. 88 - Ship Pavilion at the South Bank Exhibition Figure 5.2 // pp. 91 - The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, home to the Great Exhibition of 1851 Figure 5.3 // pp. 92 - Festival of Britain Logo, by Abram Games Figure 5.4 // pp. 94 - The Great Exhibition of 1851 Pavilion Figure 5.5 // pp. 94 - The Great Exhibition of 1951 advert Figure 5.6 // pp. 95 - Poster advertising the Festival of Britain by Abram Games Figure 5.7 // pp. 96 - The Dome of Discovery by Ralph Tubbs

Figure 6.1 // pp. 98 - Industry at the Crystal Palace

Appendices Figure 7.1 // pp. 124 - Boy at the Dome Figure 7.2 // pp. 148 - Estate plan of the lands purchased by the 1851 Commissioners, c.1856 Figure 7.3 // pp. 150 - Plan of the Kensington Gore estate, c.1862 Figure 7.4 // pp. 151 - Plan of the main square of the Kensington Gore estate, c.1890 Figure 7.5 // pp. 152 - Plan of the Kensington Gore estate, c.1935 Figure 7.6 // pp. 152 - Aerial photograph of the South Kensington area, c.1935 Figure 7.7 // pp. 153 - Aerial photograph of the South Kensington area, c.1944 Figure 7.8 // pp. 153 - Aerial Photograph of the South Kensington area, c.2006 Figure 7.9 // pp. 154 - Plan of proposed scheme for Exhibition Road, c.2005 Figure 7.10 // pp. 155 - Architect’s impressions of the Dixon Jones pedestrian scheme for the south end of Exhibition Road, c.2012

List of Illustrations

Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions

References

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Figure 1.1


‘The time has now arrived under the direction of Almighty God for attempting to fuse the different nationalities and collect together an exhibition of the world’s industry.’ Prince Albert, 1852

Introduction

Transformation of a nation

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Figure 1.2


Figure 1.3 Expectant crowds await the royal procession during the Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

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Figure 1.4 The Great Exhibition of 1851 was housed in the Crystal Palace seen here from the north-east.

Introduction - Transformation of a nation 2012 was a year that will be remembered by many in Britain, due to the national and international celebrations of the Queen’s jubilee and the London Olympics. These events sparked many questions for the nation of Britain, this year was certainly not the first time that London had hosted a global event of historic proportions, but what were the legacies of our previous efforts? How did they transform the landscape of a nation? The two foremost events in modern Britain, that captured the enthusiasm and imagination of a nation were; the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the 1951 Festival of Britain. Both were held in the heart of London, towards the end of two exceptional eras. Nineteenth-century Britain was uniquely fashioned by its relationship with the world economy, in a time of glory and grandeur. Whilst post war Britain was a period characterised by housing shortages, wartime rationing and the initial stages of the dissolution of the British Empire. The Great Exhibition of 1851 is firmly instilled in London’s rich vibrant history. Between 1 May and 15 October 1851,1 the exposition offered a unique setting

of glass affectionately known as the Crystal Palace. The picturesque nature of the Exhibition drew on a wealth of national symbols through the ‘works of industry of all nations’,2 the Exhibition was filled with objects significant

Alternatively, the 1951 Festival of Britain paints a contrasting social story, not only in terms of its conception and time frame, but of the venue. The 1. Trevor May, Great Exhibitions. (Oxford: Shire Publications, 2010.) pp. 22 2. Paul Greenhalgh, Ephemeral Vistas - The Expositions Universelles, Great Exhibitions and World’s Fairs, 1851-1939 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988) pp. 12 3. John R. Davis, The Great Exhibition, (Stroud: Publishing Sutton, 1999) p. ix

Introduction

in aesthetic, scientific, economic and cultural spheres.3

Transformation of a nation

to showcase mid-nineteenth century life in Britain, held in a vast cathedral

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Figure 1.5 Hoards of people wait to catch a glimpse of the King and Queen after his Majesty had declared the 1951 Festival of Britain open.


festival was planned as a celebration of the end of war and as a ‘tonic to the nation’,4 established as a nationwide event involving many locations across Great Britain, with its centrepiece constructed on the site of the South Bank, beside the river Thames. An inward narrative was presented of the country as the exhibition provided a selective and romanticised view of the past, which barely made reference to worldwide events. Historical accounts raise the question of how they engaged and shaped the identity of a nation. By discovering how effective their respective agendas were and how the legacies of both expositions have contributed to today’s society, this thesis will reveal the successes and failures of London’s promotional expositions, by exploring two key design-led events in British history, at distinctively different economic and social times. There is an enormous amount of promotional and printed ephemera relating to both the Exhibition and Festival. Today the Victoria and Albert Museum,5 houses an inordinate volume of work dealing with the Exhibition - books, chapters in books, articles, conference papers, newspapers; which has swollen to proportions that would daunt any historian of the subject.6 Whilst the literature and memorabilia for the Festival of Britain is just as impressive, collections range from printed leaflets to artefacts housed at the Museum of London to the South Bank Centre, where celebrations in 2011 marked the sixtieth anniversary of the Festival. In 1951 Britain was on the cusp of a new era, after years of hardship, the Festival was both to be a celebration of victory and a proclamation of national recovery.7 It did not host an international exposition, instead the Festival explored the notion of Britishness through art, design, technology, science, industry and architecture. In contrast the Exhibition of 1851 was conceived as an international trade fair, covering a multitude of disciplines in one colossal structure - from aesthetics to medicine, the history of science and architecture to ship-building.8 4. Mary Banham, A Tonic to the Nation: The Festival of Britain 1951, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1976.) p. 6 5. A product and legacy born out of the success of the Great Exhibition - see appendix D pp. page 149 6. John R. Davis, The Great Exhibition, (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 1999) p. ix 7. Becky Conekin, The Autobiography of a Nation - The 1951 Festival of Britain, (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2003) pp. 198 8. John R. Davis, The Great Exhibition, (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 1999) p. ix

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Figure 1.6 The Opening of the Great Industrial Exhibition of all Nations, 1851. Queen Victoria opened the Great Exhibition on May Day 1851

Figure 1.7 Hyde Park on 1 May. The crowds stretched from the park back to Leicester Square. This image shows royal carriages passing from Constitution Hill into the park.

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The majority of historians and theorists, exclusively research either the Exhibition or the Festival. Rarely have both occasions been contrasted and interrogated in an academic context. However, some look at the cultural history between these key events of the mid 19th and 20th centuries. Jeffrey Auerbach reveals in The Great Exhibition of 1851 - A Nation on

Display that the Exhibition was a glorification of Empire but only mentions the Festival of Britain in terms of the Exhibition’s nostalgic legacy. Harriet Atkinson’s wonderfully descriptive book The Festival of Britain - A Land and

its People describes the Festival of Britain as an event that transformed a nation, but seldom compares the Festival to the Great Exhibition of 1851. This thesis, entitled Transforming national identity & legacy through

British expositions, explores the way these unparalleled nationwide events, provided a forum for experimentation and debate over what it meant to be British. My analysis of the ideas and rhetoric behind both events presents an opportunity to examine and compare the concept, structure and impact of their legacy. Textural readings through archival research and detailed analysis of architecture and exhibits. Along with promotional literature one can evaluate not only the legacy of these two pivotal events, but the reshaping of our understanding of national identity. The study proposes a tri-parte structure, the first section analyses the proposals of the Great Exhibition in 1851, from the organisers struggle to host such an audacious event, to its legacy and the birth of the Exhibition Road in South Kensington. The second chapter investigates the 1951 Festival, in a similar vein, exploring how successful the Festival was at rebuilding national pride and its physical inheritance. Finally in the interest of comparison chapter three, simultaneously evaluates the structure and design of both events. How does one investigate the phoenix of these events, from the opulence of the Great Exhibition with the British Empire at its zenith, to the Festival of Britain and aftermath of post-war Britain, with the Empire on its knees. How did the Great Exhibition and the Festival of Britain, reflect a nation’s hopes and aspirations in such contrasting times? How might London in the 21st century an age of great uncertainty provide us with a glimpse of the future?

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Figure Figure 2. 2.11


‘Well may the nation be proud of its Crystal Palace. No other people in the world could have raised such a building’ Henry Mayhew, 1851

Chapter One

Crystal Palace: Reflections of Empire

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Figure 2.2


Figure 2.3 View of the south side, from near the Princes Gate, looking west.

Figure 2.4 The Western (British) nave of the Crystal Place.


Aspirations - Optimism and the Empire The Great Exhibition was opened on May Day 1851, and crystallised a particular moment in early Victorian Britain when a series of insightful social, political and economic changes converged. It’s enormous and largely unexpected success, has repeatedly influenced the life of a nation. However the impact of the exhibition can only be fully understood against the broad context of the life and attitudes of mid nineteenth-century Britain. This chapter will investigate the imagery of the Great Exhibition, taking a snapshot of British life in 1851 with the exhibition at the forefront. This era experienced the hiatus of the industrial revolution, and it could be said that the Great Exhibition was London’s swan song to its power. The exhibition brought a nation and world together. Most historical accounts of the exhibition, are recorded in an optimistic tone. According to one historian, Prince Albert’s announcement of the exhibition at the Society of Arts in 1849 ‘rang like a trumpet blast through the land’;1 the energy and enthusiasm of all concerned was filled with pride. Joseph Paxton, the architect of the Crystal Palace, was the archetypal selfmade man ‘born of poor parents’ and the ‘exhibits were beyond calculation’ whilst the weather too was ‘perfect’.2 As a matter of fact, none of these statements were true, the Prince was initially reluctant to become involved

concern if not outright opposition, and Paxton was not without patronage. The exhibits were a confused mixture and harshly criticised in some quarters, the morning of the opening ceremony was in fact cloudy and it rained.3 Finally, while Britain and its Empire were triumphant at the Exhibition, premonitions of its decline appeared almost as often as proclamation of economic advancement.

The exhibition has also been portrayed as a monumental and monolithic display;4 but for the proportions of grandeur that the Great Exhibition came 1. Christopher Hobhouse, 1851 and the Crystal Palace (London: John Murray, 1937) pp. 12 2. J.E. Murdock, The Romance and the History of the Crystal Palace (London: L. Upcott Gill, 1911) pp. 1-12 3. Jeffrey A. Auerbach, The Great Exhibition of 1851 - A Nation on Display (London: Yale University, 1999) pp. 1 4. John McKean, Crystal Palace: Joseph Paxton and Charles Fox (London: Phaidon, 1994) pp. 20

Chapter One

Britain’s shortcoming in an industrial era

Crystal Palace: Reflections of Empire

and his announcement was cautious. Many Britons responded with a lack of

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Figure 2.5 The Transept from the Grand Entrance, the transept rose to a height of 108ft (33m).

GDPper percapita capita in in 1990 GDP 1990Dollars Dollars 6000

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4000

3000

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1000

0 United States

United Kingdom

Switzerland 1820

Belgium 1870

Germany

France

1910

Figure 2.6 The following estimates are taken exclusively from the 2007 monograph Contours of the World Economy, 1–2030 AD by the British economist Angus Maddison.

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to represent in 1851, its origins were markedly humble. On many counts, the exhibition’s planners saw the event as a way to help identify and remedy Britain’s shortcomings as much as to celebrate her accomplishments. There was certainly no doubt that Britain was economically the world’s single greatest power in 1851, but there were underlying flaws in the nation’s economy that consequently could be ultimately viewed as a catalyst for the Great Exhibition. While Britain was still increasing industrial output, other nations were beginning to catch up, and Britain’s relative share of world production was steadily falling (see figure 2.6).5 The continuing plight of the industrial worker in substandard working conditions must have caused concern as this was becoming no longer rationally defensible, in the new industrial order.6 The Repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 reduced food prices, which though popular prompted the Commercial Crisis of 1847 which shook the established system of international trade, and pointed to the need for a solution.7 Initial exhibitions arranged by the Society of Arts highlighted the necessity for such events to be staged and marketed, so that the nation’s produce could be promoted and gain better recognition. One

Figure 2.7

of the greatest impediments British manufacturers of the nineteenth-

The Transept of the Crystal Place, the two large existing elm trees were kept and featured inside.

century faced was in their quest for profits, as their products were not reaching international consumers. The introduction to the catalogue for the 1847 exhibition at the Society of Arts described the problems faced by manufacturers. 5. Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000. (New York: Random House Inc., 1989) pp. 148-158 6. Walter Arnstein, Britain Yesterday and Today (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Co. 1996) pp. 27 Arnstein cities quite a few authors, including Hobsbawn, Aston and Hartwell, in painting a pessimistic picture of the industrial revolution’s social ramifications. 7. Michael Leapman, The World for a Shilling, How The Great Exhibition of 1851 shaped a nation. (London: Headline Book Publishing, 2001) pp. 31

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Figure 2.8 Francis Xavier Winterhalter (1805-1873) Prince Albert oil on canvas, 1842

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‘We are persuaded that, if artistic manufactures are not appreciated, it is because they are not widely enough known...We believe that this exhibition, when thrown open gratuitously to all, will tend to improve the public taste.’

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Whilst writer Michael Leapman argued that, ‘it was hoped that the spirit of free trade, would be enhanced if the proposed [1851] Exhibition was opened up to all nations’.

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The struggle of conceiving the Exhibition These events prompted the suggestion of an international catalyst for trade, at the annual meeting of the Society of Arts in 1849 Prince Albert took the occasion to say: ‘[That] the time had now arrived under the direction of Almighty God for attempting to fuse the different nationalities and collect together an exhibition of the world’s industry.’

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Initial plans for the 1851 Exhibition were quite unpopular, for months subscriptions only trickled in because Britons simply did not know what to make of the Exhibition.11 The organisers began to look for public support. Through public meetings, posters, pamphlets and a carefully orchestrated relationship with the press,12 the marketing strategy behind the exhibition, produced an array of meanings, that were appropriate to different regions both geographically and politically. This was not a conscious decision but derived through a continuous process,13 the Society of Arts conceived the Exhibition from the standpoint of a national event, which caused obvious struggles due to the Exhibition’s siting in Hyde Park. Protesters feared the disappearance of the park under tons of bricks and mortar, but when the great structure was eventually chosen and built, it silenced dissenters and

8. Cited in Kenneth Luckhurst, The Great Exhibition of 1851, (London: Royal Society of Art, 1951) pp. 6-7 9. Michael Leapman, The World for a Shilling, How The Great Exhibition of 1851 shaped a nation. (London: Headline Book Publishing, 2001) pp. 31 10. David Eldon Hall, Condensed history of the origination: rise, progress and completion of the ‘Great Exhibition of the Industry of all Nations’, (New York, 1852) pp. 7 11. Jeffrey A. Auerbach, The Great Exhibition of 1851 - A Nation on Display, (London: Yale University, 1999) pp. 55 12. ibid., pp. 55 13. Michael Leapman, The World for a Shilling, How The Great Exhibition of 1851 shaped a nation. (London: Headline Book Publishing, 2001) pp. 66

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Figure 2.9 Building the Crystal Palace, raising the first transept rib

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became instantly the most famous new building in the world.14 Designed by Sir Joseph Paxton (1803 - 1865), it was a vast cathedral of glass, prefabricated off-site, years ahead of its time.15 Ultimately the success of the Exhibition was due to the novelty of the idea, the grandeur of the building and the lure of the first international competition. It was not until the opening of the Exhibition that public intrigue grew, as a result the success of the event was not apparent until after it had begun, without the earlier promotion the Crystal Palace may have laid bare. As support for the Exhibition grew, the objectives that the event served extended in scope. The primary intention of improving the aesthetic design of industrial goods was simultaneously associated with the promotion of free trade, the glorification of industry, the strengthening of the monarchy and education. Such aims stemmed from what can only be described as a contemporary agenda. The aspirations for the Exhibition were progressive, and it was imperative that it was seen to be avant-garde. The engineering feat of the Crystal Palace and ingenuity of British invention was to be documented globally, to create a national identity for Victorian Britain and its Empire.

