The Great Exhibition​

The Great Exhibition was a magnificent event held in the Crystal Palace in London in 1851. Richard Garrett had a major stand and was awarded the Great Medal – the highest prize – for his exhibits.

Photograph of Garrett exhibits from the Report of the Juries, 1851

From the London Examiner 7 June 1851

The Garrett Stand

The Illustrated London News 17 May 1851 reported

‘The stand of Messrs Garrett and Son, of Leiston Works, near Saxmundham, occupies an important position here, closely packed with specimens of machines for which this eminent firm has become celebrated.’

Hear the description of the trip to London from the 'London Examiner'

Hear the description of the trip to London from the 'London Examiner'

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Medal winner

Garrett products were exhibited in Class IX: Agricultural and Horticultural Machines and Implements. They won the highest prize – the Council Medal. To achieve the medal, exhibits had to show more than that ‘a standard of excellence had been reached for workmanship, beauty, utility and adaptability’; the 89mm Council Medal was reserved as a reward for remarkable invention. Garrett advertisements from this date proudly mention the award of the ‘Great Medal’.

The Great Medal

Planning the Great Exhibition

Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert decided that a large international exhibition, displaying the best products of manufacturing industries, would be an innovative way to promote Britain’s role as a world industrial leader. Exhibits from 25 countries were included. The Queen gave permission for the exhibition to be held in one of the royal parks – Hyde Park – but not for more than six months.

Joseph Paxton had designed large scale greenhouses for Chatsworth House, and his design was chosen to build the world’s biggest greenhouse that became known as the Crystal Palace. The building was high enough to accommodate two large trees as the Queen did not want them to be felled.

Success of the Exhibition

The Exhibition was a huge attraction. Tickets were priced to suit most incomes. 4.5 million of the cheapest one-shilling day tickets were sold. Visitors averaged almost 43,000 per day - over 6 million visitors in total. A third of Britain’s population visited during the 6 months

The Exhibition made a huge profit - £186,000 (worth nearly 25 million today). It paid for a legacy: the building of the Victoria and Albert, Science and Natural History Museums, plus scholarships still available today for industrial education and research in science and engineering.

Did you know...

Spending a Penny!

For the first time ever, public flushing toilets were provided and caused great excitement. During the exhibition, 827,280 visitors paid one penny to use them; for the penny they got a clean seat, a towel, a comb and a shoeshine. The phrase "to spend a penny" entered the English language.

John Woolnough


Wheelwright and Foreman

From The Illustrated London News 1851

When I was 24, I was a wheelwright at the Works and living in Sizewell Road. I made wooden wheels for carts and threshing machines and metal wheels for portable steam engines. This was skilled work. Then I became the principal foreman at Garretts.

During the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, Garretts had a stand to display their latest inventions. Richard Garrett chartered two boats to take the workforce to London to visit the Exhibition. As foreman, I was in charge of the 300 men who made the journey by sea. By 1861, my wife Maria and I were living in the High Street - next door to the ironmongery and two doors down from the Royal Standard pub.

John lived in the High Street for the rest of his life.

inside great exhibitiondetail copy

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