1862 International Exhibition

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EXPO London 1862
AnalyticalMachine Babbage London.jpg
Babbage's Analytical Machine
BIE-class Universal exposition
Category Historical
Name International Exhibition
Area 9 hectares (22 acres)
Invention(s) Analytical engine
Visitors 6,100,000
Countries 36
Country United Kingdom
City London
Venue Kensington Exhibition Road
Coordinates 51°30′1.4″N 0°10′33.2″W / 51.500389°N 0.175889°W / 51.500389; -0.175889
Opening May 1, 1862 (1862-05-01)
Closure November 1, 1862 (1862-11-01)
Universal expositions
Previous Exposition Universelle (1855) in Paris
Next Exposition Universelle (1867) in Paris
The Ross Fountain in Edinburgh, manufactured in Paris, was an exhibit at the Great London Exposition.

The International of 1862, or Great London Exposition, was a world's fair. It was held from 1 May to 1 November 1862, beside the gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society, South Kensington, London, England, on a site that now houses museums including the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum (London).


The exposition was sponsored by the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Trade, and featured over 28,000 exhibitors from 36 countries, representing a wide range of industry, technology, and the arts. William Sterndale Bennett composed music for the opening ceremony.[1] All told, it attracted about 6.1 million visitors. Receipts (£459,632) were slightly above cost (£458,842), leaving a total profit of £790.

It was held in South Kensington, London, on a site now occupied by the Natural History Museum. The buildings, which occupied 21 acres, were designed by Captain Francis Fowke of the Royal Engineers, and built by Charles and Thomas Lucas and Sir John Kelk at a cost of £300,000 covered by profits from the Great Exhibition of 1851. They were intended to be permanent, and were constructed in an unornamented style with the intention of adding decoration in later years as funds allowed. Much of the construction was of cast-iron, 12,000 tons worth,[2] though facades were brick. Picture galleries occupied three sides of a rectangle on the south side of the site; the largest, with a frontage on the Cromwell Road was 1150 feet long, 50 feet high and 50 feet wide, with a grand triple-arched entrance. Fowke paid particular attention to lighting pictures in a way that would eliminate glare. Behind the picture galleries were the "Industrial Buildings" . These were composed of "naves" and "transepts", lit by tall clerestories, with the spaces in the angles between them filled by glass-roofed courts. Above the brick entrances on the east and west fronts were two great glass domes, each 150 feet wide and 260 feet high - at that time the largest domes ever built. The timber-framed "Machinery Galleries", the only parts of the structure intended to be temporary, stretched further north along Prince Consort Road.[3]

Parliament declined the Government's wish to purchase the building and the materials were sold and used for the construction of Alexandra Palace.

The nave from the Western Dome. A stereoscopic view of the 1862 International Exhibition published by the London Stereoscopic Company


Exhibitions included such large pieces of machinery as parts of Charles Babbage's analytical engine, cotton mills, and maritime engines by the firm of Henry Maudslay, as well as a range of smaller goods including fabrics, rugs, sculptures, furniture, plates, silver and glass wares, and wallpaper. The work shown by William Morris's decorative arts firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. attracted much notice. The exposition also introduced the use of caoutchouc for rubber production and the Bessemer process for steel manufacture.

William England led a team of stereoscopic photographers, which included William Russell Sedgfield and Stephen Thompson, to produce a series of 350 stereo views of the exhibition for the London Stereoscopic Company. These images provide a vivid three-dimensional record of the exhibition. Benjamin Simpson showed photos from the Indian subcontinent.

The London and North Western Railway exhibited one of their express passenger locomotives, No. 531 Lady of the Lake. A sister locomotive, No. 229 Watt had famously carried Trent Affair despatches earlier that year,[4] but the Lady of the Lake (which won a bronze medal at the exhibition) was so popular that the entire class of locomotive became known as Ladies of the Lake.[5]

The exhibition also included an international chess tournament, the London 1862 chess tournament.


Unlike The Great Exhibition of 1851, the Society of Arts chose to have a distinctive musical component to the exhibition of 1862. Music critic Henry Chorley was selected as advisor and recommended commissioning works by William Sterndale Bennett, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Daniel Auber, and Gioacchino Rossini. Being in his retirement, Rossini declined, so the Society asked Giuseppe Verdi, who eventually accepted.[6]

William Sterndale Bennett wrote his Ode Written Expressly for the Opening of the International Exhibition (upon a text by Alfred, Lord Tennyson), Meyerbeer wrote his Fest-Ouvertüre im Marschstyl, and Auber wrote his Grand triumphal march. These three works premiered at the opening of the exhibition on 1 May 1862, with the orchestra led by conductor Michael Costa. Controversies involving Verdi's contribution, the cantata Inno delle nazioni, prevented the work from being included in the inaugural concert. It was first performed on 24 May 1862 at Her Majesty's Theatre in a concert organized by James Henry Mapleson.[6]


The Hubert Fountain in Victoria Park, Ashford, Kent, was an exhibit at the International Exhibition.

At the opening of the exhibition on 1 May 1862, one of the attending Members of the British Parliament, 70-year-old Robert Aglionby Slaney, fell onto the ground through a gap between floorboards on a platform. He carried on with his visit despite an injured leg, but died from gangrene that set in on the 19th.[7]


  1. ^ Lowe, Charles. Four national exhibitions in London and their organiser. With portraits and illustrations (1892) (PDF). London, T. F. Unwin. p. 26. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  2. ^ Appletons' annual cyclopaedia and register of important events of the year: 1862. New York: D. Appleton & Company. 1863. p. 413. 
  3. ^ Some Account of the Buildings Designed by Captain Francis Fowke, for the International Exhibition of 1862. Chapman and Hall, London, 1861.
  4. ^ "Railway Wonders of the World - Special Trains". Retrieved 2013-12-30. 
  5. ^ Nock, O.S. (1952). The Premier Line - The Story of London & North Western Locomotives. London: Ian Allan. p. 54. 
  6. ^ a b Verdi, Giuseppe. Hymns = Inni. Robert Montemorra Marvin, ed., The Works of Giuseppe Verdi, series 4, volume 1, Chicago and Milan: University of Chicago and Ricordi, 2007. ISBN 0226853284
  7. ^ "The Late Mr Slaney, M.P.". Shrewsbury Chronicle. 23 May 1862. p. 4. Slaney was MP for Shrewsbury.

Further reading[edit]

  • Dishon, Dalit, South Kensington's forgotten palace : the 1862 International Exhibition Building, PhD thesis, University of London, 2006. 3 vols.
  • Hollingshead, John, A Concise History of the International Exhibition of 1862. Its Rise and Progress, its Building and Features and a Summary of all Former Exhibitions, London, 1862.
  • Hunt, Robert, Handbook of the Industrial Department of the Universal Exhibition 1862, 2 vols., London, 1862.
  • Tongue, Michael (2006) 3D Expo 1862, Discovery Books ISBN 91-972118-2-6

External links[edit]