Famous Worcester exhibition which attracted a quarter of a million people


Computing was the biggest event since the establishment of Roundhead / Cavalier in 1651, which was not quite on the same page, that Worcester had ever hosted.

Because by the time the 1882 Worcestershire Exhibition closed, nearly 223,000 people had visited. Remarkably, for a celebration of all that was great about the county, from engineering to the arts, to manufacturing to farming, it was a retractable staircase that stole the show.

A print in the Illustrated London News for July 29, 1882 to accompany a story on “an exhibition of arts and industry at the Worcester Exhibition Building on Shrub-Hill”

Thousands of people stomped on the newly patented device just so they could shoot it after them. Unfortunately, its significant and potentially fatal flaw became evident soon after it was installed in a factory in Worcester.

The staircase would get stuck sometimes and although this was easily fixed in an exhibition setting with experts on hand, in the commercial world it could create a dangerous fire hazard if people were trapped at a higher level. without obvious means of escape.

Needless to say, sales of the ingenious device never took off.

From the loading dock at the Hill Evans vinegar factory in Lowesmoor, Worcester - the UK's largest in Victorian times - the products were shipped to all parts of the world

From the loading dock at the Hill Evans vinegar factory in Lowesmoor, Worcester – the UK’s largest in Victorian times – the products were shipped to all parts of the world

Such “great exhibitions” were a feature of the Victorian era, begun with one in Hyde Park in London in 1851. Following its success, they spread to the provinces and Worcester turned out to have an ideal location.

Along Shrub Hill Road were the former premises of the Worcester Engine Company and the West Midlands Wagon Company, a sprawling empty and desolate engine factory. Soon he would come back to life with vengeance.

The casting department of engineering giants Heenan and Froude, who took over the building along Shrub Hill Road in 1903, two decades after the Worcestershire Exhibition closed

The casting department of engineering giants Heenan and Froude, who took over the building along Shrub Hill Road in 1903, two decades after the Worcestershire Exhibition closed

The Old Engine Assembly Shop – a deceptively small name for a space 239 feet long, 50 feet wide and 30 feet high with an iron and glass roof – was chosen as the exhibit’s main courtyard , which totaled 54,000 square feet, far more than most similar attractions outside the capital.

Victorian workers at the Fownes Glove Factory, now a hotel on City Walls Road

Victorian workers at the Fownes Glove Factory, now a hotel on City Walls Road

Wear Fownes gloves when driving your sled.  Should have had Santa Claus holding the reins

Wear Fownes gloves when driving your sled. Should have had Santa Claus holding the reins

Organizers were spoiled for choice for exhibitors in the city and county had some of the biggest names of the time: Sauce Boats Lea and Perrins, Royal Worcester Porcelain, Fownes Gloves, Hill and Evans, the largest vinegar factories in the country and McNaught and Co, who made some of the finest horse-drawn carriages in the country, to name a few.

    McNaught and Co of Worcester were among the top car makers in the country.  He is the state coach for the mayor of London

McNaught and Co of Worcester were among the top car makers in the country. He is the state coach for the mayor of London

The exhibition brought together the people of Worcestershire like never before. On display were Old Masters from many local collections as well as modern works by Brook, Leader and others, as well as relics and historical documents never before exhibited to the public.

On opening day, the bells rang, flags were raised and the streets were decorated with banners and banners. Crowds lined the roads to see the great and good of the county arrive and to admire the marching soldiers, marching bands, mayors and other dignitaries.

The public at the closing ceremony of the exhibition on October 18, 1882. Royal Worcester porcelain display cases can be seen along the wall

The public at the closing ceremony of the exhibition on October 18, 1882. Royal Worcester porcelain display cases can be seen along the wall

“It was,” proclaimed the Worcestershire Chronicle, “an occasion of unusual glee for the whole town.” Is it time for another? There must be a spare building somewhere. Or did the university buy it.

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