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posts were not remo century, and that the
ead-quarters of Fairfer
lately painted on the front of the house; and on an the “Rising Sun ;” though a wooden inn, it was ornamental piece of plaster-work was formerly em- an ancient house, and its staircase and the panelling blazoned the great Lord Protector's coat of arms." of its walls were handsomely carved. On the spot Mr. Davis does not guarantee the literal truth of now occupied by the Duke of Wellington's stables, this tradition, though he holds that nothing is more there was also, in former times, an inn known as the certain than that Knightsbridge was the scene of “Life Guardsman," and previously as the “Nag's frequent skirmishes during the Civil War. This Head.” was natural enough, considering that the hamlet We may mention that a market for cattle was was the first place on the great western road from held at Knightsbridge every Thursday till an early London. We know for certain that the army of year in the present century, and that the last pen the Parliament was encamped about the neighbour. hood in 1647, and that the head-quarters of Fairfax The air of this neighbourhood has always been were at Holland House; and the same was the regarded as pure and healthy. Swift brought his case just before and after the fight at Brentford. friend Harrison to it for the benefit of pure air; It was on the strength of this, and other traditions, and half a century later it maintained the same that Mr. E. H. Corbould made this inn the subject character, for we read that Lady Hester Stanhope of a painting, “The Old Hostelrie at Knightsbridge," sent a faithful servant thither, with the same object exhibited in 1849. “He laid the scene as early as in view. In sooth, “Constitution” Hill at one end, 1497. Opposite the inn is a well, surmounted by and “Montpelier " Square at the other, both derive a figure of St. George; while beyond is the spacious their names from this peculiarity. The fact is that green, the meandering stream, and the bridge over the main street of Knightsbridge stands on a wellit, surmounted by an embattled tower; further off defined terrace of the London clay, between the appears the old hospital and chapel. ..... The gravel of Hyde Park and that of Pimlico, resting house of late," continues Mr. Davis, “has been on thick layers of sand, which cause the soil to much modernised, and in 1853 had a narrow be porous, and rapidly to absorb the surfaceescape from destruction by fire; but enough still water. remains, in its peculiar chimneys, oval-shaped win- The water-supply of Knightsbridge has always dows, its low rooms, its large yard and extensive been remarkably good, being drawn from several stabling, with galleries above and office-like places conduits in and about Park-side and to the south of beneath, to testify to its antiquity and former Rotten Row. One of these, known as St. James's, importance.” It was pulled down about the year for the Receiving Conduit, supplied the royal 1865. Another hostelry in the main street was ' palaces and the Abbey with water.
“Anon, out of the earth a fabric huge
Rose like an exhalation."-Milton. Previous Exhibitions of a somewhat similar Character-The Marquis d'Aveze's projected Exhibition-Various French Expositions--Competitive
Exhibitions in England-Prince Albert's Proposal for holding an Industrial Exhibition of All Nations-His Royal Highness becomes Chairman of the Royal Commission-Banquet at the Mansion House-Lecturers and Agents sent all over the Country, to Explain the Objects of the Exhibition-Reception of Plans and Designs-Mr. Paxton's Design accepted-Realisation of one of the Earliest Poetical Dreams in the English Language-General Description of the Building-Opening of the Exhibition by Her Majesty-Number of
Visitors-Removal of the Building-The National Albert Memorial. That portion of Hyde Park, between Prince's Gate Before proceeding with a description of the buildand the Serpentine, running parallel with the main ing and an epitome of its principal contents, it may road through Knightsbridge and Kensington, is not be out of place to take a brief glance at some memorable as having been the site of the great previous exhibitions of a similar character, which Industrial Exhibition of 1851, wherein were brought had been held in France, at various times, within together, for the first time, under one spacious roof, the preceding hundred years. As far back as the for the purposes of competition, the various pro- year 1756—about the same time that our Royal ductions of the inventive genius and industry of Academy opened to the public its galleries of nearly all the nations of the earth.