14. John R. Davis, The Great Exhibition, (Stroud, Sutton Publishing, 1999) p. ix 15. ibid., ix

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Figure 2.10 George Cruikshank’s, All the world going to see the Great Exhibition of 1851

12


National Identity - The image of the Great Exhibition and Britain Every society wishes to form a global image of itself, in order to maintain and promote political power, trade and a coherent social identity. There are certain occasions which can serve as focal points for debating such issues of national identity namely, fairs and festivals. The Great Exhibition of 1851, which was the first international industrial exhibition and the first world fair was no exception.16 It was displayed as a symbol of prosperity, progress and peace in the emergence of an industrial middle class. However it is important to challenge that notion, as the Crystal Palace became a cultural battlefield with different views on industrialisation and modernisation, as the nation fought for ascendency in the struggle for a new national zeitgeist. The exhibition inspired many books, magazines and journals, including Henry Mayhew’s comic novel 1851; The adventures of Mr and Mrs Sandboys and

family. Mayhew’s sketches and illustrations, are exceptionally representative of how many Britons saw the Great Exhibition. The Crystal Palace (see figure 2.10) was placed at the pinnacle of the world, demonstrating Britain’s power and wealth, and below this symbolic building in order of hierarchy were the other nations that exhibited. To the left of the illustration, America is characterised by vessels bringing people to visit the exhibition, whilst on the right there are, pyramids and camels symbolically representative of visitors from Africa. Asia sits at the bottom with elephants and Indian architecture, whilst the Union Jack flag flutters on top of these structures to demonstrate that it is under British rule. In the novel 1851 the caricaturist George Cruikshank mocks the British view of Empirical dominance over the world, and in doing so he depicts a poignant fact, that these nations were indispensable to the success of the exhibition. However this satirical sketch must be viewed in context. It is true that visitors came from abroad, however the huge numbers inferred by the sketch, paints a false picture, as the vast majority of people came from Britain. Travel to Britain was slow, uncomfortable and the cost was often excessive,17 of the six million that attended only 58,000 foreigners arrived in the country.18 16. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, (London: Verso, 2006) pp. 6-15. 17. John R. Davis, The Great Exhibition, (Stroud, Sutton Publishing, 1999) pp. 177 18. ibid., pp. 177

13


Figure 2.11 George Cruikshank’s, The Dispersion of the Works of all Nations from the Great Exhibition of 1851

Figure 2.12 A hint to the commissioners, Punch 26 April 1851

14


The isolation of Britain as an island only enhanced its image of superiority over other nations, as a successful and entrepreneurial state. F.W.N Bayley (the author and first editor of the Illustrated London News ) emphasised the importance of commerce when he wrote, the exhibition asked all nations to: ‘be a part of Britain, and shake hands

with

British soil.’

commerce...once

on

19

British superiority Freud observed in his 1929 text Civilization

and its Discontents, it is frequently those communities or nations that are closest to each other, culturally or geographically, that engage in feuds and ridicule, exhibiting what he called the ‘narcissism of minor differences’.20 In the case of Britain at the time of the exhibition the two closest nations, culturally and territorially were America and France. The abolishment of slavery was a point of discussion in the mid nineteenth century, as America came under severe criticism across the world for not having abandoned slavery. This was unquestionably used to frustrate the Americans, as Britons would frequently assert their love of freedom and liberty. America was certainly not the only country used by British writers in this oppositional fashion, they also used France to illustrate how the British

Figure 2.13 Exhibition Supplement to The Illustrated London News, May 10, 1851.

government was democratic and the economy based on fundamental principles and private enterprise. Britons were full of pride that the funds for the Crystal Palace were raised from public subscription. Henry Mayhew expressed the view of many when he wrote,

19. F.W.N. Bayley, The Little Folks’ Laughing Library. The Exhibition (London: Darton & Co., 1851) pp. 13-14. 20. Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, ed. James Strachey (New York: W.W. Norton and Co.,1961) pp. 61

15


Figure 2.14 Crossing boundaries, 19th century masquerade ball

Figure 2.15 The Pound and the Shilling, Whoever thought of meeting you here?

16


‘And well may the nation be proud of its Crystal Palace. No other people in the world could have raised such a building - without one shilling being drawn from national resources.’21 These generalisations of countries, not only France and America but also Russia, Italy and Germany were so powerful that it made any rigorous analysis of foreign exhibits very difficult. The displays often gained large amounts of attention in the press, but rarely did they present, for contemporary observers, a representative portrayal of other nations. A month before the Exhibition The Times sympathises with the possibility of American exhibits. ‘The show of “Yankee notions” will be examined with great interest by the public, and we trust not without a kindly feeling towards the exhibitors and towards their struggling industry. After all these are a great and young community sprung from our loins.’22

Mixing of classes The essence of the Exhibition did not lie just in the objects on display, the people were a vital part of the pageant. The number of visitors it attracted outstripped all expectations and as writer of the time John Tallis wrote, ‘The exceeding popularity of the Exhibition eventually became its greatest wonder’23 with more than 50,000 daily visitors,24 it represented an unprecedented cross-section of British society. It was the first mass spectacle that attracted almost every social class, consequentially the Crystal Palace provided an arena where by the privileged were so liberally mixed with their apparent inferiors. There was an anticipation of segregation, but this was short-lived, many expected the wealthier upper classes to avoid weekdays at the Palace, however this was not the case. An engraving (see figure 2.15) featured in Punch, depicts the classes and the masses coexisting at the Exhibition. In a 19th century society, characterised by social segregation, where masquerade balls (see figure 2.14) were one of the

21. Henry Mayhew and George Cruikshank. 1851: or, The adventures of Mr and Mrs Sandboys and family who came up to London to “enjoy themselves”, and to see the Great Exhibition. (London : George Newbold, 1851) 22. Anon, The Great Exhibition, The Times, 1 April, 1852 p. 8 23. Beard & Mayall, Tallis’s History and Description of the Crystal Palace and the Exhibition of the World’s Industry in 1851. (London: John Tallis and Co. 1852) pp. 92 24. Michael Leapman, The World for a Shilling, How The Great Exhibition of 1851 shaped a nation. (London: Headline Book Publishing, 2001) pp. 16

17


Figure 2.16 ‘Manchester in 1851’

Figure 2.17 ‘London in 1851’

18


rare opportunities for different classes to congregate. The Crystal Palace and other festivals and fairs became one of the locations, where all classes could openly coincide. The exhibition coined a term for that period ‘In for a shilling’, ‘Never before in England had there been [such] a mixture of classes [under one roof]‘.

25

For the majority of the opening month of May, the upper classes had the Crystal Palace venue to themselves; as the admission for the weekend following the opening of the exhibition was £1 (equivalent to £110.45 in 2013)26. After that opening weekend the admission dropped to five shillings (£27.61), however this was a distinct deterrent to the lower classes and by May 26th it cost a much more modest shilling (£5.50).27 The Expo was an irrefutable success, as more than six million visitors attended in less than six months.28 Historian Piggott, calculated that the majority, over four million in actual fact, of these visitors used the railways to travel the length and breadth of Britain.29 Without the railways, it would not have been possible to expand the exhibition nationally let alone internationally. The Great Exhibition was in fact the first event that was able to attract such numbers, from all over the nation. Between 1840 and 1852 the growth of rail network was phenomenal, from 550 to 4,800 miles of track.30 Such a contrast in just twelve years is an extraordinary feat, displaying Britain’s industrial and mass engineering prowess (see figures 2.18 & 2.19). The success of the Exhibition did not only act as the impetus for the rapid construction of the railway network in Britain, more significantly it led to the acclaim of Empire and British superiority. This would only last the duration of the Exhibition, however it broke new ground when it set a precedent as the first international fair was born. The Exhibition also left a lasting physical legacy with collection the of museums in South Kensington that still thrive today. 25. Michael Leapman, The World for a Shilling, How The Great Exhibition of 1851 shaped a nation. (London: Headline Book Publishing, 2001) pp. 191 26. Date retrieved 14.38 13/11/2012. http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/education/Pages/inflation/ calculator/flash/default.aspx 27. Jeffrey A. Auerbach, The Great Exhibition of 1851 - A Nation on Display, (London: Yale University, 1999) pp. 147 28. Jan Piggott, Palace of the People: The Crystal Palace at Sydenham 1854-1936, (C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2004) p. 2 29. ibid., p. 2 30. Frank McKenna, The Railway Workers 1840 -1970, (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1980) pp. 23

19


Figure 2.18 Map 1, The railway network in 1840

20


Figure 2.19 Map 2, The railway network in 1852

21


Figure 2.20 Indian Court at the Great Exhibition

Figure 2.21 Turkish Court at the Great Exhibition


Legacy - The Exhibition’s intentions The Exhibition arose out of a chance combination of essentially unrelated circumstances; with a Prince anxious to make his mark; a burgeoning manufacturing industry looking to expand its horizons and indeed the emergence of mass travel; and a world driven by interest that recognised the need for greater levels of international co-operation. The organisers upheld the Exhibition as a tribute to peace, progress and prosperity; to an integration of national society and international relations. However their creation of the Exhibition was still masking underlying concerns, despite their efforts in manifesting such an event, it was still possible to discern a high level of social segregation and incongruous nationalism. While they emphasised that the Exhibition would celebrate Britain’s economic successes, as a matter of fact they organised it to rectify Britain’s commercial insufficiencies. There was a separation between what the event organisers intended the Exhibition to be, how they promoted and publicised it, and how it was actually construed. Due to the nature of the era in the mid-nineteenth century a large amount of the Exhibition’s legacy was initially measured by Britain’s financial success. The exhibition did help to expand international trade relations through forging alliances between nations, a contrast to the satire in Punch which highlighted national divisions. The exposition’s influence on the opening of trade with China and Japan along with the development of colonial resources, demonstrated this through the rise in revenue generated by exports of manufactured goods which rose from £65,756,000 in 1851 to £215,155,000 in 1857.31

Birth of International Fairs Given the success of the first international fair at Hyde Park in 1851, it is not surprising that there were immediate moves to organise other expositions. None of these however had the impact of the original. The Great Exhibition was a dangerous venture that was perceived to be a great success, and due to an element of surprise, this pioneering expo was to subsequently become a future model for world fair’s for many years. In 1862, South 31. Jeffrey A. Auerbach, The Great Exhibition of 1851 - A Nation on Display, (London: Yale University, 1999) pp. 217

23


Figure 2.22 Design for the conversion of the exhibition building into a tower

Figure 2.23 The building committee design for an exhibition building

24


Kensington held the next exposition, once again the event took place in a

Figure 2.24

building specifically constructed for the occasion, only this time it was not

The Brompton Boilers

the ‘Crystal Palace’ but the ‘Brompton Boilers’ (see figure 2.24). Although the building, built out of brick, iron and glass was larger and attracted more visitors than the Exhibition of 1851,32 the venue, nor the contents ever attained the public status of its predecessor. There was nothing visionary or outstanding about the structure, in fact, it bore a striking resemblance to the building committee’s unpopular and aborted plan for 1851 (see figure 2.23).33 Subsequently, the Crystal Palace was re-built and relocated to Sydenham, a London suburb, where it stood until 1936 after which it caught fire causing irreparable damage. Whereas the Great Exhibition was designed to educate British men and women about industrialisation, the Sydenham Crystal Palace was, quite simply, reconstructed to entertain. The rebuilt palace was constructed on an unprecedented scale, covering almost another four and a half million square feet of floor area, and holding an additional three floors of exhibits,34 which increased the size of the structure three-fold. Towards the end of the Nineteenth century this led to exhibitions being held worldwide, primarily in America, these were ambitious events held 32. Michael Leapman, The World for a Shilling, How The Great Exhibition of 1851 shaped a nation. (London: Headline Book Publishing, 2001) pp. 283 33. Jeffrey A. Auerbach, The Great Exhibition of 1851 - A Nation on Display, (London: Yale University, 1999) pp. 215 34. ibid., pp. 200

25


Figure 2.25 The north transept, Crystal Palace, Sydenham, 1857

Figure 2.26 Paris Exhibition 1889, a bird’s-eye view of the Champ de Mars

26


in several buildings across many hundreds of acres. The first was the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial, marking the hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence attracting ten million visitors.35 Whilst in 1893 Chicago hosted the Colombian Exposition which covered a staggering six hundred and eighty-five acres and was visited by over twenty-seven and half million people.36 This exhibition undoubtedly influenced American architecture and design, but it also marked a shift towards entertainment with the introduction of the ferris wheel. This symbolised a change from what began in 1851 as a trade show, to popular amusement fair.

The beginnings of museum and entertainment However on this site more of a lasting physical legacy was born, profits of £186,000 (equivalent to £18,151,990 in 2013)37 from the Great Exhibition, allowed the acquisition of land in South Kensington that was eventually used for the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1852, the Science Museum in 1857, the Royal Albert Hall in 1867 and the Natural History Museums 1881 (See appendix D).38 It also provided the foundation for the Imperial College of Science and Technology built in 1907, expanded along Exhibition Road, fondly known as ‘Albertopolis’.39 The Great Exhibition proved a transitional form, while open to all from the outset it attempted to stratify the masses, by providing different days for different classes of visitors regulated by the price of admission. However in spite of this directive, classes mixed and co-existed. This proved to be a catalyst for the development of public institutions. It also stimulated attendance at London’s main historic sites and museums, for example - visits to the British

Figure 2.27 Architectural proposals of Victoria and Albert Museum by Henry Cole, 1851

35. Kenneth Luckhurst, The Story of Exhibitions, (London: The Studio Publications, 1951) pp. 220 36. ibid., pp. 221 37. Date retrieved 12.18 13/11/2012. http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/education/Pages/inflation/calculator/flash/default.aspx 38. Ijeh, After the party’s over. Building, vol. 277 no. 8724 20 April 2012 pp. 38-42. 39. John R. Davis, The Great Exhibition, (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 1999) p. i

27


Figure 2.28 The Victoria and Albert Museum Lobby, 2012.


Museum, increased from 720,643 in 1851 to 2,230,242 the following year.40 These museums have grown over the past century and a half, each to become world class museums in their own right, and following in a similar vein to the other national British museums, entrance to these facilities have been free since 2001.41 Although no physical legacy can be found in Hyde Park, the Serpentine Gallery which was established in 1970, is world-renowned for its daring, avant-garde exhibitions, which does hold a certain relevance. Without the creation of this cultural and educational district London would be a lesser metropolis, it is the diversity of the permanent collections and their and countless exhibits, originating from the Great Exhibition of 1851 that now attracts so many visitors worldwide to the capital every year. The Great Exhibition was the first of its kind in the world, its impact was unprecedented, influenced by its own success, as it grew in stature as

Figure 2.29 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei, 2012

exhibits continued to arrive to the Exhibition in its final week.42 From the development of international trade relations, to the expansion of the rail network. The Crystal Palace showcased British industry and the achievements of Empire in the mid 19th century. 100 years later there would be a distinct contrast; after two world wars and financial woes, Britain was under pressure to deliver a national recovery. A centenary celebration of the Great Exhibition was in order, however whereas the concerns and aspirations for the 1851 Exhibition largely focused on industry. The Festival was concerned with Britain’s pastoral past, and focused on a positive endeavour to reunite ‘the land and people of Britain’ after years of industrial upheaval and recent conflict.

40. Richard Altick, The Shows of London, (Mass: Harvard University Press, 1978) pp. 467 41. Date retrieved 22:45 07/12/2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15979878 42. John R. Davis, The Great Exhibition, (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 1999) pp. 164

29


Figure 3.1

Figure 2. Figure 1 2.1


‘It may have taught the men who are building our cities something. It may have given impetus to new building here in Britain. But for ordinary people it was fun.’ Hugh Casson, Brief City, 1952.

Chapter Two

South Bank Exhibition: A Beacon for Change

31


Figure 3.2 Bird’s-eye perspective of the South Bank Exhibition site, The Illustrated London News, May 12, 1951.

