History 1

History Group 1 & friends listening to an excellent talk on Joseph Wright from Lucy Bamford at the Derby Museum & Art Gallerv
As we can no longer meet as a group, most of us get together on zoom monthly.
We have put our programme on hold, & , instead, are taking it in turns to make a short presentation on a topic of our choice.
This is followed by a discussion, then a general chat.

Since the Group was set up twelve years ago, we have studied the Eighteenth Century & Age of Enlightenment, the period 1484-1688, the Tudors & Stuarts; we then had two years ‘off-piste’ with free choice of subjects, and for the last three years, the period 1066-1485.

Each member of the group chooses a topic within the overall theme and presents their findings to the group. In addition, at each meeting we have a ‘5 minute entree’ when a member talks about a subject of their choice.

We never cease to be amazed at what we don’t know!

We have an annual visit when partners and friends join us.

Our December meeting culminates in a Christmas meal.

We meet at the coordinator’s home (except in December).

In 2020, we have made a huge leap in time and our focus is The Victorian Era, 1837- 1901.

MonthMain Course
JanuaryAround the World in Victorian Times
February2 Victorian Novelists
MarchThe Life & Times of William Gladstone
AprilVictorian Religious Reforms
MayIsambard Kingdom Brunel
AugustJoseph & Sarah Paxton
SeptemberThe Battle of Rourke’s Drift
OctoberA Victorian Artist
NovemberLytton Strachey’s ’Eminent Victorians’
DecemberCharles Dickens

You can contact the History Group 1 coordinator, Janet Pidgeon, by e-mail, or by telephone on 01629 824912.


Sorry but this group is currently full.

History group 1 have been studying Victorian Britain

The Great Exhibition 1851

My talk explores the genesis of the Great Exhibition of 1851, for which Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband is normally credited. However, equal credit should be bestowed on Henry Cole, who was not only the assistant record keeper at the Public Records Office, but was also the Editor of the Journal of Design. Henry was also a council member of the Society of Arts and through that office was introduced to Prince Albert in 1846 through whom the Society received a Royal Charter and changed its name to the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce.

The Society arranged several small exhibitions to promote their cause and impressed by the French ‘Industrial Exposition’ of 1844, Henry obtained Prince Albert’s support to staging a similar event in England. Initially the Government was unenthusiastic but bowed to public pressure to investigate the idea and became more enthusiastic when they realised the event would be self-financing.

With national pride dictating an exhibition to better the French on a design competition for the exhibition building was organised. The winning design was based on Joseph Paxton’s design for a glass and iron conservatory produced for the Duke of Devonshire and became popularly known as the Crystal Palace.

It took 5000 navvies to erect the immense structure in Hyde Park but work was completed on time and the Great Exhibition was opened by Queen Victoria on 1st May 1851. The Exhibition ran until October of that year and drew some 6 million visitors to see over 100,000 exhibits. The profits from the event subsequently helped to finance a complex set of Museums in South Kensington.

The Crystal Palace was subsequently moved to Sydenham but was destroyed by fire on 30th November 1936. The memory of its glorious past survives in that area of London, which is now known as Crystal Palace.

John Coulter

History Group 1