| painting, engraving, and sculpture-the productions
of art and skill were collected and displayed in held in France, the last of which was restricted to London, for the purpose of stimulating public national products. The Industrial Show of 1855, industry and inventiveness; and although these however, was, like our own Great Exhibition of . exhibitions were, to a certain extent, nothing more 1851, international. than would now be termed “bazaars,” they were During all this time there had grown up in Engfound to answer so successfully the ends for which land exhibitions, consisting chiefly of agricultural they were instituted, that the plan was adopted in implements and cattle, together with local exhibiFrance, and there continued, with the happiest tions of arts and manufactures. In Birmingham, results, even long after it had been abandoned Leeds, Manchester, Dublin, and other great centres in England. When the first French Revolu- of industry, bazaars, after the French pattern, had tion was at its height, the Marquis d'Aveze pro- been successfully held from time to time. The one jected an exhibition of tapestry and porcelain, as a which most nearly approached the idea of the means of raising funds for relieving the distress French Exposition, in the variety and extent of the then existing among the workers in those trades. national productions displayed, was the Free Trade Before, however, he could complete his arrange- Bazaar, held for twelve days, in 1845, in Covent ments, he was denounced, and on the very day Garden Theatre—an exhibition which excited conon which his exhibition was to have been opened, siderable public interest, and doubtless did much he was compelled to fly from the vengeance of the to inake the London public acquainted with many Directory. So firm a hold, however, had the idea arts and manufactures of which they had hitherto taken on the public mind, that it was not allowed had but a very confused and imperfect knowledge. to die out. A few years afterwards, on his return Roused from their remissness by the success that to Paris, the marquis resumed his labours, and in had attended the various French Expositions, the 1798 actually succeeded in opening a National English people, during the years 1847 and 1848, Exposition in the house and gardens of the Maison re-opened their exhibitions, chiefly at the instigation d'Orsay. The people flocked in great numbers and by the aid of the Society of Arts, by whom to view the show, which altogether proved a com- the plan had been revived. So great was now the plete success. In that same year, too, the French importance of these industrial displays, that they Government organised its first official Exposition became a subject of national consideration ; but it of national manufacture and the works of industry. I was felt that something more was necessary than It was held on the Champ de Mars, in a building France or England had as yet attempted to give constructed for the purpose, called the Temple of them their proper development and effect. Industry. Three years later a second Exposition. At this point, an idea was entertained by the late took place, and more than two hundred exhibitors Prince Consort of gathering together into one place competed for the prizes offered for excellence. In the best specimens of contemporary art and skill, the following year a third Exposition was held on and the natural productions of every soil and the same spot, the number of exhibitors increasing climate, instead of the mere local or national proto upwards of four hundred. So great was the ductions of France and England. "It was to be a success of these several shows, that out of them arose whole world of nature and art collected at the call an institution similar to our Society of Arts, called of the queen of cities—a competition in which the Société d'Encouragement, a society to which the every country might have a place, and every variety working classes of France are largely indebted for of intellect its claim and chance of distinction. the taste which they have acquired for the beautiful Nothing great, or beautiful, or useful, be its native in art, and for the cultivation of science as a hand- home where it might; not a discovery or invention, maid to industry. In 1806 the fourth French Ex- however humble or obscure; not a candidate, howposition was held in a building erected in front of ever lowly his rank, but would obtain admission, the Hôpital des Invalides; this was even more and be estimated to the full amount of genuine successful than its predecessors; for while the pre-worth. It was to be to the nineteenth what the vious Expositions had each remained open only tournament had been to the fourteenth and fifteenth about a week, this one was kept open for twenty- centuries—a challenge at once and welcome to all four days, and was visited by many thousands of comers, and to which every land could send, not its people. The number of exhibitors rose from brightest dame and bravest lance, as of yore, but its about five hundred to nearly fifteen hundred, and best produce and happiest device for the promotion nearly every department of French industry was of universal happiness and brotherhood."* represented. At different periods between the ! ---years 1819 and 1849, seven other Expositions were * “Comprehensive History of England," vol. iv., p. 798.
The undertaking received Her Majesty's royal At first, many manufacturers and merchants in sanction on the 3rd of January, 1850 ; on the 11th foreign countries were exceedingly averse to the of the same month the Royal Commissioners held proposed Exhibition ; but, as was the case with their first meeting; and on the 14th of February those at home, discussion and better information Prince Albert sat as Chairman of the Commission. led to more enlightened views. Prince Albert, in On the 21st of March the Lord Mayor of London his speech at a banquet held at York, said, in the invited the mayors of nearly all the cities, boroughs, name of the Royal Commission :-“Although we and towns of the United Kingdom to a banquet at perceive in some countries an apprehension that the Mansion House to meet the Prince, and upon the advantages to be derived from the Exhibition
that occasion his Royal Highness lucidly explained | will be mainly reaped by England, and a conthe object of the proposed undertaking.
