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Leighton Buzzard Observer & Linslade Gazette
Tuesday, 15th June 1875
Article published in the issue of the local newspaper following the end of the exhibition. The article covers a visit to the exhibition by the Duke of Bedford and his family and also details the closing ceremony. Note: any text enclosed in square bracket are comments by the transcriber relating to possible typos or errors in the original text.
VISIT OF THE DUKE AND DUCHESS OF BEDFORD.
On Monday last the Duke of Bedford paid a lengthened visit to the Exhibition, the stay being prolonged from three until five o'clock. His Grace made a thorough examination of the most prominent articles of interest. Among these Dr. Lawford's antiquities and Mr. Lewis's geological collection especially attracted the Duke's observation. Both collections were fully explained to his Grace by the exhibitors, and their information appeared to be greatly appreciated by the distinguished visitor. The Duke, prior to leaving, arranged with Mr. Harris to pay a second visit, in company with the Duchess, on the closing day. On the evening of Monday Professor Proskauer once more entertained a delighted audience with his feats of legerdemain. On Tuesday evening the Leighton Handbell Ringers exercised their campanological talent to an appreciative assembly. There was a large number of visitors during the latter part of this day, the majority of whom were of that class for for [duplicate "for"] whose especial benefit the price of admission had been reduced to threepence between the hours of six and ten o'clock. On Wednesday morning the Duke, according to promise, re-appeared at the Exhibition, with the Duchess and Lord Herbrand Russell, The visit lasted from eleven to one o'clock. Their Graces and his Lordship minutely examined a great many articles, and expressed themselves quite delighted with the display and with the arrangements generally. They made many purchases during their tour of inspection, and must have expended over £100 before leaving the building. Mr. Eisert's engraved glass exhibits came in for special notice, and the Duke purchased one of the most beautiful of that talented artist's productions - namely, a cup or goblet, upon which was engraved a representation of cattle drinking at a pool and children looking on from a bridge. His Grace also bought, at Messrs. Piggott's stand, a set of enlarged photographs of the committee, and photographic views of the Exhibition. Some valuable and exceeding handsome jewellery was also chosen by the Duchess from Mr. Parnacott's magnificent case, and her Grace was also pleased to purchase, for £10 10s. a very handsome table-cover worked by Mrs. Tindall. The straw exhibits were also a source of great attraction to her Grace, who bought several of the finest hats. The Duke and Duchess were both very pleased with a churn exhibited by Mr. W. H. Samuel, of Leighton Buzzard, and made particular inquiries respecting it. Lord Herbrand Russell's patronage was secured by Mr. Fortnum, naturalist, of Leighton Buzzard, who sold the young nobleman two exhibits which had previously attracted much admiration - a very large and beautifully preserved badger, caught at Linslade, and a very pretty and equally well mounted tiger-cat. The ducal party were prepared, too, for a little amusement, and much enjoyed a short series of sleight-of-hand tricks by Professor Proskauer. The Duchess was particularly struck with Mr. Richmond's electric lighting apparatus, and after having from the gallery seen the sun-lights ignited by electric agency, Mr. Richmond had the honour of explaining to the distinguished visitors the method of conveying the mystic current to the gas. At one o'clock their Graces and Lord Herbrand left the building and went to luncheon with Mr. and Miss Harris at their residence on Church Square. Edward Bromley, Esq., and Mrs. Bromley, of London, who visited the Exhibition during the stay of the Duke and Duchess, also formed part of the luncheon party. The ducal party left Leighton for Woburn Abbey shortly after three o'clock, Lord Herbrand mounting the box of his own carriage and relieving his coachman of the responsibility of driving home. During the remainder of the day no particular feature presented itself until the hour drew near for finally closing the Exhibition, when a large influx of visitors came in. The numbers registered at the entrance during the three days were as follows:-
THE FINAL CLOSING SCENE.