32


33


Figure 3.3 The Skylon with Dome of Discovery in the foreground


Aspirations - Promoting British produce, post war celebration In 1943, the Royal Society of Arts, urged the government to begin to plan an exhibition similar to the Great Exhibition, which would commemorate its centenary in 1951.1 At this time Britain was still at war, essential to this proposal was faith that the country and its allies would win the war and socially and economically recover enough to stage such an event in 1951. It was an optimistic view, but two years after in September 1945 with the war over, preparations began. The president of the Board of Trade advocated a trade and cultural exhibition to commemorate the centennial of the Great Exhibition and promote British products. The celebration of the Exhibition a century later may have served as the impetus, but it was clear a commemoration was the last matter on the agenda for the festival. Rather than a memorial to the Great Exhibition of 1851, it became a celebration of the achievements of the Labour government and a demonstration of Britain’s recovery from the Second World War. After years of hardship during the war, the festival aimed to unite the nation’s spirits, while exploring the ideas of Britishness through art, design, science and industry. Images of the ‘Skylon’2 were sent globally, its iconography

the truth of post war Britain. By the end of the Second World War, three million homes had been destroyed,3 and as in 1851 inequalities in healthcare and education were a major concern. Modern Britain was on its knees. Organisers agreed that at this time of uncertainty after the anguish and devastation of the war years while rebuilding the nation, Britain needed a celebration of its people and achievements. Social historian Becky Conekin coherently describes the nature of the Festival; ‘The Festival of Britain was simultaneously a public celebration,

democratic national community.’

4

1. Basil Taylor, The Festival of Britain, 1951 (London: HMSO, 1951) pp. 12 2. A competition was held to name the elegant icon, Mrs Sheppard Fidler, the wife of the chief architect of the Crawley Development Corp, who combined the words ‘skyhook’ and ‘nylon’ to come up with Skylon. 3. Harriet Atkinson, The Festival of Britain - A Land and its people, (London: I.B. Tauris & Co Limited, 2012) pp. 158 4. Becky Conekin, The Autobiography of a Nation - The 1951 Festival of Britain, (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2003) p. 9

Chapter Two

an educational undertaking, and a constructed vision of a new,

South Bank Exhibition: A Beacon for Change

attempted to encapsulate the hope of a nation, its sculptural form masking

35


Figure 3.4 Figure 3.5 Map of London in 1951

Site map of the South Bank Exhibition


The Festival personified the post-war British ideal of universal access to and understanding of culture; after the war, the ‘people’s war’, there were attempts to push forward leisure and culture. With Labour in power, just months after World War II ended, their policies were to focus over the next five years upon ‘the people’. Martin Francis who explores the socialist background of the Labour government at the time of the Festival in Ideas

and Policies Under Labour 1945-51, suggests that the government was; ‘concerned with ... an improvement of the “quality of life” in its widest sense, and not merely with questions of economic power and material improvement’.

5

Such principles were embodied in the summer of 1945, by economist Lord John Maynard Keynes’s arrangement of a state-funded Arts Council. The Labour government programmes of economic intervention and social welfare, were showcased by the festival, which sought to contribute to this project of cultivating the nation’s taste through cultural education.

Fragile Britain - Designed to showcase economic resurgence Although Britain had won two world wars, the Cold War had commenced almost as soon as the Second World War ended. Wartime shortages and, in many respects, rationing and other economic controls became more severe, the onset of the recession in America in 1949 wiped out much of Britain’s earlier economic growth.6 As a consequence, the pound was devalued against the dollar by over 40%7, there was a feeling of national fragility, partially due to the slow realisation that Britain was no longer a great world power. Since the war a number of developments emphasised the contradictions inherent in national identity and culture; consequently challenging the meanings of the symbols of Britishness. Namely, the British Empire - one of the forces that had brought Britain together and successfully carried the Great Exhibition forward a century before, encouraged the four nations of the United Kingdom to think of themselves as British, but by 1951 it had almost dissipated.

5. Martin Francis, Ideas and Policies Under Labour, (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1997) pp. 57 6. Trevor May, Great Exhibitions. (Oxford: Shire Publications, 2010.) pp. 43 7. ibid,. pp. 43

37


Rise Riseand andFall Fallof ofBritish British Empire Empire 1851 - 1990 18

16

14

Millions of square miles

12

10

8

6

4

2

0 1851

1861

1871

1891

1901

1911

1920

Year

1930

1940

1950

1960

1970

1980

1990

Figure 3.6

Figure 3.7 View along the Piazza to Whitehall Court by Gordon Cullen, 1951

38


The

Festival

demonstrate

was the

an

event

economic

designed

to

resurgence

of

Britain, whilst attempting to rebuild national pride by stimulating national wealth through tourism. The Festival’s strategy towards tourism was clearly significant, and is why it conceived and created local events in many different sites across the United Kingdom. In total a countrywide programme was developed, that stretched across the land and included events in 17,000 towns and villages across Britain (see appendix C).8 Once again Punch gave an insightful look into the underlying issues of Britain’s woes and the Festival’s agenda, in the form of a poem. Beginning with the lines ‘Come local bodies, one and all unite - To make our village greens a gladsome sight!’.9 However

Figure 3.8

as ever the satirical publication revealed the true intention of the public

Map of Britain displaying the numerous locations of other festivals over the nation

event; ‘But let it be your special aim to please - the people pouring in from overseas’.

10

The poem continued to play on the notion that not only should

Britain act as if their economy was booming, but to draw on the image of a pastoral Britain, to encourage and entertain foreign visitors during the summer months of the Festival. To publicise the Festival, buses travelled through Europe,11 with ‘God save the Queen’ and ‘Rule Britannia’ blasting from mounted speakers. This was perhaps not the most sensitive method of promoting the Festival, and consequently only 3,500 Germans were ever recorded visiting the 1951 Festival.12

National display Furthermore whilst the Festival had an ambition to attract overseas tourists, 8. Charlotte Mullins, A Festival on the River - The Story of South Bank Centre, (London: Penguin Books, 2007) pp. 47 9. Anon, The Bouverie Street Exhibition, The Festival of Punch April 30, 1951 pp. 6 10. ibid., pp. 6 11. Mary, Banham, A Tonic to the Nation: The Festival of Britain 1951, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1976.) pp. 70 12. Becky Conekin, The Autobiography of a Nation - The 1951 Festival of Britain, (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2003) pp. 30

39


Figure 3.9 The Illustrated London News Festival of Britain Special, May 12, 1951


it did not represent foreign nations, the Festival was: ‘a national display illustrating the British contribution to civilisation, past, present and future, in the arts, in science and technology and industrial design’.13 After the war the Labour government established the Ramsden Committee to investigate the possibility of London hosting a international fair in order to improve British exports.14 Whilst the government accepted the committee’s proposal of an exhibition, it did not agree with the idea of an international fair as it was deemed too expensive, and not in line with planned post-war reconstruction. Quite simply there was a lack of funding available, Britain was in a time of austerity and the British taxpayers would be adversed to spending any large amount of public money on such an event. In any case, the Empire was in decline and the decision to host a smaller event appealed to the nation, this also marked a departure from the large-scale state funded exhibitions seen in the West from the nineteenth century. This national display as with previous exhibitions provided the public with an opportunity to glimpse into the future, through exhibits that promoted a modern life and a new dawn for the nation. It was an attempt to manifest a view of Britain from the past and future, through pleasure and education, with the Dome of Discovery as its showpiece, Ian Cox, author of the Festival guide argued that ‘British initiative in exploration and discovery is as strong today as ever it was’.

15

Whilst the dome contained the best of British invention and enterprise, the surrounding pavilions were dedicated to the land, agriculture, mining and industry, that would tell the story of Britain. The South Bank Exhibition’s narrative was told, through a chronological display of selected periods of British heritage - a ‘timeless past’. This is explored further in the final chapter, and investigates how the South Bank Exhibition was structured to achieve its desired ‘festival narrative’, a story which would embody British national identity. 13. Herbert Morrison, proposals regarding the 1951 Exhibition, 1947 14. Date retrieved 16:55 19/11/2012. http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/written_answers/1946/ mar/04/exhibitions-ramsden-committee. 15. Barry Turner, A Beacon for Change, How the 1951 Festival of Britain Shaped the Modern Age, (London, Aurum Press Limited, 2011.) pp. 52

41


Figure 3.10

Figure 3.11

Land of Britain map and entrance by Jim Cadbury Brown

Land of People map and entrance by Jim Cadbury Brown

42


National Identity - Rebranding Character Jim Cadbury-Brown (1913 - 2009), a key figure in British modernism, designed two major pavilions at the Festival of Britain, the Land of Britain and People of Britain (see figures 3.10 & 3.11). These were located along the festival’s main esplanade, a route studded with runway landing lights and

Figure 3.12 Drawing of the initial design for the international exposition on the South Bank

‘flame fountains’ at the end.16 Through these, he explained, ‘you created a kind of identity with them’. 17 For festival organisers and designers, this focus on the landscape and identity of place did not suggest narrow-mindedness, engaged with reconstructing urban modernity. Instead they were setting the scene for people to reconnect with their damaged land, to help the public forget the harrowing experiences and the deprivations of warfare. They provided a glimpse of the time before war and industry had defaced the land, while showing a vision of a new fascinating future. At the time of the Great Exhibition of 1851 Britain was in a period of great 16. James Dunnet, Jim Cadbury-Brown was a key figure in British modernism, Architects’ Journal, Vol. 230, No. 3 (July 16, 2009) pp. 10 17. Richard Weight, Patriots - National Identity in Britain 1940-2000, (London: Macmillian, 2002) pp. 158

43


Figure 3.13 The way to go round, THE DOME

Figure 3.14 Chichley Street Gate and Signage in the New Schools Pavilion

44


supremacy and power, whereas a century later Britain in 1951 was at a time of political and social turmoil; and although the Festival did hark back to its predecessor in terms of display, it was a very different event. The 1851 Exhibition was officially named ‘The Exhibition of the Works of Industry

of All Nations’,

18

which sought to represent the world and its products

in London. An outward approach encouraging nations to integrate and promote their produce, the Empire was to represent the entire world with London at the centre. On the other hand the 1951 Festival, was an isolated account encapsulating tales of strength and imagination. This circumscribed approach was unsurprising nevertheless, such an inward attitude and a focus on domestic issues was expected, social historian Martin Daunton argued that:

‘The Britain of 1951 still had more in common with the ‘insular capitalism’ of the 1930s than the global economy of the second half of the nineteenth century’.

19

This national celebration rather than an Imperial or international exhibition, would ignore its ties with the rest of world, Britishness was solely expressed. The view articulated at the Festival was social, democratic, classless and egalitarian, achieving unity through an acceptance of diversity and by balancing an ancient past with a modern future.20 Decolonisation, after the war for many indicated a loss of British influence and prestige, by the early 1950s the retreat from Empire had already begun and with Labour in power, the Empire was no longer an appropriate or comfortable foundation around which to build British national identity.21

Figure 3.15 French depiction British National Character in Punch May, 1951

18. David Eldon Hall, Condensed history of the origination: rise, progress and completion of the ‘Great Exhibition of the Industry of all Nations’, (New York, 1852) p. 1 19. Martin Daunton, Wealth and Welfare - An Economic and Social History of Britain 1851-1951, (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007) pp. 609 20. ibid., pp. 615 21. Becky Conekin, The Autobiography of a Nation - The 1951 Festival of Britain, (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2003) pp. 30

45


Figure 3.16 Interior of the Dome of Discovery by Ralph Tubbs


The war had provided Britain with an opportunity to rebrand its character, although financially crippled, the identity of the nation was restructured through the years of war that brought the nation closer together. In ‘The

autobiography of a nation’ Conekin quotes Alison Light’s Forever England who believed the war had given. ‘A new heroic stage for a British people not only seen, not as a race of empire builders ... but, rather as an essentially unassuming nation, peaceable by temperament, who wanted nothing better than a quiet life’.

22

Post war national unity This change due to the war had made a profound difference, and a powerful new sense of national unity was born. The festival encapsulated this moment, the predominant Imperial representation once displayed, was replaced with a domestic and everyday representation of the people. The Festival emphasised the notion of unity, which was ubiquitous throughout the war, this bringing together of people was a consequence of freedom and tradition. Britain’s ‘unity through diversity’

23

was one of the themes

of the Festival whilst the accompanying travelling and ‘regional’ exhibitions were attempts to simultaneously construct and bolster that notion.24 ‘If we British do not deserve to show off and enjoy ourselves, then who in the name of thunder in this mad world does deserve it? We have fought the two worst wars in history from beginning to end we have been burned, blasted and battered: We have pawned scraped and queued up patiently for all manner of scrag-ends: we have set the world an example of public spirit, tolerance, self discipline and patience so by Jupiter either there must be no enjoyment in this world, which is ridiculous, or we British are now entitled to our own slice of it. So - on with the Festival!’ 25 J.B. Priestley May 1951 22. Alison Light, Forever England, (London: Routledge, 2001) pp. 154 23. Harriet Atkinson, The Festival of Britain - A Land and its people, (London: I.B. Tauris & Co Limited, 2012) pp. 131 24. Becky Conekin, The Autobiography of a Nation - The 1951 Festival of Britain, (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2003) pp. 117 25. Richard Weight, Patriots - National Identity in Britain 1940-2000, (London: Macmillian, 2002) pp. 204

47


Figure 3.17 Ladies arriving at the Festival of Britain concourse

48


Although broadly related to previous world fair’s, the Festival focused on ‘exploration and discovery’ rather than the exchange of values and trade.26 The exhibits were distilled to install a sense of a social significance and a modern future, to address the public and ‘develop’ their taste, as a socially responsible nation. The ‘continuous, interwoven story’

27

produced a focal

point for its perceptions of unities and diversities in the land. It was a circumlocutory narrative which promoted a new, concept of a classless citizen.28

Scandinavian influence - The 1930 Stockholm Exhibition A large cohort of the Festival’s planners were influenced by the Stockholm Exhibition of 1930, it’s modernist, social democratic exhibition was clearly a model for the South Bank Exhibition in London. Reyner Banham (1922 - 1988), an architectural critic, stated that the Festival of Britain was indebted to its Scandinavian predecessor.29 The withdrawal from the nineteenth century model of international exhibitions was first seen in the Stockholm Exhibition and consequently followed in the 1951 Festival. This was also apparent in terms of the way national imagery was concurrent to international pretence. The originality of the previously discussed structure of the ‘narrative exhibition’,30 where visitors were instructed to navigate the Festival was boasted in the Festival guide, claiming it was ‘something new in exhibitions’.31 However this format was not unique, the Stockholm Exhibition was arguably a template for the structure of the South Bank Exhibition, which was later aptly coined ‘The autobiography of a nation’.

32

Jessica

Holland’s doctoral thesis, quotes Swedish writer Ivar Lo-Johansson, his description encapsulates for Stockholm what the 1951 Festival organisers 26. Barry Curtis. ‘One Continuous Interwoven Story (The Festival of Britain)’. Block no. 11, 1985/86. pp. 48 27. Ian Cox, Festival of Britain Guide (London, HMSO. 1951) pp. 4 28. Barry Curtis . ‘One Continuous Interwoven Story (The Festival of Britain)’. Block no. 11, 1985/86. pp. 48 29. Reyner Banham, “The Style: Flimsy ... Effeminate?”, in M. Banham and B. Hillier (eds.), A Tonic to the Nation: the Festival of Britain, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1976) pp. 191 30. Mary Banham, A Tonic to the Nation: The Festival of Britain 1951, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1976.) pp. 78 31. Ian Cox, Festival of Britain Guide (London, HMSO. 1951) p. 4 32. Becky Conekin, The Autobiography of a Nation - The 1951 Festival of Britain, (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2003) pp. 1

49


Figure 3.18 Poster advertising the Stockholm Exhibition, 1930

Figure 3.19 Promenade and Pavilions, Stockholm Exhibition, 1930.


were attempting to achieve: ‘I was strolling down the main street of the great 1930 Stockholm Exhibition. It was summer and tremendously hot. The sun of a new decade shone down on my head. A whole new city of steel, glass and concrete stood on what had been an empty plain.’

33

The Stockholm Exhibition represented Sweden and the prowess of other Nordic countries, to the envy of social and cultural radicals in Britain. These small nations held a firm economic base in homogenous societies and as a result were in a far superior position to demonstrate the liberating force of modern design.34 The South Bank Exhibition looked to emulate this Nordic culture, as the exhibits provided visitors with an opportunity to see modern commodities. Although, the Festival Style did not achieve the magnitude of success of Scandinavian design35, British homes certainly benefitted from the originality of the 1950s Festival design. Furniture was not the only product to emanate from the Festival its positive effect on society was a tipping point in British History.