sequent distrust in the effects of our scheme upon The Exhibition, it was announced, was to belong their own interests, we must, at the same time, exclusively to the people themselves of every nation, freely and gratefully acknowledge, that our inviinstead of being supported and controlled by their tation has been received by all nations, with whom respective governments; and in order that nothing communication was possible, in that spirit of might be wanting in its character as a great com- liberality and friendship in which it was tendered, petitive trial, the sum of £20,000 was set apart for and that they are making great exertions, and the expense of prizes, which were to be awarded incurring great expenses, in order to meet our to the successful competitors. At first, the real plans." Upon the same occasion, Lord Carlisle, magnitude and the great difficulties of the project one of the most enlightened men of the age, were not fully perceived ; and the proposal was expressed a hope that “the promoters of this scarcely made public by the Society of Arts, of Exhibition were giving a new impulse to civilisawhich Prince Albert was at the head, before im- tion, and bestowing an additional reward upon pediments began to rise up in their way, and for industry, and supplying a fresh guarantee to the more than a year they were beset with difficulties. amity of nations. Yes, the nations rere stirring
at their call, but not as the trumpet sounds to themselves, from the various suggestions afforded . battle; they were summoning them to the peaceful by the competing architects, adding, as a contrifield of a nobler competition; not to build the bution“ entirely their own," a dome of gigantic superiority or predominance of one country on proportions. This dome at once became so unthe depression and prostration of another, but popular with the public, and the contest about where all might strive who could do most to its site grew so fierce, that the whole scheme of embellish, improve, and elevate their common the Exhibition seemed at one time likely to have humanity."
- collapsed. At “the eleventh hour,” however, Mr. At a meeting held in Birmingham, Mr. Cobden, Paxton, as we have stated above, came forward in speaking of the advantages that might be with a plan, which he considered would meet all expected to flow from this Exhibition, said, “We the requirements of the Committee, and avoid all shall by that means break down the barriers that the objections of the public. “It was not,” said have separated the people of different nations, and Mr. Paxton himself, at a meeting of the Derby witness one universal republic; the year 1851 will Institute, “ until one morning, when I was present be a memorable one, indeed : it will witness a with my friend, Mr. Ellis, at an early sitting in the triumph of industry instead of a triumph of arms. House of Commons, that the idea of sending in a We shall not witness the reception of the allied design occurred to me. A conversation took place sovereigns after some fearful conflict, men bowing between us, with reference to the construction of their heads in submission; but, instead, thousands the new House of Commons, in the course of and tens of thousands will cross the Channel, to which I observed, that I was afraid they would whom we will give the right hand of fellowship, also commit a blunder in the building, for the with the fullest conviction that war, rather than Industrial Exhibition ; I told him that I had a a national aggrandisement, has been the curse and notion in my head, and that if he would accompany the evil which has retarded the progress of liberty me to the Board of Trade I would ascertain and of virtue ; and we shall show to them that whether it was too late to send in a design. I the people of England—not a section of them, but asked the Executive Committee whether they were hundreds of thousands—are ready to sign a treaty so far committed to the plans as to be precluded of amity with all the nations on the face of the from receiving another; the reply was, “Certainly earth."
not; the specifications will be out in a fortnight, Lecturers and competent agents were now sent but there is no reason why a clause should not be throughout the country to explain the objects of introduced, allowing of the reception of another the Exhibition, and the advantages likely to arise design.' I said, “Well, if you will introduce such from it; besides which, the subject had been pro- a clause, I will go home, and, in nine days hence, claimed in every country far and wide-in fact, a I will bring you my plans all complete.' No challenge had been given, such as men had never doubt the Executive thought me a conceited heard, to an enterprise in which every nation might fellow, and that what I had said was nearer akin hope to be the victor. It was arranged that the to romance than to common sense. Well, this great competition should be opened in London was on Friday, the 11th of June. From London on the ist of May, 1851; but as yet a place for I went to the Menai Straits, to see the third tube the accommodation of the specimens and the of the Britannia Bridge placed, and on my return spectators had to be erected. The directors of the to Derby I had to attend to some business at the Exhibition were for a time perplexed, for they Board Room, during which time, however, my found, on calculation, that no building on earth whole mind was devoted to this project; and would be sufficiently large to contain a tithe of its whilst the business proceeded, I sketched the contents. After many expedients had been pro- outline of my design on a large sheet of blottingposed and rejected, Mr. (afterwards Sir Joseph) paper. Well, having sketched this design, I sat Paxton, the celebrated horticulturist at Chatsworth, up all night, until I had worked it out to my own came forward with a simple plan, which effectually satisfaction; and, by the aid of my friend Mr. solved all the difficulty.
Barlow, on the 15th, I was enabled to complete The number of plans and designs sent in to the the whole of the plans by the Saturday following, Committee appointed by the Royal Commission on which day I left Rowsley for London. On amounted to nearly two hundred and fifty, in arriving at the Derby station, I met Mr. Robert cluding several foreigners; but none of these Stephenson, a member of the Building Committee, appeared to be satisfactory. Accordingly, the who was also on his way to the metropolis. Mr. Committee set to work and perfected a design for Stephenson minutely examined the plans, and