On Wednesday night the Exhibition was finally closed. At about nine o'clock, after some excellent music had been played on the pianoforte by Mrs. Hamilton, the platform was cleared, and Theodore Harris, Esq., president of the Working Men's Institute; Mr. C. B. Sell, vice-president; Mr. G. Franklin and Mr. R. Purrett, members of the committee; Messrs. E. W. Lewis and W. Abraham, secretaries; with the Rev. J. O. Stallard, vicar of Heath, took their places before a large audience, the season ticket holders having congregated in large numbers during the evening in expectation of hearing a few parting observations. E. Lawford, Esq., M.D., also a vice-president of the Institute, was prevented from being present owing to a temporary indisposition. This was a matter of regret, inasmuch as the Doctor has evinced the most lively interest in the Exhibition during the whole time it has been open. He has since written to us, expressing his regret that he was unable, through a severe cold, to meet his friends on the platform with whom he had been so pleasantly associated on Exhibition business during a period of nine months; and wishes, through us, to thank them for their uniform courtesy and kindness.
Mr. Theodore Harris, on rising, said he scarcely knew what to call the present occasion. One thing was clear - it was not a ceremony; they had already had two of them. It was, however, felt by the committee that they could not finally separate without taking advantage of the opportunity of saying a few words. He had been asked by the committee to make a kind of statement by way of a sketch of the Exhibition and its results. The Exhibition had now been opened a month and a day, but, as most of the audience must be aware, a much longer time had previously been spent in organisation. It was a year ago last April since the first step was taken, The Exhibition of 1868, it might be remembered, was opened on New Year's Day. That undertaking was on a much smaller scale than the present. It was not needful for him to go into the subject of the original proposal for that Exhibition, but, with regard to the present one, he might mention that he was not present at the first meeting held to consider the question. He took the opportunity of mentioning this fact, because it had been said the he was the prime mover in the Exhibition matter, a distinction which he was anxious of disclaiming. He believed Mr. Lewis was in the chair, and brought the subject forward at the meeting. Mr. Harris then went on to recapitulate the various progressive steps taken by a committee appointed to carry out the work, after the due consideration of a report specially made upon the feeling of the town and the prospect of success. The favour with which the project was generally received by the public was briefly reviewed, and the continued promises to add to the originally intended display, until it became clear that the Exhibition would be a thoroughly representative one of the town. The measures adopted to provide ways and means were next referred to, the appeal to the town whereby a guarantee fund of £100 was raised, and the difficulty which next presented itself as to available space until the directors of the Corn Exchange and the corn factors yielded to their desire, and the whole of the building was secured, while, owing to the amiability of Mr. Franklin, a plot of ground in his yard was also secured upon which to erect the annexe. Had it not, said Mr. Harris, been for Mr. Franklin's kindness, they would certainly, even with the whole of the Corn Exchange buildings at command, have been much inconvenienced, but he gave up his premises and opened his gates to them, affording them great accommodation. The next thing they had, then, to look for was patronage. The Duke of Bedford, who had to-day been here with the Duchess - consented to be named as the leading patron, and it was almost needless for him to say what assistance had been rendered to the cause by securing his Grace's goodwill and countenance. Other noblemen and gentlemen in this and adjoining counties also willingly patronised the movement until a large array of leading names were secured, the undertaking gathered up strength as it was pushed forward, and all went merry as a marriage bell. He could not speak too highly of the kindness of the distinguished patrons who had espoused the undertaking. They all knew, of course, that among the names of these was that of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, but he (Mr. Harris) was sure his hearers would quite appreciate the reason why the name of the Baroness de Rothschild did not appear in the list published so soon after her heavy bereavement. The question of the consideration of awarding prizes, and the form they should take, was next touched upon by Mr. Harris, who concluded that the ultimate resolve of the committee had proved satisfactory, and that all would acknowledge that the certificate of merit was an appropriate one. The appointment of agents in the outlying districts, the help which the committee received from them, and the numerous promises to exhibit which came in, said the speaker, inspired the greatest encouragement, but that which first impressed the committee with the splendour of the coming Exhibition was the action of the Baroness when she threw herself so thoroughly into the matter. Indeed the Rothschild family generally had spared no trouble or expense, and, in addition to their substantial donations and costly exhibits, the Baroness had, during the time the Exhibition had been open, offered a great privilege, and contributed considerably to the success which had attended their efforts, by throwing open her beautiful Mansion and its grounds to visitors, to members