33. Ivar Lo-Johansson, cited by Holland, J., An English Sensibility: The Architecture of Oliver Hill, (Unpublished Doctoral Thesis, University of Portsmouth, 2011.) pp. 175 34. ibid., pp. 238 35. Barry Turner, A Beacon for Change, How the 1951 Festival of Britain Shaped the Modern Age. (London, Aurum Press Limited, 2011.) pp. 239

51


Figure 3.20 The Skylon and Dome of Discovery at night

52


Legacy - A Festival Style After the Festival closed the organiser Gerald Barry (1898 - 1968) reflected on its nationwide events. The Festival had given the British public a chance to see new shapes and unfamiliar colours. He believed ‘Contemporary’ design to be the overriding legacy of style at the South Bank.36 Contemporary denotes a clean, modern design associated with the modern movement of the 1920s and 1930s in Britain and America. The Festival of Britain had brought contemporary design squarely into the public’s perception. Architects had attempted to show through the design and layout of the South Bank site what could be achieved by applying modern town planning ideas. The architecture combined modernism37 with Englishness and whimsically inclined architecture, interior design, product design and typography. ‘While architecture languished in Great Britain during

the

war,

exhibitions,

Government-

sponsored as a propaganda medium, attracted to themselves the flattering attention of architectural critics whose judgement was perhaps influenced by the lack of other new building with which the talents of the exhibition designers could be compared.’

38

Misha Black, Exhibition Design, 1950 The Architectural Review hailed the South Bank as ‘the first modern townscape’, an ‘Exhibition as Landscape’ realising the best principles of reconstruction.39 Writer Barry Curtis argued

Figure 3.21

in Block that the festival could be seen as an event where design was

Colourful sculptures were used to mask the surrounding warehouses of the South Bank

intimately, and with some consistency, related to proposals about how society should be ordered and how people could reside, and contribute to 36. Harriet Atkinson, The Festival of Britain - A Land and its people, (London: I.B. Tauris & Co Limited, 2012) pp. 193 37. The Royal Festival Hall was seen as the first building of the modernist movement in Britain, the Festival’s commissioning architect, Hugh Casson, took the decision to appoint only young architects. 38. Harriet Atkinson, The Festival of Britain - A Land and its people, (London: I.B. Tauris & Co Limited, 2012) pp. 34 39. J.M. Richards, N. Pevsner, I. McCallum & H. de C. Hastings ‘South Bank Exhibition’ Architectural Review, vol. 110 no. 656 August. 1951. pp. 70

53


Figure 3.22 Sculpture formed part of the entrance to the Lansbury Live Architecture Exhibition

Figure 3.23 The Lansbury Exhibition of Architecture site map

54


a new community.40 Although the South Bank exuded the ‘Festival Style’, it was the Exhibition of Architecture at Lansbury, East London, that truly displayed this notion of shaping a society. Lansbury showed a new model community with mixed houses and flats (see figure 3.23), named after the former Labour Leader and local MP. Standing out from the new Lansbury harmony was ‘Gremlin Grange’, a how-not-todo-it house, with crooked mock-Tudor frontage and unscientific demeanour.41 The Festival has been subject to a variety of readings, but the broader message was of movement into a new world under the guidance of those whom Owen Gavin and Andy Lowe term ‘heroes of the social democratic age’.42 A new generation of planners, designers and architects, who were figures of rationality that could lift public authority design above sectional interest.43

After the ball is over - From desolate decay to the cultural lifeblood of London The Festival’s first intention according to Harold Nicolson a politician at the time, was ‘to dissipate the gloom that hung like a pea-soup above the head

Figure 3.24 Lansbury, Poplar advertising ‘See London’s new neighbourhood growing

of the generation of 1951’.44 It would seem that from the accounts of people that danced to the music, and embraced the arts and culture of the Festival, its colour and light certainly brought that vision to fruition. Along with the regional and nationwide travelling exhibitions it brought ‘the people’ a carnival like celebration, able to leave those post-war years behind. After the exposition ended however, within a few months and with Winston 40. Barry Curtis . ‘One Continuous Interwoven Story (The Festival of Britain)’. Block no. 11, 1985. pp .49 41. Anon, A Survey of Lansbury’s ‘Live’ Architecture, Architects’ Journal vol. 104 no. 598 September 6 1951. pp. 277 42. Gavin & Lowe, ‘Designing desire, Planning, Power - The Festival of Britain’. Block no. 11, 1985. pp. 65 43. ibid.,.pp. 65 44. Becky Conekin, The Autobiography of a Nation - The 1951 Festival of Britain, (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2003) pp. 117

55


Figure 3.25 Festival signage lies in the scrapyard

56


Churchill’s conservative government back in power, the demolition and clearance of the South Bank became an urgent matter.45 The flags were taken down and fountains switched off, with each individual pavilion carefully demolished to ensure money could be saved, as their materials were sold on. Subsequent to this demolition a solitary building was left; the London County Council’s Royal Festival Hall, which stood now in a desolate, and sparse environment. The Times reported that the South Bank site presented a ‘dismal picture of neglect and decay’.46 A circular crater was left after the Dome was demolished, with its sole purpose to be used for parking by County Hall employees.47 Calls for a culture-led revival of the South Bank were to come up against the conservative establishment, for whom the arts were a costly indulgence with no hope of a political come back. Therefore it was not until 1955 that London County Council took the decision to build a second concert hall and an art gallery on the South Bank. The ‘Festival style’ it seemed was short lived, as it was immediately apparent that the latest trends in architectural thinking were reflected in the design of the two new buildings. With its emphasis on cast concrete and monumental solidity, Brutalism had reached the South Bank.48 The Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room designed by London County Council (LCC) opened in 1967, at a cost of £2.7 million, shortly after in 1968 the Hayward Gallery by the LCC was opened. However unlike the concert halls, the Hayward was designed in uneasy partnership with the Arts Council of Great Britain.

Figure 3.26

45. Harriet Atkinson, The Festival of Britain - A Land and its people, (London: I.B. Tauris & Co Limited, 2012) pp. 190 46. Anon, South Bank, The Times, 1 October 1951 pp. 12

Aerial view of the South Bank Exhibition after the Festival in 1952

47. Barry Turner, A Beacon for Change, How the 1951 Festival of Britain Shaped the Modern Age. (London, Aurum Press Limited, 2011.) pp. 52 48. Charlotte Mullins, A Festival on the River - The Story of South Bank Centre, (London: Penguin Books, 2007) pp. 49

57


Figure 3.27 Queen Elizabeth Hall and Hayward Gallery

58


Physical legacy - Southbank strip The apprehension of these Brutalist structures has never completely been dispelled but with time, as the realisation of this edifying complex of artistic venues came to fruition. These buildings could be said to have manifested out of the Festival’s agenda for taste, it’s modernist programme in design, art and architecture aimed to encourage people of all ages to learn about and consume well designed modern artefacts.49 There can be no doubt of the effects of the 1951 Exhibition on the South Bank and the national taste of the public, as an editor on the Architects’ Journal emphasised: ‘The first full scale example of modern architecture doing a popular job ... for the very first time in history it is trying to create a still greater thing than architecture, a modern Background, a twentieth century urban environment’

50

The Festival of Britain was the first instance of culture publicised as urban regeneration, and although all but one of its buildings have disappeared, its legacy has proved unexpectedly enduring. Primarily Britain’s glimpse into the future, brought about a change in social activity which encouraged people to partake in ‘culture’ during their free time. This consequently improved their taste in surroundings, stimulating arts and entertainment, with the Royal Festival Hall being the most notable physical legacy. The concert hall played a key role in the introduction of modern architecture to the British Public, it was more than just a concert hall with internal and external public spaces creating social places in their own right. Today the South Bank is seen as one of the largest cultural quarters in any capital city across the world, no longer is the industrial riverside connected to the lifeblood of London, the Thames. Now this edifying promenade stretches from the giant Ferris wheel of the London Eye (1999), to the Tate Modern (2000), the busiest Modern Art Museum in the World.51 I would argue that the legacy of the Festival today is understated, for without the events of 1951 the Thames would not be enriched by such a diverse array 49. Becky Conekin, “Here is the Modern World Itself”, in G. Lees-Maffei and R. Houze (eds.), The Design History Reader, (New York: Berg, 2010) pp. 146 50. Maxwell Fry, “1951- Everything from townscape to tea” Architects’ Journal, Vol. 179, 27 June 1984. pp. 92 51. The Times. 24 April 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2012.

59


Figure 3.28 Flags and viewing stations hang over the river Thames

60


of creative arts buildings and institutes. Had it not, London authorities plans were for office buildings on the South Bank site. It must be said the public were given a vision of the future which took them beyond the daily anxieties of war. The Festival made Britons aware that design was for everyday living, and that the arts need not be elitist and that technology was stronger in promise than in threat.52 The Festival was seen as a beacon for change, and although in terms of design the Festival’s legacy was ephemeral, it’s true contribution on the South Bank is there for all to see.

Figure 3.29 Sketch of the Hayward Gallery, by Kenneth Browne 52. Barry Turner, A Beacon for Change, How the 1951 Festival of Britain Shaped the Modern Age. (London, Aurum Press Limited, 2011.) pp. 258

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Figure 4.1

Figure 4.1


‘The brief demanded a narrative exhibition, a story to be told in proper sequence chapter by chapter, pavilion by pavilion’ Hugh Casson, 1951.

Chapter Three

Design at the Exhibition and Festival: Empire to Pride

63


Figure 4.2


Figure 4.3 Main entrance to the Crystal Palace


100 years of design - Empire to Pride The Great Exhibition of 1851 and the 1951 Festival of Britain portray two differing national identities, the formed based on Empire the latter on National Pride. The Great Exhibition showcased Britain in a progressive imperial light, a trade fair championing British Empire and Imperial society. While the Festival of Britain told a story of British pride, and in 1951 Britain turned its back on the Empire as well as Europe. This was a momentous decision, but an inevitable one, as the Empire was soon to disappear. Instead of dwelling on Empire, the Festival of Britain looked to a deep rooted ‘timeless past’1 - in other words, a display that would remember the

new future.

Crystal Palace - Opulence and Imperial wonder The Festival of Britain can be seen in stark contrast to the Great Exhibition which was the venue for glorification of Imperial power. The elevation of the British Empire could be seen from the grandeur of the exterior down to the ornate detailing of the interior. Almost everywhere flowers and palm trees were planted, which emphasised the day lighting and gave the entire building a cool and exotic feel.2 The height of the building and its sense of altered reality, was underlined by the presence of a full grown elm tree kept from Hyde Park and by a blue and white colour scheme that enhanced the sensation of stature within the building. The transept was used to form a frame of reference for the visitor, an attempt to impress guests with the importance of artistic design. Previous discussions about the layout had resulted in the more artistic exhibits being moved towards the aisles to give them prominence.3 The transept was, in

eminence as a forum. This cut through the north to south arrangement of machines, industrial produce and raw materials, creating a grand vista which ran from the centre of the building outwards.

1. Trevor May, Great Exhibitions. (Oxford: Shire Publications, 2010.) pp. 49 2. John R. Davis, The Great Exhibition, (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 1999) pp. 136 3. ibid., pp. 137

Chapter Three

effect, the most important aisle and the building’s arch magnified its pre-

100 years of design at the Exhibition and Festival: Empire to Pride

history of Britain beyond its recent woes, in order to prepare for a bright

67


Figure 4.4 Figure 4.5 Pugin’s medieval court at the Crystal Palace

The Indian tent at the Crystal Palace


The Crystal Palace was split in half, with British exhibits one side and those of Empire and the rest of the world on the other. Through the west transept the emphasis was entirely on British produced goods and exhibits, this overwhelming array of displays was not only a symbol towards Imperialism but also to remedy and promote British trade, to showcase British power and reinforce existing relationships with the rest of the world.4 The British and colonial side of the building, had a continuous vista that stretched nine hundred feet through to the western entrance, this was flanked either side by first floor galleries.5 From the galleries, the emblems and flags of British localities were displayed over the balcony, whilst from the roof, above the galleries, hung carpets and textiles of all shades and colours were suspended. This not only maximised the use of space, but also cut down the glare of sunlight and gave a heraldic impression to the British exhibits. Owen Jones (1809-1874), a London-born architect of Welsh descent, was approached by Prince Albert to carry out the interior decoration of the 1851 Great Exhibition building. After Jones wrote to twenty architects and designers asking for their input and suggestions, there was no consensus in response to interior layout of the Crystal Palace so consequently Jones planned his own scheme.6 Jones’s proposal for the interior was a vibrant colour scheme using only primary colours, his plan was controversial and caused much debate. Jones argued that the use of red, yellow and blue, derived from his belief that during all great periods of art only the primary colours were used.7 The interior of the Crystal Place was much loved by all its visitors and was enhanced by other prominent characters of the 19th century, namely A.W.N. Pugin. A key element to the display of exhibits at the Exhibition was the separation of the British exhibits from its counterparts. Lavish rooms, courts and halls were interspersed through the Crystal Palace. Dividing the colonial exhibits from the domestic British stands, on the south of the main aisle was the British Sculpture Room, and on the north Pugin’s Medieval Court. 4. Jeffrey A. Auerbach, The Great Exhibition of 1851 - A Nation on Display, (London: Yale University, 1999) pp. 133 5. John R. Davis, The Great Exhibition, (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 1999) p. 138 6. Date retrieved 21:05 11/01/2013. http://www.architecture.com/LibraryDrawingsAndPhotographs/ Albertopolis/TheStoryOf/GreatExhibition/ProminentCharacters.aspx 7. ibid.

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Figure 4.6 ‘Inside the Crystal Palace’

70


Pugin’s rationale was to showcase the products of skilled craftsmanship for comparison with those made using the new mass-production methods celebrated in other exhibits. On one side were ecclesiastical ornaments, and the other domestic furniture and tapestries, all in the Gothic revival style that future generations would identify with Victorian taste and which Pugin set out in 1841 in The True Principles of Christian or Pointed Architecture. This combined display of machinery and invention with highly decorated rooms and court interiors, was prevalent throughout the Great Exhibition. ‘The public will bear in mind that on a first visit to the Exhibition, little or nothing can be seen in detail of its marvellous contents. The mind and the eye have both enough to do in comprehending the general design and in becoming familiar with the coup d’oeil of the interior.‘

8

The Times, 23 May 1851.

Crystal Palace - Global competition The use of symmetry in the Crystal Place was clearly evident in its structure; this however gave the building a configuration for exhibitors and nations to exploit. On the ground floor, stands jutted out into the path through the building, every few steps, passages led off to either side into a diverse range of displays. With four fountains that marked intersections in the planning of the Crystal Palace, these not only echoed the effect of the transept but provided a point of orientation for visitors to understand the vast scale of the building. Where the transept had focused exclusively on art, the main avenue considered the wider discussion with the Exhibition’s supporters, here, science, commerce, education and art were all honoured and their union promoted.9 The displays in the main avenue often acted as marker points, indicating a exhibit which might lead off to a gallery space or court. The main avenue would represent the culmination of many corresponding side displays, providing visitors with a glimpse of what the exhibits might be.10

8. Anon, The Great Exhibition, The Times, 23 May 1851 pp. 8 9. John R. Davis, The Great Exhibition, (Stroud, Sutton Publishing, 1999) p. 138 10. ibid., p. 138

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Figure 4.7 French sculptures at the Great Exhibition, 1851

72


Of the many foreign nations to exhibit at the Great Exhibition the French were the largest contributors, their displays ranged across a large section of the building. This layout metaphorically reflected the importance of industry and aesthetic aptitude for France. Perhaps because of its experience in staging exhibitions11, the French arguably held the most focused and successful section of all the competing nations. To the south end of the French section, held two small galleries which concentrated visitor minds on the luxury goods for which it was recognised: clothing, silks, shawls, jewellery, bronzes and furniture.12 Back towards the transept, a special court (see figure 4.8) had been created to display the prestigious manufacturers of the Gobelins and Beauvais tapestry production.13 One

characteristic

immediately

caught

that the

attention of many in the French display; in particular with

comparison

to

the

British contribution, was its overwhelming emphasis on quality of design rather than cheapness

of

production.

