On Saturday 5th June our guest speaker was Deborah Scriven, our Society’s President. Deborah had carried out research on the history of Wood Street in Wakefield for Leeds University and had concentrated on the Exhibition held there in 1865.
After the success of the London Crystal Palace exhibition of 1851, worthies of Wakefield decided that such an event would showcase local industries and encourage innovation and development of skills in industry and the arts. There would also be an added benefit in that many would be gainfully employed.
The site chosen was an open space between the Mechanic’s Institute and the Court House on Wood Street. It is the site where the Town Hall is now located. A committee was formed to organize the exhibition and raise funds for a temporary construction for the exhibition hall.
Exhibits were provided mainly from the Wakefield and West Riding area though some came from further afield. Exhibits included paintings and drawings and depicted industrial scenes and items that were created or used locally eg glass, china, carriages, a telescope, quilted bed covers, musical instruments, machine tools, paintings and sculptures. There were even paintings from Turner, Atkinson Grimshaw and local artist Louise Fennel! Neighboring textile towns provided examples of shoddy, rag pullers and there were individual offerings of basket work, needlework and even a crayon portrait of the human head!
Lectures were also a feature that were provided by local industrialists, representatives from the Church and local school bodies
Prizes were awarded which included First class and Second class medals and there were First and Second class Certificates of Merit.
The exhibition ran for forty days and visitor numbers exceeded 180,000 people. The exhibition was deemed a great success and even a substantial profit was made.