Franco–British Exhibition (1908)

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Bird's eye view of the exhibition area

The Franco–British Exhibition (1908) was a large public fair held in London in the early years of the 20th century. The exhibition attracted 8 million visitors and celebrated the Entente Cordiale signed in 1904 by the United Kingdom and France.

The Exhibition was held in an area of West London near Shepherd's Bush which is now called White City: the area acquired its name from the exhibition buildings which were all painted white. The 1908 Summer Olympics fencing events were held in the district alongside the festivities.[1]

Attractions[edit]

Franco–British Exhibition 1908 souvenir stamp

The fair was the largest exhibition of its kind in Britain, and the first international exhibition co-organised and sponsored by two countries. It covered an area of some 140 acres (0.57 km2), including an artificial lake, surrounded by an immense network of white buildings in elaborate (often Oriental) styles.

The most popular attractions at the exhibition were the two so-called "colonial villages"—an "Irish village" and a "Senegalese village", which were designed to communicate the success of imperialism. The Irish village ("Ballymaclinton") was inhabited by 150 "colleens" (Irish girls) who demonstrated various forms of domestic industry, as well as displays of manufacturing and even an art gallery. The "Senegalese village" was a so-called "native village" displaying day-to-day life, as well as various artefacts. Press reports commented on the "surprising cleanliness" of the Irish, while readers were reminded that the Senegalese were "cleaner than they looked".[2]

Limericks were used to advertise this event:

In Elite Gardens
A maiden of coy disposition,
Met her fate at the Bush Exhibition,
When his great love he told her,
Placed her head on his shoulder,
And enjoyed the happier position.
In an Anglo-French section one night,
A Youth met a Maiden, gay and bright,
But her idea of pleasure,
Was of such boundless measure,
He left with heart heavy – purse light.

In 1937, a large portion of the White City site was cleared to make way for a housing estate. During the clearance, the Flip Flap, and a number of other White City structures, were sold for scrap to the steel firm George Cohen, Sons and Co Limited—the same company who had dismantled the Great Wheel of the Earl’s Court Exhibition,[3] and went on to dismantle the Skylon, dome, and ten other buildings, at the Festival of Britain site in 1952.[4]

The site today[edit]

The exhibition site is now partly occupied by the BBC Television Centre, opened in 1960. The last remaining buildings of the 1908 exhibition were demolished to make way for the Westfield development. Hammersmith Park, at the north of Frithville Gardens, was once part of the Japanese Garden, and is the only part of the 1908 exhibition site still visible. A small area of tiling preserved from the Garden can still be seen inside the main Television Centre site adjacent to the Studio 1 Audience Entrance. The White City Stadium site, in Wood Lane adjacent to the Westway overpass and once part of the Exhibition, is now occupied by the BBC Media Village.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Geppert, Alexander C.T., Fleeting Cities. Imperial Expositions in Fin-de-Siècle Europe, Basingstoke/New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.[ISBN missing]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 1908 Summer Olympics official report. p. 127.
  2. ^ Madeline Holt interviewing Miranda Carter. Edited by Peter Barron. (2008-05-14). "Section: White City". Newsnight. 42 minutes in. BBC Two.
  3. ^ The Times. Feb 2 1937 p. 14.
  4. ^ The Skylon. Wikipedia.[circular reference]

External links[edit]