Temperance, The Great Exhibition and the Crystal Palace.
The story of the 1851 Great Exhibition and its iconic venue, Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace, is well known. What is perhaps not so well known is the influence Temperance had on the ‘Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations’.
The idea of an international exhibition to show all nations the wonders of the newly industrialised Britain was championed by Henry Cole and Price Albert. They would both sit on a Royal Commission established to promote the event, which would take place in Hyde Park between May and October in 1851.
It was these Commissioners that decreed that whichever refreshment provider was selected for the the venue, no intoxicating liquors should be made available and this gave rise to the Palace’s nickname as the “Temperance House”.
The refreshment contract was eventually awarded to Messrs Schweppe & Co,
and to whom the mammoth task of providing for the eventual six million visitors fell, and who famously, consumed over a million bottles of soft drinks and a similar number of buns.
Some controversy also surrounded the Commissioner’s decision to exclude wines, spirits and beers from the actual exhibits along with cheese, butter and gunpowder!
The second major Temperance association came via the appointment of Thomas Cook of Leicester to act as agent for the Midland railway who agreed to organise excursions from the Midlands and North to the Metropolis.
The dry nature of the event and venue appealed to Cook the abstainer and he agreed to advertise the exhibition and organise the travel which would also give him the opportunity to promote, and put much business the way of, Temperance Hotels and Boarding Houses in London.
The Crystal Palace building was removed to Sydenham in 1854 and continued to provide a popular venue for Temperance gatherings though mounting pressure grew to allow the sale of alcohol at the Crystal Palace, and despite many rearguard actions, eventually the ban on alcohol sales was relaxed, though the sale of spirits continued to be prohibited.
Many notable Temperance Fete’s and Festivals took place at the these famously involved Children’s choirs numbering many thousands which made long lasting impressions on the participants.
A major highlight included a festival held in July 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, during these events the sheers numbers attending meant the exclusive use could ensure the Palace and grounds were alcohol free for the event.
Sadly, the Crystal Palace was destroyed in a disastrous fire in 1936 and the Temperance Movement's eighty year association with the People's Palace came to an end.
Sadly, the Crystal Palace was destroyed in a disastrous fire in 1936 and the Temperance movement was deprived of a favourite venue to which it had been associated for over 80 years