The Royal Commission had allotted duties for the French to display an artistic prowess in their exhibits, as a result the British manufacturers were brought face

Figure 4.8

to face with France’s superior strength in artistic design. As the Official

The Gobelins Room, the heart of French aesthetic prowess

Catalogue observed regarding the French exhibits: ‘Wherever these admit of the introduction of a design, even in the commonest articles, there the peculiar and graceful indications of artistic feeling, which render the patterns produced popular, even among those who may not be able to recognise the cause of their harmony, are manifest.’

14

11. J. A. Auerbach & P. H. Hoffenberg, Britain, the Empire, and the World at the Great Exhibition of 1851, (Aldershot, Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2008) pp. 89 12. John R. Davis, The Great Exhibition, (Stroud, Sutton Publishing, 1999) pp. 138 13. ibid., pp. 138 14. Anon, France Catalogue (1851) Volume iii, pp. 345

73


Figure 4.9 ‘British industry and manufacture’

74


There was a distinct difference between the French and British industries at the Great Exhibition, the French were focused on quality of design, while the British were primarily concerned with cheapness of production. Paradoxically these two powerful nations held fundamentally different social backgrounds to their means of manufacture, France known for its democratic society and Britain for its aristocracy. The Times reflected this widely held view when it found much of the British furniture clumsy and vulgar compared with that from other parts of the world. While it was undoubtedly solid and well constructed, but it lacked an elegance of design. ‘It is as well that things should be made to last and stand wear and tear, but durability combined with unsightliness is an infliction sincerely to be deprecated.’15 The exhibits were not arranged in any definite classification, as the heavy exhibits and machinery had to be positioned on the ground floor, due to weight restrictions and the use of electricity was constrained to the main floor.16 This lack of organisation created a confusing display of products and exhibits, the result was a great deal of aimless (even if pleasant) wandering. However fascinatingly like the Festival of Britain there was the beginning of a prescribed route, if only due to the position of the sun. The Crystal Palace was orientated to ensure the maximum amount of sunlight would shine through its numerous glass panes, throughout opening hours visitors were advised to follow the path of the sun through the east transept to the west.17 The Great Exhibition offered a venue for participating nations to collaborate, compete and strengthen international trade relations. In conclusion, there were many influences at work with regard to how the Exhibition appeared. The fusion of aims of the Exhibition’s supporters, the concerns of foreign countries, practical difficulties and the effort to create an aesthetically attractive Exhibition all contributed in various ways. The Royal Commission showed such desire in the criteria sent to foreign countries which had stated an:

15. Anon, The Great Exhibition, The Times 1851 June 2 pp. 12 16. Trevor May, Great Exhibitions. (Oxford: Shire Publications, 2010.) pp. 19 17. Jan Piggott, Palace of the People: The Crystal Palace at Sydenham 1854-1936, (C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2004) pp. 243

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Figure 4.10 Section, Plan and Elevation of the Dome of Discovery designed by Ralph Tubbs, 1951

76


‘increased usefulness, improved forms and arrangements, superior quality or workmanship ... beauty if design in form, or colour, or both with reference to utility’.18 One hundred years later Britain was in entirely different circumstances, there would be a shift in the aspirations for Britain. Technology and innovation would still be prevalent, but the 1951 South Bank Exhibition would also act as a template of the reconstruction for the nation.

South Bank - A template for the reconstruction of Britain Since the Great Exhibition of 1851 major exhibitions had combined elements of trade fairs with spectacle, education and entertainment. While the centenary of the Great Exhibition provided the occasion for the Festival of Britain, its direct impact on the conception and design of the 1951 events was limited. This was largely because of the Festival’s alternative focus and structure, which was exclusively national and spread across many sites.19 The Festival’s centrepiece, the South Bank Exhibition, echoed the evolved form of international fairs, despite its minute scale by the standard of recent exhibitions (27 acres, as compared for example to the 1,216 acres of the 1939 New York World’s Fair20). In the past venues would spread resembling temporary monolithic giant metropolises, that would subsume vast swathes of its host city. But it was felt that a more flexible layout for the Festival of Britain would offer the visitor more of a sense of excitement, intimacy and surprise. Architect, Hugh Casson, explained in a film entitled, Brief City 1952, after the Festival closed, ‘The South Bank had no processional way [or] no great vistas. On purpose, it didn’t have the symmetry and repetitive grandeur of some other great cities and their exhibitions. It was planned intimately, like rooms opening out on to one another. Each room or courtyard differed in size, shape, colour, character and furniture’.21 The buildings, exhibits and planning of the South Bank were conceived to 18. Anon, Information for the use of Foreign Exhibitors, Volume iii (John Russell Papers RIBA July 1850) 19. Harriet Atkinson, The Festival of Britain - A Land and its people, (London: I.B. Tauris & Co Limited, 2012) pp.7 20. Kenneth Luckhurst, The Story of Exhibitions, (London: The Studio Publications, 1951) pp. 22 21. Maurice Harvey, Jacques Brunius (Directors). Brief City [Motion Picture] (United Kingdom: Massingham Productions Ltd, 1952)

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Figure 4.11 ‘The Way to go Round’ site map in The Festival of Britain Guide, 1951

Figure 4.12 Exit from hotel courtyard to main square, Gordon Cullen, 1951

78


provide a vivid template for the reconstruction of Britain.22 The Festival site was a Modernist architectural expression of materials, technology and engineering, the austere utilitarian provisions of the war were replaced by a sophisticated integration of art, design and architecture. Pavilions would communicate the progressive humanist values at the heart of the Festival’s agenda.23 One

pavilion

more

than

any

encapsulated the Festival’s concept

The Lion and the Unicorn (see figure 4.13) it served to symbolise the national character of Britain, a notoriously difficult task due to Britain’s diverse and varied history. The exhibits presented were arranged to express the defining qualities of the British people in 1951. The lion on the one hand symbolised

Figure 4.13

courage, fortitude, realism and strength. The unicorn, on the other hand,

Lion and the Unicorn Pavilion exterior

was used to express eccentricity, humour and the fantastical nature of the nation that are understood as the characteristics of British tolerance and political freedom.24 The Festival of Britain was an insular exhibition, the aftermath of a world war found Britain tired and resentful, aware that its status as an international power had been subsumed, and still scared of losing what little influence it had to the power states and their acolytes. The public demand was for reassurance, as such the future was presented in a context that respected and even glorified tradition.25

South Bank - Story of a timeless past Whilst the Great Exhibition was only loosely choreographed, the buildings and pavilions of the 1951 Festival of Britain were positioned around the 22. Paul Rennie, Design - Festival of Britain, 1951. (Woodbridge: Antique Collectors’ Club, 2008) pp. 19 23. ibid., pp. 19 24. Becky Conekin, The Autobiography of a Nation - The 1951 Festival of Britain, (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2003) pp. 94-100 25. Barry Turner, A Beacon for Change, How the 1951 Festival of Britain Shaped the Modern Age. (London, Aurum Press Limited, 2011.) pp. 240

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Figure 4.14 ‘Juggling with three-dimensions’ Architectural Review. 1951

80


South Bank to encourage the visitors to take a journey through its narrative design. The exhibits, laid out in the various pavilions and buildings were organised into two separate, but inter-woven narratives; People and Land.26 These were conceived, in part at least, to divide the large number of visitors into two, more manageable, streams. The two circuits were identified as Upstream and Downstream. These narratives formed the basis of Ian Cox’s Festival programme, the South Bank Exhibition guide reveals, how the exhibition ‘tells a continuous story [via a route that makes] most sense if the Pavilions are visited in the order shown’,27 (see figure 4.11) this scripted narrative was typical of the Festival’s agenda. As Hugh Casson, the commissioning architect confirms; ‘The brief demanded a narrative exhibition, a story to be told in proper sequence chapter by chapter, pavilion by pavilion ... most important of all, the whole place, however varied in detail, had to be given a visual personality which, we hoped to be the fruit of a common design philosophy’

28

The planners organised the South Bank site to incorporate spaces, squares and piazzas between the temporary buildings, where visitors were encouraged to sit, relax and enjoy the festive atmosphere. The South Bank Exhibition promoted modern architecture, which in its most logically coherent form, eschewed all forms of decoration in favour of functional utility and material integrity.29 As a result the autonomy of architecture, in relation to the other arts was all too evident. Its attempt to integrate art and architecture became more a process of juxtaposing one in relation to the other. The difficulty of creating a coherently Modernist and, at the same time, festive experience across the South Bank became the major problem facing the exhibition planners. Hugh Casson and his colleagues solved this problem by exploiting a part of London that had never been developed on for any other purpose than wharfs or warehouses. One of the most attractive attributes of the South 26. Ian Cox, Festival of Britain Guide (London, HMSO. 1951) p. 4 27. ibid., p. 4 28. Mary Banham, A Tonic to the Nation: The Festival of Britain 1951, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1976.) pp. 78 29. Paul Rennie, Design - Festival of Britain, 1951. (Woodbridge: Antique Collectors’ Club, 2008) pp. 27

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1.

2.

3.

4. Figure 4.15 Site plans of previous exhibitions 1. Paris, 1867. 2. Paris, 1887. 3. Glasgow, 1938. 4. New York, 1939.

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Bank site was the opportunity of a promenade along the Thames and between buildings. The idea of promenading was taken from the holiday spirit of the English seaside and the entertainments at Vauxhall Gardens and elsewhere.30 The psychological benefits of this access-all-area approach should not be underestimated. It marked a crucial change from the securityinspired restrictions on movement imposed during WWII. Today a riverside walkway runs along the Thames, London is renowned for its edifying culture and attractions south of the river. However it was not obvious that promenading by the riverside was the attractive proposition that it has become fifty years later. The decision to turn the South Bank into a promenade was far more drastic in 1951. At the time, the river was still an industrial highway with levels of traffic far beyond what we see today.31 The air quality in London remained poor (in 1952 the smog killed over 4000 people32) and called into question the kinds of outdoor leisure activities promoted as a continental-style culture. The promotion of a democratic Thames-side promenade was unimaginably sophisticated in 1951. In august 1951 the Architectural Review

proclaimed that ‘the South

Bank Exhibition may be regarded as the first modern townscape’33. The special Festival edition proudly declared the South Bank Exhibition’s layout ‘represents that realisation in urban terms of the principles of the picturesque in which the future of town planning as a visual art assuredly lies’34 and that it had ‘triumphantly demonstrated the vitality of contemporary British architecture and should have a worldwide influence’35 Anonymous articles addressed ‘the Exhibition as Landscape’36 The new picturesque impact of the South Bank site was somewhat achieved through a kinetic relationship between displays and the visiting public: the action of people moving through the exhibition spaces, from dark and dim rooms to brightly lit pavilions; from

30. Paul Rennie, Design - Festival of Britain, 1951. (Woodbridge: Antique Collectors’ Club, 2008) pp. 27 31. Peter Ackroyd, London: The Biography, ab. ed. (London: Random Books, 2012) pp. 324 32. Date retrieved 08:05 13/01/2013. http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/december/9/ newsid_4506000/4506390.stm 33. J.M. Richards, N. Pevsner, I. McCallum & H. de C. Hastings ‘South Bank Exhibition’ Architectural Review vol. 110 no. 656 August. 1951. pp. 73 34. ibid., pp. 73 35. ibid., pp. 73 36. ibid., pp. 80

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Figure 4.16 Landscape sketches and designs, for the pavilions of the Festival of Britain

Figure 4.17 Lion and the Unicorn Pavilion interior

84


enclosed narrow corridors to colossal open inside and outside spaces.37 The Festival of Britain site’s new picturesque effect was achieved by departing from Beaux Arts symmetry, which had been favoured in the layout of international exhibitions such as the 1887 Paris Exposition (see fig), and even to the exhibition it supposedly commemorated.38 The Great Exhibition aimed to promote the unity of art, science and industry, which was the most evident principle of arrangement. This profusion of aims and motifs presented by the Exhibition, consequently as a result many nations took the opportunity to fill the Crystal Palace this created a wideranging collection of exhibits. While the 1951 Festival of Britain represented the spirit of optimism, through a choreographed ‘narrative’ exhibition, of a pastoral British past, to a promising future. The South Bank Exhibition challenged the nation to build a new Britain.

Figure 4.18 Machinery in motion at the Great Exhibition

37. Harriet Atkinson, The Festival of Britain - A Land and its people, (London: I.B. Tauris & Co Limited, 2012) pp. 94 38. ibid., pp. 95

85


Figure 4.19 Colour coded plan of the Crystal Palace

Britain

Germany

France

Belgium

U.S.A

India

Austria

China

Others

Open court


Figure 5.1


‘The people’s show, not organised arbitrarily for them to enjoy, but put on largely by them, by us all, as an expression of a way of life in which we believe’ Gerald Barry, 1951.

Conclusion

A 21st century future for Britain

89


Figure 5.2


Figure 5.3 Festival of Britain Logo, by Abram Games

92


Conclusion - A 21st century future for Britain The two previous chapters have investigated how the Festival of Britain and the Great Exhibition shaped the identity of Britain. The success of the Exhibition at the Crystal Palace was a testament to the pioneering efforts of key figures in British nineteenth-century history, the ingenuity of visionary Joseph Paxton, the persistence of Prince Albert and Auguste Pugin’s attention to detail. Furthermore without the significant presence of Abram Games’ with his Festival of Britain emblem that adorned every poster (see figure 5.3), or the endeavour of Gerald Barry coupled with the imagination of Jim Cadbury-Brown, the 1951 Festival may never have realised it’s potential to host such a historic celebration. How did the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the 1951 Festival of Britain, reflect a nation’s hopes in such contrasting eras? The Festival of Britain had one overarching intention; which was to rally and educate the British people to understand the place in which they resided in the wake of recent conflict and the legacy of disruption associated with industrialisation. The Festival can be appreciated as whimsical return, focused on inspiring postwar moral and a sense of national well-being through looking towards a bright future on a heroic past. By escaping a memory of conflict and loss focusing on a positive present that immersed the visitor into an imaginative continuity with a deep rooted pastoral past. Harriet Atkinson’s doctoral thesis argues that, the Festival’s purpose of reconstructing the nation was

‘[This] brought all Festival ideas together, highlighting the evolution and origins of the land of Britain, and the British people’s relationship with that land.’

1

There was a stark contrast to nineteenth century Britain the Great Exhibition was a catalyst for other nations to set foot on our soil and display its

the manufactured goods and invention of the world. Whereas the Festival engaged Britain in celebration and display in several locations. The Exhibition of 1851 introduced and educated working class citizens through 1. Harriet Atkinson, Imaginative Reconstruction: Design Place at the Festival of Britain, 1951, (Published Doctoral Thesis, Royal College of Art, 2006.) pp. 255

Conclusion

skills and craft which all resided in one magnificent structure, crystallising

A 21st century future for Britain

to focus the British public’s attention on the land.

93


Figure 5.4 The Great Exhibition of 1851 Pavilion

Figure 5.5 The Great Exhibition of 1951 advert

94


either exhibits or promotional artefacts, which revealed an ingenious and diverse collection of art, design, technology, science, industry and architecture. However the legacy of the Great Exhibition proved to be its most edifying contribution. It had laid the foundations for the formation of many great educational institutions, and established a valuable system of scholarships in the higher branches of art and science.2 A question was raised as to how the Great Exhibition served as an impetus for the 1951 Festival, and if it did then why did the planners of the South Bank site only recognise its predecessor through a pavilion that was conceived just moments before the opening? (see figure 5.4) Namely a century later, the festival stood for different values, the South Bank Exhibition was to showcase

Britain’s

resilience. A sentiment that placed the British public, their pastoral roots and their ability to embody cultural change and growth at the heart of the nationwide Festival.

Figure 5.6

Gerald Barry did not want the Festival to have the ‘glorious assurance’ of

Poster advertising the Festival of Britain by Abram Games

the Great Exhibition in 1851, which aimed to place Britain firmly at the centre of the world rather Barry claimed, he sought it to be: ‘the people’s show, not organised arbitrarily for them to enjoy, but put on largely by them, by us all, as an expression of a way of life in which we believe’.

