Money Matters and the Great Exhibition of 1851

By Fred Peskett


            Some of the more obscure ways in which money was made at the Great Exhibition of 1851 were described in 'The Illustrated London Almanac For 1852”. £400 was paid by the visitors to use the washing facilities, and £2,427 in spending a penny at the Public Conveniences, (so it would seem that not many people washed their hands after using the loo!) A total of £831..3s..3d was taken for the care and looking after of walking sticks and umbrellas, while visitors shilling catalogue was £3,200, and the profit from eating buns, cake, ices and drinking ginger beer came to £5,500.

            The money taken for admission was £275,000 in silver and £81,000 in gold. During the run of the exhibition £90 worth of bad silver was taken, but only one piece of bad gold, this being a faked half sovereign. Most of the bad silver was in the form of half-crowns, and this was done on the half-crown and five shillings days!

            The lowest dally take of money was £920.2 shillings, this was on the first “One Shilling Day” on Monday 26th Hay, but it was on the last “One Shilling Day” Wednesday 8th October that the highest receipt of £5.283. 8 shillings was taken at the doors.

            Contrary to notices at the entrance doors, change was given, sometimes a French visitor would offer a “Napoleon” which was mistaken for a Sovereign, they were then given nineteen shillings change and the liberty of admission for less than threepence.

            There were many organs on show at the Great Exhibition, the closing to the public was marked on the 11th October at 5pm by all of the organs and massed choirs striking up the National Anthem.


An unused special admission ticket with Digby Wyatt’s signature


On the Monday and Tuesday the 13th and 14th October the Crystal Palace was open to Exhibitors and their friends, this was without charge, but by admission ticket only. On Wednesday 15th October Prince Albert brought the Great Exhibition to a final close with a short ceremony and the receipt of the Reports by the Jurors. This ceremony took place on a temporary dais in the middle of the Transept. (The Crystal Fountain having previously been removed.)




© Exhibition Study Group 2011