Another Gem found in a Charity Shop.


Fred Peskett


            Since I retired I have worked most weeks for various Charities by pricing collectables, books and any old furniture that comes their way. When looking at old books I always go through the pages to make sure that there are no goodies tucked away for safe keeping. This does pay dividends, since I have found bank notes from the 1930’s, British Armed Service Vouchers (BASVs) from the 1940’s and 50’s, these were used by British Servicemen for spending in the NAAFI shops mainly in Germany, postage stamps, but never an unused sheet of 1d blacks I and the rare Crystal Palace Christmas card from 1854. So it was no surprise when turning the pages of a very tatty “Great Expectations” (the title could not have been more appropriate) that a slip of paper fell out marked,


The Ballad on the 1851 Exhibition, by W. M Thackeray.


                                                This Palace tall,

                                                This Christial Hall,

                                                Which Imperors might covet,

                                                Stands in High Park,

                                                Like Noah’s Ark,

                                                A rainbow bint above it.


                                                With conscious proide,

                                                I stud inside,

                                                And look’d the World’s Great Fair in,

                                                Until me sight,

                                                Was dazzled quite,

                                                And couldn’t see for staring.


                                                There’s statues bright,

                                                Of marble white,

                                                Of silver and of copper,

                                                And some in zinc,

                                                And some I think,

                                                That isn’t over proper.


                                                Amazed I pass,

                                                From glass to glass,

                                                Delighted I survey ‘em,

                                                Fresh wondthers grows,

                                                Before me nose,

                                                In this sublime Musayum.


                                                There’s lashins more,

                                                Of things in store,

                                                But thim I don’t remimber,

                                                Nor could disclose,

                                                Did I compose,

                                                From May time to Novimber.


The spelling is as written.


            William Makepeace Thackeray, the well known author was also a member of the Central Working Classes Committee for the Great Exhibition of 1851 along with fellow author Charles Dickens. This committee was set up to ensure that the forthcoming exhibition looked after the needs of the working exhibitor and visitor, it was probably responsible for the introduction of the “one shilling” day to give the workers a chance to see the exhibition.

            Thackeray put much of his thoughts and feelings about the Great Exhibition into verse, here is another poem from his pen, this time describing the machinery section of the Great Exhibition and in praise of the host country’s contribution to the mechanised age in shipbuilding, the clothing industry, agriculture and mining.


A May Day Ode


                                                A peaceful place it was but now,

                                                And lo! within its shining streets,

                                                A multitude of nations meets,

                                                A countless throng!


                                                I see beneath the crystal bow,

                                                And Gaul and German, Russ and Turk,

                                                Each with his native handiwork,

                                                And busy tongue.


                                                Look yonder where the engines toil,

                                                These England’s arms of conquest are,

                                                The trophies of her bloodless war;

                                                Brave weapons these.


                                                Victorious over wave and soil,

                                                With these she sails, she weaves, she tills,

                                                Pierces the everlasting hills,

                                                And spans the seas.



            Going back to the original theme of catering for the Working Classes, there was during the Victorian era a demand for “Working Class Exhibitions”, these exhibitions generally were devoted to the arts and crafts of the working man and to the products of cottage industries. One such exhibition was at the Crystal Palace during 1865 “The Anglo-French Working Classes Exhibition”.

            An exhibitor at this exhibition was a certain mathematician, come philosopher. Professor George Dunham, who had on sale a very interesting souvenir called “Dunham’s Decimal Calculator” priced at 1/-. Professor Dunham advocated in his little booklet that all Imperial Systems of linear measurement, weights and coinage should be replaced by the decimal system. His proposed coinage system was that the lowest coin value be termed one unit, with ten units making one common, ten commons would make one peer and ten peers equal one sovereign. Prof Dunham was over a hundred years ahead of his time, but it is doubtful if he made his fortune with the booklet selling at a shilling?

            The illustration shown is the cover of the booklet (actual size) which had been addressed on the back and postally used with a Duplex cancel of London S.E.17. (Dulwich) on 30th August 1865 to Chatham, on the front is a Chatham Single Circle coded “B” for the same date.



© Exhibition Study Group 2009