3

If the Great Exhibition of 1851 had marked the burgeoning of Britain’s massive and formal overseas Empire, then the 1951 Festival of Britain more or less heralded its end. Nothing symbolised this better than the Festival’s official poster where Abram Games’ design of Britannia surmounting the 2. Kenneth Luckhurst, The Story of Exhibitions, (London: The Studio Publications, 1951) pp. 113 3. Charlotte Mullins, A Festival on the River - The Story of South Bank Centre, (London: Penguin Books, 2007) pp. 34

95


Figure 5.7 The Dome of Discovery by Ralph Tubbs


festival star shows her surveying not the globe, as she did is 1851, but the British Isles (see figure 5.6).4 There were one hundred years between the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the 1951 Festival of Britain, in this time there were radical shifts in social, economic and cultural conditions. The Festival of Britain and Great Exhibition gave visitors the most enthralling entertainment, allowing families to escape the ‘ordinary’ and ‘everyday’. So how can we raise the profile of culture and design in another age of decline with increasing cuts in public funding? What would such an exhibition, language or narrative be today post London Olympics 2012? In times of austerity cultural quarters are frequently seen as superfluous, consequently in December of 2012 the Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced that the Arts Council England (ACE) would have its funding cut by £11.6m, which is in addition to reductions which saw the ACE budget slashed by almost 30%.5 How can we challenge the notion of engaging today’s society, can the method and medium of an exposition manifest itself to provide ‘the people’ with hope and a glimpse to a bright new future? These questions are brought forward and interrogated into my thesis project. Land further west of the both these previous festivals has been chosen for the project, in Potter’s Field, Southwark. Continuing the theme of the 1951 riverside walk the proposal will extend the pedestrianised promenade that currently runs from Westminster Bridge to the TATE Modern. This proposal includes the extension of this route up to Tower Bridge, which consequently ends at the proposed site of Potter’s Field.

4. Jeffrey A. Auerbach, The Great Exhibition of 1851 - A Nation on Display, (London: Yale University, 1999) pp.223 5. Date retrieved 12.12 12/12/2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-20664137

97


Figure 6.1


References

Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions

99


100


Glossary Britishness - the state or quality of being British or of embodying British characteristics and is used to refer to that which binds and distinguishes the British people and forms the basis of their unity and identity or else to explain expressions of British culture—such as habits, behaviours or symbols—that have a common, familiar or iconic quality readily identifiable with the United Kingdom.

Centennial - The celebration of the hundredth anniversary of any event; a centenary. - The use of indirect language at

exhibitions such as Stockholm, Zurich and Wroclaw which would create a national identity.

Classless citizen

- Free from distinctions of social class, a classless

society.

Crystal Palace

- The Crystal Palace was a cast-iron and plate-glass

building originally erected in Hyde Park, London, England, to house the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Free trade

- Free trade is a policy by which a government does not

discriminate against imports or interfere with exports by applying tariffs (to imports) or subsidies (to exports) or quotas.

Glorification of industry - The Great Exhibition often made industry seem splendid or excellent, often when it was less so.

Modernist

- an architectural style that emerged in many Western

countries in the decade after World War I. It was based on the “rational” use of modern materials, the principles of functionalist planning, and the rejection of historical precedent and ornament.

Post-war reconstruction

- By the end of World War II, much of

destroyed bridges and railroads, and scorched the countryside. Therefore reconstruction plans were put into action, with the answer of modernism often prevailing.

Glossary

Britain lay in ruins. Combat and bombing had flattened cities and towns,

Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions

Circumlocutory narrative

101


102


Ramsden Committee

- Proposals for an international exhibition to

celebrate the centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1851 were made as early as 1943, and in 1945 a committee under Lord Ramsden was appointed by the Department of Overseas Trade to consider schemes.

Corn Laws - The Corn Laws were trade laws designed to protect cereal producers in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland against competition from less expensive foreign imports between 1815 and 1846. More simply, to ensure that British landowners reaped all the financial profits from farming, the corn laws (which imposed steep import duties) made it too expensive for anyone to import grain from other countries, even

of famine).

Zeitgeist

- The Zeitgeist (spirit of the age or spirit of the time) is

the intellectual fashion or dominant school of thought which typifies and influences the culture of a particular period in time. For example, the Zeitgeist of modernism typified and influenced architecture, art, and fashion during much of the 20th century.

Abbreviations ACE - Arts Council England BT - Board of Trade LCC - London County Council RIBA - Royal Institute of British Architects RSA - Royal Society of Arts AR - Architectural Review AJ - Architects’ Journal

Glossary

Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions

when the people of Great Britain and Ireland needed the food (as in times

103


104


Sources of Illustrations Cover Image Figure 0.1 - Kinetic London - Authors own illustration.

Introduction Figure 1.1 // pp. xxii - The Skylon at Night - Mary Banham, A Tonic to the Nation: The Festival of Britain 1951, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1976.) pp. 78 Figure 1.2 // pp. xxv - West transept of the Great Industrial Exhibition of all Nations, 1851. - V&A Collection - Museum number: 19538.1 Figure 1.3 // pp. xxvi - Expectant crowds await the royal precession during the Diamond Jubilee in 2012 - www.2.bp.blogspot.com/-jniqV-3czNU/T82KEYOd33I/AAAAAAAAGgE/3MmqDn8rJnC/s1600/ Queen+Diamond+Jubilee+Thames+Pageant+photos+People+waving+flags.jpg

Figure 1.5 // pp. xxviii - Hoards of people wait to catch a glimpse of the King and Queen after his Majesty had declared the 1951 Festival of Britain open - Illustration London News 21 May 2012 pp. 25 Figure 1.6 // pp. xxx - The Opening of the Great Industrial Exhibition of all Nations, 1851. Queen Victoria opened the Great Exhibition on May Day 1851 - V&A Collection - Museum number: 19538.2 Figure 1.7 // pp. xxx - Hyde Park on 1 May. The crowds stretched from the park back to Leicester Square. This image shows royal carriages passing from Constitution Hill into the park -Jeffrey A. Auerbach, The Great Exhibition of 1851 - A Nation on Display, (London: Yale University, 1999) pp.125

Chapter One Figure 2.1 // pp. 1 - View inside the transcept - V&A Collection - Museum number: 19633 Figure 2.2 // pp. 3 - East transept of the Great Industrial Exhibition of all Nations, 1851. - V&A Collection - Museum number: 19538.3 Figure 2.3 // pp. 4 - View of the South Side, From Near the Princes Gate, looking west. V&A Collection - Museum number: 19636 Figure 2.4 // pp. 4 - The Western (British) nave of the Crystal Place - Jeffrey A. Auerbach, The Great Exhibition of 1851 - A Nation on Display, (London: Yale University, 1999) pp. 90

Figure 2.6 // pp. 6 - The Transept from the Grand Entrance, the transept rose to a height of 108ft (33m) - V&A Collection - Museum number: 19643 Figure 2.7 // pp. 7 - The following estimates are taken exclusively from the 2007 monograph Contours of the World Economy, 1–2030 AD by the British economist Angus Maddison. Figure 2.8 // pp. 8 - Francis Xavier Winterhalter (1805-1873), Prince Albert, Oil on canvas, 1842 Figure 2.9 // pp. 10- Building the Crystal Palace, raising the first transept rib - Kenneth Luckhurst, The Story of Exhibitions, (London: The Studio Publications, 1951) pp. 197 Figure 2.10 // pp. 12 - George Cruikshank’s, All the world going to see the Great Exhibition of 1851 University of Reading Special Collections Services Figure 2.11 // pp. 14 - George Cruikshank’s, The Dispersion of the Works of all Nations from the Great Exhibition of 1851 - Jeffrey A. Auerbach, The Great Exhibition of 1851 - A Nation on Display, (London: Yale University, 1999) pp. 121

Sources of Illustrations

Figure 2.5 // pp. 6 - The Transept of the Crystal Place, the two large existing elm trees were kept and featured inside - Jeffrey A. Auerbach, The Great Exhibition of 1851 - A Nation on Display, (London: Yale University, 1999) pp. 1

Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions

Figure 1.4 // pp. xxvii - The Great Exhibition of 1851 was housed in the Crystal Palace seen here from the north-east - Jeffrey A. Auerbach, The Great Exhibition of 1851 - A Nation on Display, (London: Yale University, 1999) pp.52

105


106


Figure 2.12 // pp. 14 - A hint to the commissioners - Punch 26 April 1851 pp. 64 Figure 2.13 // pp. 15 - Exhibition Supplement to The Illustrated London News, May 10, 1851 pp. 9 Figure 2.14 // pp. 16 - Crossing boundaries, 19th century masquerade ball - Jeffrey A. Auerbach, The Great Exhibition of 1851 - A Nation on Display, (London: Yale University, 1999) pp. 185 Figure 2.15 // pp. 16 - The Pound and the Shilling, Whoever thought of meeting you here? Jeffrey A. Auerbach, The Great Exhibition of 1851 - A Nation on Display, (London: Yale University, 1999) pp. 153 Figure 2.16 // pp. 18 - Manchester in 1851 - Jeffrey A. Auerbach, The Great Exhibition of 1851 - A Nation on Display, (London: Yale University, 1999) pp. 139 Figure 2.17 // pp. 18 - London in 1851 - Jeffrey A. Auerbach, The Great Exhibition of 1851 - A Nation on Display, (London: Yale University, 1999) pp. 139 Figure 2.18 // pp. 20 - Map 1, The railway network in 1840 - Britain’s Railways: An Industrial History pp. 55 Figure 2.19 // pp. 21 - Map 2, The railway network in 1852 - Britain’s Railways: An Industrial History pp.55

Figure 2.21 // pp. 22 - Turkish Court at the Great Exhibition- V&A Collection - Museum number: 19627 Figure 2.22 // pp. 24 - Design for the conversion of the exhibition building into a tower - The Great Exhibition of 1851 pp.196 Figure 2.23 // pp. 24 - The building committee design for an exhibition building - The Great Exhibition of 1851 pp.43 Figure 2.24 // pp. 25 - The Brompton Boilers - The Great Exhibition of 1851 pp.217 Figure 2.25 // pp. 26 - The north transept, Crystal Palace, Sydenham, 1857 - The Great Exhibition of 1851 pp.202 Figure 2.26 // pp. 26 - Paris Exhibition 1889, a bird’s-eye view of the Champ de Mars - The Story of Exhibitions pp.127 Figure 2.27 // pp. 27 - Architectural proposals by Henry Cole, 1851 - www.media.dexigner.com/article/21959/ Albertopolis.jpg Figure 2.28 // pp. 28 - The Victoria and Albert Museum Lobby, 2012 - Taken by Author 20 Nov 2012

Chapter Two Figure 3.1 // pp. 30 - View over the Festival of Britain centre concourse - Architectural Review May 1951 pp.84 Figure 3.2 // pp. 32 - Bird’s-eye perspective of the South Bank Exhibition site, The Illustrated London News, May 12, 1951 pp. 22 Figure 3.3 // pp. 34 - The Skylon with Dome of Discovery in the foreground - Experience Tomorrow pp. 10 Figure 3.4 // pp. 36- Site map of the South Bank Exhibition - Architectural Review May 1951 pp.74 Figure 3.5 // pp. 36 - Map of London in 1951 - www.confessionsofadesigngeek.files.wordpress.com/201105/ p10/20045.jpg Figure 3.6 // pp. 38 - Rise and Fall of British Empire 1851 - 1990 - Graph Figure 3.7 // pp. 38 - View along the Piazza to Whitehall Court by Gordon Cullen, 1951 - Architectural Review May 1951 pp. 136

Sources of Illustrations

Figure 2.29 // pp. 29 - Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei, 2012 - Taken by Author 20 Nov 2012

Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions

Figure 2.20 // pp. 22 - Indian Court at the Great Exhibition - V&A Collection - Museum number: 19536.11

107


108


Figure 3.8 // pp. 39 - Map of Britain displaying the numerous locations of other festivals over the nation - The Festival of Britain, A Land and its People pp. 99 Figure 3.9 // pp. 40 - The Illustrated London News Festival of Britain Special, May 12, 1951 - pp.1 Figure 3.10 // pp. 42 - Land of Britain map and entrance by Jim Cadbury Brown - Ian Cox, Festival of Britain Guide (London, HMSO. 1951) pp. 10 Figure 3.11 // pp. 42 - Land of People map and entrance by Jim Cadbury Brown - Ian Cox, Festival of Britain Guide (London, HMSO. 1951) pp. 64 Figure 3.12 // pp. 43 - Drawing of the initial design for the international exposition on the South Bank - The Festival of Britain, A Land and its People pp. 9 Figure 3.13 // pp. 44 - The way to go round, THE DOME - Ian Cox, Festival of Britain Guide (London, HMSO. 1951) pp. 39 Figure 3.14 // pp. 44 - Chichley Street Gate and Signage in the New Schools Pavilion - www.vads. org.uk Assession Number ASS00237

Figure 3.16 // pp. 46 - Interior of the Dome of Discovery by Ralph Tubbs - Autobiography of a Nation pp.5 Figure 3.17 // pp. 48 - Ladies arriving at the Festival of Britain concourse - www.robertleeming.files. wordpress.com/20110304/-/1951/festival_of_britain/credit_popperfoto-getty_images.jpg Figure 3.18 // pp. 50 - Poster advertising the Stockholm Exhibition, 1930 - www.4.bp.blogspot.com/ nbq2z7LV5VMTE9gfLZu/GIAAAAAAAABss-Dyt-zfEuK8s1600F-Panorama+over+Stockholmsutstallning en+1930.jpg Figure 3.19 // pp. 50 - Promenade and Pavilions, Stockholm Exhibition, 1930 - Harriet Atkinson, The Festival of Britain - A Land and its people, (London: I.B. Tauris& Co Limited, 2012) pp. 53 Figure 3.20 // pp. 52 - The Skylon and Dome of Discovery at night - www.architecture.com/ HowWeBuiltBritain/HistoricalPeriods/TwentiethCentury/BuildingANewBritain/FestivalOfBritainSkylon. aspx Figure 3.21 // pp. 53 - Colourful sculptures were used to mask the surrounding warehouses of the South Bank - Harriet Atkinson, The Festival of Britain - A Land and its people, (London: I.B. Tauris& Co Limited, 2012) pp. 100

Figure 3.23 // pp. 54 - The Exhibition of Architecture site map - Harriet Atkinson, The Festival of Britain - A Land and its people, (London: I.B. Tauris& Co Limited, 2012) pp. 99 Figure 3.24 // pp. 55 - Lansbury, Poplar advertising ‘See London’s new neighbourhood growing -Harriet Atkinson, The Festival of Britain - A Land and its people, (London: I.B. Tauris& Co Limited, 2012) pp. 93 Figure 3.25 // pp. 56 - Festival signage lies in the scrapyard - Harriet Atkinson, The Festival of Britain - A Land and its people, (London: I.B. Tauris& Co Limited, 2012) pp. 192 Figure 3.26 // pp. 57 - Aerial view of the South Bank Exhibition after the Festival in 1952 - Festival on the River pp.67 Figure 3.27 // pp. 58 - Queen Elizabeth Hall and Hayward Gallery - Festival on the River pp.116 Figure 3.28 // pp. 60 - Flags and viewing stations hang over the river Thames - Architectural Review May 1951 pp.102 Figure 3.29 // pp. 61 - Sketch of the Hayward Gallery, by Kenneth Browne - Festival on the River pp.129

Sources of Illustrations

Figure 3.22 // pp. 54 - Sculpture formed part of the entrance to the Lansbury Live Architecture Exhibition - Architects’ Journal, September 6, 1951 pp.26

Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions

Figure 3.15 // pp. 45 - French depicting British National Character in Punch May, 1951 - Punch, May, 1951 pp. 35

109


110


Three Chapter Figure 4.1 // pp. 62 - The Skylon and the Dome of Discovery - Illustrated London News May 1951 pp. 40 Figure 4.2 // pp. 65- Hand sketch of the Dome of Discovery - Illustrated London News May 1951 pp. 33 Figure 4.3 // pp. 66 - Main entrance to the Crystal Palace - - http://0.tqn.com/d/ history1800s/1/0/s/8/-/-/great-exhibition-03-gty.jpg Figure 4.4 // pp. 68 - The Indian tent at the Crystal Palace- http://0.tqn.com/d/ history1800s/1/0/s/8/-/-/great-exhibition-01-gty.jpg Figure 4.5 // pp. 68 - Pugin’s medieval court at the Crystal Palace - http://2.bp.blogspot.com/auio_aUmvAI/UGJRGwRTMaI/AAAAAAAAAJw/cD6sxYdB5ig/s1600/Medieval+Court+2.jpg Figure 4.6 // pp. 70 - Inside the Crystal Palace - John R. Davis, The Great Exhibition, (Stroud, Sutton Publishing, 1999) p. 107

Figure 4.8 // pp. 73 - The Gobelins Room, the heart of French aesthetic prowess - John R. Davis, The Great Exhibition, (Stroud, Sutton Publishing, 1999) p. 153 Figure 4.9 // pp. 74 - ‘British industry and manufacture’ - http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/ collection/919979/the-great-exhibition-moving-machinery Figure 4.10 // pp. 76 - Section, Plan and Elevation of the Dome of Discovery designed by Ralph Tubbs, 1951 - Architectural Design, July 1951, pp. 8 Figure 4.11 // pp. 78 - ‘The Way to go Round’ site map in The Festival of Britain Guide, 1951 - Ian Cox, Festival of Britain Guide (London, HMSO. 1951) pp. 8 Figure 4.12 // pp. 78 - Exit from hotel courtyard to main square, Gordon Cullen, 1951 - Architectural Review May 1951 pp. 84 Figure 4.13 // pp. 79 - Lion and the Unicorn Pavilion exterior - www.images-02.delcampe-static.net/ img_large/auction/000/189/844/966_001.jpg Figure 4.14 // pp. 80 - ‘Juggling with three-dimensions’ Architectural Review. 1951 - Architectural Review May 1951 pp. 105 Figure 4.15 // pp. 82 - Site plans of previous exhibitions - Architectural Review May 1951 pp. 74

Figure 4.17 // pp. 84 - Lion and the Unicorn Pavilion interior- Architectural Review May 1951 pp.116 Figure 4.18 // pp. 85 - ‘Machinery in motion at the Great Exhibition’ John R. Davis, The Great Exhibition, (Stroud, Sutton Publishing, 1999) p. 105 Figure 4.19 // pp. 87 - Colour coded plan of Great Exhibition - http://uwf.edu/dearle/brit%20lit/ Victorian%20Age/plan_palacea.jpg

Conclusion Figure 5.1 // pp. 88 - Ship Pavilion at the South Bank Exhibition - Illustrated London News May 1951 pp.30 Figure 5.2 // pp. 91 - The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, home to the Great Exhibition of 1851 http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-MeDY3XtRQmI/UIq8YEIf03I/AAAAAAAAEqY/05GDrC-y1l8/s1600/crystalpalace-02-gty.jpg

Sources of Illustrations

Figure 4.16 // pp. 84 - Landscape sketches and designs, for the pavilions of the Festival of Britain Harriet Atkinson, The Festival of Britain - A Land and its people, (London: I.B. Tauris& Co Limited, 2012) pp. 78

Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions

Figure 4.7 // pp. 72 - French sculptures at the Great Exhibition, 1851 - http://www.bl.uk/learning/ images/victorian/illustratedexhibitor/large102696.html

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Figure 5.3 // pp. 92 - Festival of Britain Logo, by Abram Games -Charlotte Mullins, A Festival on the River - The Story of South Bank Centre, (London: Penguin Books, 2007) pp. 45 Figure 5.4 // pp. 94 - The Great Exhibition of 1851 Pavilion - Harriet Atkinson, The Festival of Britain - A Land and its people, (London: I.B. Tauris& Co Limited, 2012) pp. 104 Figure 5.5 // pp. 94 - The Great Exhibition of 1951 advert - Jeffrey A. Auerbach, The Great Exhibition of 1851 - A Nation on Display, (London: Yale University, 1999) pp. 225 Figure 5.6 // pp. 95 - Poster advertising the Festival of Britain by Abram Games - Harriet Atkinson, The Festival of Britain - A Land and its people, (London: I.B. Tauris& Co Limited, 2012) pp. 225 Figure 5.7 // pp. 96 - The Dome of Discovery by Ralph Tubbs - www.djinngenie.files.wordpress. com/201210/dome/049.jpg

References Figure 6.1 // pp. 98 - Industry at the Crystal Palace - http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/ collection/919979/the-great-exhibition-moving-machinery

Figure 7.1 // pp. 124 - Boy at the Dome - Experience Tomorrow pp. 9 Figure 7.2 // pp. 148 - Estate plan of the lands purchased by the 1851 Commissioners, c.1856 http://www.architecture.com/LibraryDrawingsAndPhotographs/Albertopolis/ExploringSouthKensington/ SouthKensingtonFromAbove/SouthKensingtonFromAbove.aspx Figure 7.3 // pp. 150 - Plan of the Kensington Gore estate, c.1862 - http://www.architecture.com/ LibraryDrawingsAndPhotographs/Albertopolis/ExploringSouthKensington/SouthKensingtonFromAbove/ SouthKensingtonFromAbove.aspx Figure 7.4 // pp. 151 - Plan of the main square of the Kensington Gore estate, c.1890 - http:// www.architecture.com/LibraryDrawingsAndPhotographs/Albertopolis/ExploringSouthKensington/ SouthKensingtonFromAbove/SouthKensingtonFromAbove.aspx Figure 7.5 // pp. 152 - Plan of the Kensington Gore estate, c.1935 - http://www.architecture.com/ LibraryDrawingsAndPhotographs/Albertopolis/ExploringSouthKensington/SouthKensingtonFromAbove/ SouthKensingtonFromAbove.aspx Figure 7.6 // pp. 152 - Aerial photograph of the South Kensington area, c.1935 - http://www. architecture.com/LibraryDrawingsAndPhotographs/Albertopolis/ExploringSouthKensington/ SouthKensingtonFromAbove/SouthKensingtonFromAbove.aspx

Figure 7.8 // pp. 153 - Aerial Photograph of the South Kensington area, c.2006 - http://www. architecture.com/LibraryDrawingsAndPhotographs/Albertopolis/ExploringSouthKensington/ SouthKensingtonFromAbove/SouthKensingtonFromAbove.aspx Figure 7.9 // pp. 154 - Plan of proposed scheme for Exhibition Road, c.2005 - http://www. architecture.com/LibraryDrawingsAndPhotographs/Albertopolis/ExploringSouthKensington/ SouthKensingtonFromAbove/SouthKensingtonFromAbove.aspx Figure 7.10 // pp. 155 - Architect’s impressions of the Dixon Jones pedestrian scheme for the south end of Exhibition Road, c.2012 - http://www.architecture.com/LibraryDrawingsAndPhotographs/ Albertopolis/ExploringSouthKensington/SouthKensingtonFromAbove/SouthKensingtonFromAbove.aspx

Sources of Illustrations

Figure 7.7 // pp. 153 - Aerial photograph of the South Kensington area, c.1944 - http://www. architecture.com/LibraryDrawingsAndPhotographs/Albertopolis/ExploringSouthKensington/ SouthKensingtonFromAbove/SouthKensingtonFromAbove.aspx

Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions

Appendices

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Books Ackroyd, P. London: The Biography, ab. ed. London, Random Books, 2012. Anderson, B. Imagined Communities, London: Verso, 2006. Atkinson, H. The Festival of Britain; A Land and its People, London: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2012. Auerbach, J.A. The Great Exhibition of 1851 - A Nation on Display, London: Yale University, 1999. Banham, M. and B. Hillier, ed., A Tonic to the Nation: The Festival of Britain

Bayley, F.W.N. The Little Folks’ Laughing Library. The Exhibition, London: Darton& Co., 1851. Beaver, P. The Crystal Palace: A Portrait of Victorian Enterprise, 2nd edition Chichester: Phillimore & Co Ltd, 2001. Cain, P.J. & Hopkins, A.G. British Imperialism, 2nd Ed., Harlow, Pearson Education Limited, 2002. Conekin, B. The Autobiography of a Nation - The 1951 Festival of Britain, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2003). Corfe, T. The Great Exhibition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979. Davis, J.R., The Great Exhibition, Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 1999. De Mare, E., London 1851: The year of the Great Exhibition, London: Folio Society, 1973. Dodds, J. The Age of Paradox, London: Victor Gollancz, 1953. Fay C.R., reissue ed., Palace of Industry, 1951; A study of the Great Exhibition

Francis, M. Ideas and Policies Under Labour, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1997. Freud, S. Civilization and its Discontents, ed. James Strachey, New York: W.W. Norto and Co, 1961.

References

and its fruits. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011

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1951, London: Thames and Hudson, 1976.

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Hobhouse C. , 1851 and the Crystal Palace, London: John Murray, 1937. Kennedy, P. The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Economic Change and

Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000. New York: Random House Inc., 1989. Kynaston, D. Austerity Britain 1945-51. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2007. Leapman, M. The World for a Shilling, How The Great Exhibition of 1851

shaped a nation. London: Headline Book Publishing, 2001. Light, A. Forever England - Feminity, Literature and Conservatism Between

Luckhurst, K. The Great Exhibition of 1851, London: Royal Society of Art, 1951. Matless, D. Landscape and Englishness, London, Reaktion Books Ltd, 1998. May, T. Great Exhibitions, Oxford: Shire Publications, 2010. Mayhew, H. & Cruikshank, G 1851: or, The adventures of Mr and Mrs Sandboys

and family who came up to London to “enjoy themselves”, and to see the Great Exhibition. London: George Newbold, 1851. McKean, J. Crystal Palace: Joseph Paxton and Charles Fox, London: Phaidon, 1994. McKenna F., The Railway Workers 1840 -1970, London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1980. Murdock, J.E.P. The Romance and the History of the Crystal Palace, London: L. Upcott Gill, 1911. Pevsner, N. The Englishness of English Art, London: Penguin Group, 1993. Piggott, J. Palace of the People: The Crystal Palace at Sydenham 1854-

Rennie, P., Design: Festival of Britain 1951. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors’ Club, 2008. Strong, R. Vision of England, London: The Bodley Head, 2011.

References

1936, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2004.

Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions

the Wars, Oxford, Routledge, 2001.

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Taylor, B. The Festival of Britain, 1951, London: HMSO, 1951. Taylor, C., ed., Londoners, London: Granta Books, 2011. Turner, B., A Beacon for Change, How the 1951 Festival of Britain Shaped

the Modern Age. London, Aurum Press Limited, 2011 Weight, R. Patriots - National Identity in Britain 1940-2000, London: Macmillian, 2002. Weightman, G. London a Modern History, London: Ebury Press, 2007. Williams, C. A companion to nineteenth-century Britain, London: Blackwell

Wood, W. Nineteenth Century Britain, London: Longman, 1960.

References

Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions

Publishing Ltd, 2004.

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Articles Anon, ‘ Winning Designs for 1951 festival competition’. Architects’ Journal, 1950 Jan 12, pp.37 Anon, A Survey of Lansbury’s ‘Live’ Architecture, Architects’ Journal vol. 104 no.598 September 6, 1951. pp.270-301 Anon, ‘Architecture of the Festival of Britain’. The Journal of the Royal

Institute of British Architects, Vol. 58, No.7 May 1951, pp. 316-326 Anon, ‘Development of Lansbury Neighbourhood, Poplar, “Live Architecture”

4251, 1950 June 9, pp. 589-605 Anon, ‘Festival of Britain Buses, Travelling Exhibition’. The Architect &

Building News, Vol.197, No. 4258, 1950 July 28, pp. 96-97 Casson, H. & Black, M. ‘A Survey of the Festival of Britain; South Bank Exhibition’. Architects’ Journal, 1951 May 17, pp.621-636 Curtis, B. ‘One Continuous Interwoven Story (The Festival of Britain)’. Block no. 11, 1985/86. pp.48-52 Gavin, O. & Lowe, A. ‘Designing Desire - Planning, Power and the Festival of Britain’. Block no. 11, 1985/86. pp.53-69 Ijeh, I. ‘After the party’s over.’ Building vol. 277, No. 8724 April. 20. 2012. pp.38-42 J.M. Richards, N. Pevsner, I. McCallum & H. de C. Hastings ‘South Bank Exhibition’ Architectural Review vol. 110 no. 656 August. 1951. pp.70-140 Leventhal, F. M. ‘A Tonic to the Nation: The Festival of Britain, 1951’.

Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies, Vol. 27, No. 3 (Autumn,1995), pp. 445-453

Design, 1951 July, pp. 185-224

References

Mills, E. D. ‘South Bank Exhibition, Festival of Britain, 1951’. Architectural

Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions

Exhibition Festival of Britain.’ The Architect & Building News, Vol.197, No.

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Primary Sources Eldon Hall, D. A condensed history of the origination: rise, progress and

completion of the ‘Great Exhibition of the Industry of all Nations’, New York, 1852. Anon, 1851 Royal Commission - Minutes, 9 May 1850. Ian Cox, Festival of Britain Guide, London:HMSO. 1951. Beard & Mayall, Tallis’s History and Description of the Crystal Palace and

the Exhibition of the World’s Industry in 1851, London: John Tallis and Co.

Wright, L., ed., One Hundred Years of British Architecture 1851-1951, London: RIBA, 1951.

Websites http://www.archives.gov/historical-docs http://www.bankofengland.co.uk http://www.hansard.millbanksystems.com http://www.onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu - Punch Magazine Archives http://www.victorianlondon.org http://www.ribapix.com http://www.vads.ac.uk http://www.bbc.co.uk

Visual Audio Sources Massingham, R. Brief City - The Festival of Britain, London: The Twentieth Century Society, 1952.

Commonwealth Relations Office, 1951.

References

Leacock, P. Festival in London, London: Central Office of Information for

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1851.

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Figure 7.1


Appendices

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A. The Great Exhibitions - Why the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the 1951 Festival of Britain. B. Population analysis of places hosting the fifty-four principal Festival events. C. Attendance figures of The Festival of Britain 1951. D. South Kensington From Above 1856-2012.

List of Appendices

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A. The Great Exhibitions - Why the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the 1951 Festival of Britain In the last two centuries Britain has played host to a series of ‘great’ exhibitions, only one has ever been described as the Great Exhibition, and validity of others to be included is open to debate. While there were similarities between them, each had its unique features, and must be considered in the context of its time. The following short essay is including to justify the selection of the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the 1951 Festival of Britain in ‘Myth and Reality’.

The Great Exhibition, Crystal Palace - 1851 May the 1st 1851, over half a million people crowded into Hyde Park, London, this spectacle was the first of many International exhibitions. It was an royal affair, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (Chief Commissioner) drove by carriage to the recently erected Crystal Palace. There was an unsettled background to the Great Exhibition has to be borne in mind, for it is often seen simply as celebration of industrial might - Britain was already referred to as ‘the workshop of the world’. However, the intentions of the Exhibition’s organisers were more complex than would at first appear. The notion of a international exhibition was not immediately embraced by the public, and that they were successful is a tribute both to the force of their vision and to their political skills and determination. The success of the project must be attributed to three men: Henry Cole, Prince Albert and Joseph Paxton. Henry Cole was passionate about design, and felt that deficiencies in that area constituted a weakness of British industry. He believed that exhibitions would provide the stimulus that would impel manufacturers to make improvements. In 1845 Cole became a member of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), previously the society held prize winning competitions and exhibitions however these had faded until the arrival of Cole, who looked to reinstate them on an even larger scale. In the 1840s the society was laden with debt and the reintroduction of exhibition was seen as a mechanism to remedy such predicaments. Cole suggested that encouragement of industry through large and the Great Exhibition would expand manufacturers horizons. The enthusiasm of manufacturers,

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however, was limited, many believed that to display their products would be to expose themselves to competitors. However, Cole’s persistence and the introduction of Prince Albert into the RSA saw many successful national exhibitions in London, which eventually led to Prince Albert’s suggestion of the Great Exhibition. Cole put his weight behind the idea that the exhibition must be international in scope, and in January in 1950 when the decision was announced the Prince became Chairman and worked with untiring enthusiasm. After some opposition from the British public the RSA worked assiduously through public meetings, advertising and other campaigning ventures to gain British acceptance. London was the obvious choice for its venue, but its exact location was a subject of deliberation as London’s heart of commerce and industry was in the East End. Therefore the decision to host the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London’s West was seen as an invasion of the wealthy middle class and aristocracy. A significant factor in the origins of the exhibition were local committees that were formed in the provinces, both to select exhibits and primarily raise funds, it having been decided that the Exhibition was not to be a drain on public funds. With the finance in place Hyde Park was in need of a glorious building to house all of these wonderful exhibits, a competition was run with 254 entries drawn from all over the world. However the contest for such a structure was fruitless and the Royal Committee (setup to run the competition) instead went ahead with building their own, stitching ideas from different entries. Enter Joseph Paxton, his design jotted down on a piece of blotting paper was to become the final design of perhaps the most famous building in its time. After the design was published in Punch public support was so great that the acceptance of Paxton’s plan was now assured. There were so many superlatives for its design, a prefabricated masterpiece, its modular design included 300,000 panes of glass and 3,300 iron columns. The success of the building should not just be measured simply by the building that houses it. What of the exhibits? There were split either side of the building British one side and its Empire and the rest of the world on the other.

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The exhibits were not arranged in any real classification, as the heavy exhibits and machinery had to be positioned on the ground floor. This lack of organisation created a confusing display of products and exhibits, the result was a great deal of aimless (even if pleasurable) wandering. The educational benefit of these displays was certainly unprecedented, never before had such a diverse arrangement of object been showcased in one building before. Examples of great innovation and luxury were displayed with Britain and France holding the most medals at the prize giving ceremony, Britain and France were also winners in quite an ironic fashion. Democratic France produced luxury goods for high society, whilst aristocratic Britain would produce for the masses. The masses for the exhibition was an eye-opening experience a total of 6 million people visitors poured into the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park. The Palace was a theatre for classes to mix and congregate, it was a rare venue where the wealthy middle class would stand side by side with the working class. This was due to the drop in price of the admission to the Great Exhibition, which after the opening month of May dropped to just one shilling, allowing all but the very deprived entry. The Exhibition’s legacy was probably its most memorable factor, the profit from the Exhibition was spent on the acquisition of land in South Kensington. On this land were built the Science and Natural History Museums, the Royal Albert Hall, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. This legacy of the Great Exhibition, have gifted London’s West End with a collection of magnificent educational institutes.

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The White City Exhibitions - 1908-1914 By the early twentieth century, the Crystal Palace was dilapidated and the enterprise was running into financial difficulties. However a brief reprieve was offered in 1911, when hosting the Festival of Empire, held to marked the coronation of King George V. Prior to the White City Exhibitions, Austrian Imre Kiralfy came to England in 1891 and curated an display of Venice in London at Olympia. This event combined entertainment and education by bringing together a spectacle with an exhibition. After other ventures into exhibitions Kiralfy organised the Franco-British Exhibition of 1908 in the role of ‘Commissioner General’. To which the context was the signing of the Entente Cordiale between Britain and France in 1904, one of a series of treaties between world powers entered into before the First World War. The exhibition was the largest exposition held in Britain up to that date, and attracted in excess of 8 million visitors. The was 140 acres, but unlike the 1851 Great Exhibition the Franco-British Exhibition was covered with 120 exhibition buildings, structures and pavilions. These buildings were in contrast to Paxton’s Crystal Palace - that expressed its structure through transparency of the shimmering glass panes set into its elegant ironwork. Whereas White City containing a numerous amount of buildings, with flamboyant facades which were designed to represent opulence and splendour. There was not only the ‘Franco’ exhibition but the Imperial International Exhibition in 1909 and the Japan-British in 1910. The stadium was also a last-minute addition when London took over hosting the 1908 Olympics. The final two exhibitions held at the White City were the Latin-British of 1912 and the Anglo-American of 1914. Again, these exhibitions showed arts, culture, science and industry from the featured nations. The exhibitions were widely regarded as being educational, but were heavily biased in favour of western, ‘advanced’ nations. Indigenous people were presented as beneficiaries of the civilising effects of colonisation.

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The British Empire Exhibition, 1924 - 1925 The concept of a exhibition that would display the British Empire was put forward before the First World War, however due to the conflict the show was not executed until 1924. But for the outbreak of war the exhibition would have probably been held at the White City where Kiralfy’s buildings were still available. During the war the White City site was used recruit depot, aircraft factory and medical centre. Therefore a new site was needed, by 1921 new site was secured located at Wembley. Construction started in January 1922, the intention was that temporary and permanent structures would create an exhibition holding palaces of art, engineering, industry and architecture. Whilst amusements were slowly making an even greater impact on British soil, 50 acres of the site was occupied by rides and rollercoaster’s. The British Empire Exhibition was opened on April 23rd 1924 (St George’s Day), this was known as the Empire ‘on which the sun never sets’. From the late 19th century, most great exhibitions had prided themselves on novel forms of transportation for visitors, and this one was no different. Amongst the most popular was the Never Stop Railway, which carried up to 20,000 passengers an hour. The 1920s was a decade of great contrasts, the industrial depression and the north south divide was to grow. London’s new suburbs were places of prosperity, between 1921 and 1937 1.4 million people moved to outer London. The exhibition was another symbol for the growing affluence in the region of London. British manufacturing was displayed in the vast Palace of Engineering where there was an enormous array of automobiles, of which Britain was still a great industrialised power. Over 17 million visitors attended in 1924 and nearly 10 million people came next year in 1925, its physical legacy was to be known as ‘The home of football’, the Empire Stadium consequently hosted several large events until its demolishment in 2003.

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The Festival of Britain, South Bank Exhibition 1951 Like the British Empire Exhibition before it the Festival of Britain was held just six years after the end of world war. However the two situations for Britain were in many respects dissimilar. Wartime shortages and rationing was still high six years after the Second World War and the Cold War had just commenced. Planning for the Festival had begun during the war in 1943, again the Royal Society of Arts had raised the issue of an international exhibition to commemorate the centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1851. It must be said this ambition of hosting an international exhibition was short lived, this international factor was a step too far, therefore a proposal an national exhibition of Britishness was planned. Plans for temporary structure on Hyde Park were considered and abandoned, and a site on the South Bank of the river Thames in the heart of London. Like the Great Exhibition the Festival had opposition, in this event it was again public and political the 1949 financial crisis was a great cause for concern. Many argued that many houses still needed to be built, in addition to the national infrastructure that required restoration and the necessary manpower for the construction of the Festival was unjustified. Nevertheless the site on the South Bank was to go ahead aided by the labour government who were in power of Britain after the war. Most of the planners were young, and had a background in wartime propaganda or forces education. Hugh Casson was Chief Architect, while individual sections on the South Bank were designed by amongst others, Misha Black, Basil Spence and Ralph Tubbs. These planners worked in an environment unlike many others, previous exhibitions had grand sites with hundreds of acres to create endless vistas. The South Bank exhibition on the other hand was compact and with only 27 acres (compared to 216 at the British Empire Exhibition) there was no possibility of grand vistas. However much was made of the Thames-side site, and the river was imaginatively used to connect the South Bank exhibition with other sites such as the Festival Gardens at Battersea Park. The site itself was seen as a narrative, set out to tell the story of Britain, the focus on ‘The Land’ and ‘The People’. This notion of the two stories was born out of one of the site’s disadvantages, with it being divided by

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a railway line, therefore the intention was to highlight the British people’s common character, traditions and history. In his article in The Listener, Harold Nicolson wrote of the planners: ‘Let us, they said ... emphasize our unity. Let us show the world that we are after all a people, cemented together by the gigantic pressures of history ... We take a pride in our ... wonderful fusion of tradition and invention ... of uniformity and eccentricity. Surely that also was one of the motives of the Festival to remind us that we were very, very old and very, very young.’ Although the 1951 Festival of Britain, was centenary celebration of the Great Exhibition of 1851. However it was only at the eleventh hour that the organisers decided to even place a pavilion of the 1851 Exhibition, it simply seemed to provide an impetus for the Festival. Britain’s island history was in every aspect insular, in 1951 Britain turned its back on the Empire as well as Europe. A momentous decision, but an inevitable one, as the Empire was soon to disappear. The emphasis, instead, was on the ‘timeless past’ - in other words, on the Normans and on the waves of immigration even before them. One pavilion more than any encapsulated the Festival’s concept ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’ which served to symbolise two of the main qualities of the national character: on the one hand, realism and strength, on the other, fantasy, independence and imagination. So, what was the impact of the Festival? One area in which its influence appeared to have been significant was in the field of design, where a definite ‘Festival Style’ is said to have emerged. It was a style that could easily be imposed on the past. A sheet a hardboard could transform a Victorian panelled door, and a lick of bright paint could bring about a domestic metamorphosis. The style could soon become a cliché. The Festival of Britain drew 8.5 million people to the South Bank exhibition, although just 3 weeks after the Festival closed the Labour Government were thrown out at the general election. The Conservatives came to power, and quickly set about clearing the site, ostensibly to prepare it for a Coronation Garden. The Festival Hall remained (this had been a LCC project) but the Skylon and the Dome of Discovery are no more.

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B. Population analysis of places hosting the fiftyfour principal Festival events This analysis of the structure of the Festival of Britain rank the places by Size of 1949 population (descending) and then shows the fifty-five principal Festival events against each city or town.

London:

8,203,900 South Bank/ Science/ Architecture/ Books/ 1851

Centenary/ Festival of Films/Battersea Pleasure Gardens

Birmingham: 1,107,200 Land Travelling Exhibition Glasgow: 1,105,000 Industrial Power Contemporary Scottish Books Liverpool: 802,000 Arts Festival Manchester: 700,700 Land Travelling Exhibition Leeds: 505,400 Land Travelling Exhibition Edinburgh:

490,300 Living Traditions/Arts Books Festival Eighteenth

century Gathering of the Clans

Belfast:

451,100 Ulster Farm and Factory Festival Ship Campania/Arts

Festival

Bristol: 439,840 Festival Ship Campania Nottingham: 301,240 Land Travelling Exhibition Newcastle-upon-Tyne: 295,240 Festival Ship Campania Cardiff: 243,500 Pageant of Vales St Fagan’s Folk Festival Ship Campania Plymouth: 209,960 Festival Ship Campania Aberdeen: 189,700 Arts Festival Southampton: 180,930 Festival Ship Campania Dundee: 180,500 Arts Festival Ship Campania Swansea: 160,300 Music and the Arts Brighton: 155,350 Arts Festival

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Birkenhead: 141,460 Festival Ship Campania Bournemouth: 130,400 Arts Festival Norwich: 119,000 Arts Festival Oxford: 107,100 Arts Festival York: 107,100 Arts Festival Cambridge: 90,550 Arts Festival Bath: 77,450 Arts Festival Cheltenham: 64,150 Arts Festival Worcester: 62,020 Arts Festival Perth: 40,900 Arts Festival Kingston upon-Hull: 40,660 Festival Ship Campania Inverness: 28,239 Arts Festival Dumfries: 27,100 Arts Festival Canterbury: 26,490 Arts Festival Stratford-upon-Avon: 14,050 Arts Festival Llangollen: 3,003 Arts Festival Llanrwst: 2,555 Arts Festival Aldeburgh: 2,500 Arts Festival St Davids: 800 Arts Festival

Information compiled and analysed by Martin Packer of the Festival of Britain Society.

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C. Attendance figures of The Festival of Britain 1951 Architecture Exhibition, Lansbury, Poplar (London)

86,646

Industrial Power Exhibition, Glasgow

282,039

Science Exhibition, South Kensington (London)

213,744

South Bank Exhibition, Waterloo (London)

8,455,863

– Visitors from London

36.5%

– Outside London

56%

- Overseas

7.5%

- USA

15%

– Commonwealth

32%

- Europe

46%

– Elsewhere

7%

Land Travelling Exhibition

462,289

- Manchester

114,183

– Leeds

144,844

– Birmingham

76,357

– Nottingham

106,615

Festival Ship “Campania”

889,792

– Southampton

78,683

– Dundee

51,422

– Newcastle

169,511

– Hull

87,840

– Plymouth

50,120

– Bristol (Avonmouth)

78,219

– Cardiff

104,391

– Belfast

86,756

– Birkenhead

90,311

– Glasgow

93,539

Festival Pleasure Gardens, Battersea (London)

8,031,000

– Visitors from London

76%,

– Outside London

22%

– Overseas

2%

Ulster Farm & Factory Exhibition, Belfast

156,760

Living Traditions Exhibition, Edinburgh

135,000

Exhibition of Books, South Kensington (London)

63,162

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Figure 7.2 Estate plan of the lands purchased by the 1851 Commissioners, c.1856

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D. South Kensington From Above 1856-2012 Maps or aerial photographs are invaluable tools to understand the layout of an area. Here in this section you will find a selection of both, charting the development of South Kensington and the Exhibition Road Cultural Quarter, from c.1856 up to the present day.

History The area began as a green suburb of London, populated by just a few houses. Everything changed after the phenomenal success of the Great Exhibition of 1851, located just to the north of the site. With the proceeds from the exhibition 86 acres of land between Kensington Gardens and Cromwell Road were purchased for educational use. Over the next 50 years the area developed into a unique cultural centre with national museums, arts and sciences institutions, and a university. A vibrant hive of building activity, resulting in the South Kensington Museum (later the Victoria And Albert Museum), the Natural History Museum, the Royal Albert Hall, and Imperial College, all of which can be seen in the aerial views.

All images sourced from: h tt p : / / www. a rc h i te ct u re. co m / L i b ra ry D raw i n g s A n d P h oto g ra p h s / Albertopolis/ExploringSouthKensington/SouthKensingtonFromAbove/ SouthKensingtonFromAbove.aspx

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Figure 7.3 Plan of the Kensington Gore estate, c.1862

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Figure 7.4 Plan of the main square of the Kensington Gore estate, c.1890

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Figure 7.5 Plan of the Kensington Gore estate, c.1935

Figure 7.6 Aerial photograph of the South Kensington area, c.1935

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Figure 7.7 Aerial photograph of the South Kensington area, c.1944

Figure 7.8 Aerial Photograph of the South Kensington area, c.2006

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Figure 7.9 Plan of proposed scheme for Exhibition Road, c.2005

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Figure 7.10 Architect’s impressions of the Dixon Jones pedestrian scheme for the south end of Exhibition Road, c.2012

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Notes

Notes

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Text copyright Š Duncan Sparks, University of Portsmouth - 2013.


This thesis explores two key design-led events held in London, that transformed British national identity. The Great Exhibition of 1851 and the 1951 Festival of Britain. One hundred years apart, these two pivotal cultural events offered a forum for experimentation and debate over what it meant to be British. Drawing on remarkable sketches, plans, photographs and paintings, Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions attempts to reveal the story of the successes and failures of the Great Exhibition and the Festival of Britain. The written thesis explores the legacy and aspirations of the Great Exhibition and the Festival of Britain on the reshaping of taste and development of 19th and 20th century Britain. The introduction establishes the nature of both promotional expositions in London. The following two chapters examine the motives and aspirations that lay behind these extraordinary events that afford two unique snapshots of the state of Britain a century apart. Finally, in the interest of comparison the third chapter analyses the narrative and language of the two expositions in terms of venue, layout and design. The thesis concludes that it was the legacy of both exhibitions that defined their success. Two of London’s great museums, the Science Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum, were formed as a direct result of the Great Exhibition which had highlighted the country’s need for better education in the new age of sciencebased technologies and applied art. Furthermore, although the Festival of Britain was a momentary expression of British innovation, it was seen as a beacon for change. With its true contribution to the South Bank being the birth of a modern cultural centre, which now rivals any arts quarter across the world today. Both the Great Exhibition and Festival of Britain which is the focus of my written thesis engaged with their societies. So can the medium and method of the exposition again manifest itself at present to reflect a new face of Britain? One which would promote British innovation and ingenuity to inspire growth not only in terms of trade but in forging a new sense of pride in national identity and British culture - a proposition that is investigated in my design thesis.


Thesis - Transforming national identity & legacy through British expositions