of mechanics' institutes, schools, &c. The Mansion had been opened on eight occasions, and on each of these about 400 persons had availed themselves of the privilege, or more than 3,000 altogether. With regard to the general results of the Exhibition, Mr. Harris said it was hardly necessary for him to repeat what had so recently appeared in print up to Wednesday last. At a rough calculation, however, about 22,500 separate visits had been made to the Exhibition, and when he said that between 1,000 and 1,100 persons had a right of admission by ticket or by indorsement, it would at once be seen how popular the movement had been. It had at one time been thought by some that the price of the season tickets was too high, but Mr. Harris believed many would now say that they were too cheap. If this was, however, a matter of trouble to any, the secretary would no doubt gratefully acknowledge the receipt of a cheque from persons who conscientiously believed they had not paid enough. (A laugh). The total receipts had been as follows:- Taken at doors, £430; by sale of season tickets, &c., £230; sales for the benefit of the funds, £150; commission to come on the articles sold for exhibitors, £40; money subscriptions, as applicable to expenses, £150. These sums together amounted to £1,000. If expenses were less than £1,000, the Exhibition would therefore pay. Mr. Harris had no doubt the outgoings would be considerably less - he had reason to hope they would be several hundreds below this amount. In addition to these takings they had also £330 contributed to the special fund. They had obtained what they had aimed at with respect to the lecture fund; and the calculations generally being under rather than over the mark, he did not think the total of £1,330 would represent the ultimate sum taken. He would not be surprised if £500 were eventually netted on the Exhibition. As regard the opening and closing ceremonies, Mr. Harris said he had never experienced more satisfaction than in taking part in them; and that satisfaction was not the less for the serious - he might say religious - tone introduced into both. With these observations it remained a pleasing duty to him to return thanks to all who had contributed to the success which had been achieved. First he would mention the patrons, whose names and pecuniary help, exhibits, company at the ceremonies, and purchases had done so much. The jurors had had a difficult task to perform, and it might be that they had not succeeded in giving entire satisfaction; but this he would say - that they had given great satisfaction and little dissatisfaction. Several local ladies and gentlemen had done much by way of entertaining the visitors with organ and pianoforte music; to E. A. Davidson, Esq., and W.R. Cooper, Esq., they were specially indebted for the able lectures to which many of them had listened with interest and profit. The exhibitors also must not be forgotten; and last, though not least, the visitors; for, with all the exhibitors and exhibits, where would the Exhibition have been without the visitors? As a last word as to how the project had been carried out, Mr. Harris remarked that credit was not due to one or two, but to many, but he must say that when Mr. Lewis came to him soon after the scheme had been floated, and talked of resignation on account of the dangerous illness of his wife at that time, he could hardly describe how he felt. They had committed themselves to the public, and could not draw back. Mr. Lewis, however, was induced to remain at his post, his wife's health improved, and she ultimately recovered, and Mr. Harris was pleased to see that she had been on many occasions present at the Exhibition. But, said he, to mention all to whom praise might be given would be to give twenty complimentary speeches. He would content himself with saying that the committee and others had given most diligent and uncomplaining attention to the Exhibition, and, if a success had been achieved, it was not owing to any one individual effort, but to the exertions of many working together in harmony. There had never been a split among them, and, what was remarkable, it had very rarely been found necessary to put any question before the committee to the vote. It was only where it became absolutely necessary to ascertain feeling to a nicety that such a course was adopted. Once more Mr. Harris thanked all concerned, and resumed his seat amid the applause of the company.
Mr. George Franklin, in expressing the pleasure he experienced in occupying the position he did, said he looked upon the proceedings as a grand finale to one of the most glorious months Leighton Buzzard had ever witnessed. The Exhibition had been the means of bringing out the talent of the neighbourhood, and it had been instrumental in bringing all classes together. He would not attempt to go into any matters of origin, but he might observe that it had been said that the undertaking was to be altogether identified with dissent, and that the Church element was not to be represented. This he entirely denied, and, while he considered it wonderful how all parties could have united as they had done in carrying out the enterprise, he wished to say that he had found himself acting with a committee of all extremes. The Exhibition had been brought to a glorious end, and he could only wish that it had been possible to keep it open another month. Referring to the distinguished visitors who had graced the opening ceremony, Mr. Franklin humorously remarked that he knew very well he could not entertain all the aristocracy who had promised to be present; he thought it would be egotistical for Mr. Harris and Mr. Bassett to receive them privately; and, as it was doubted if the working men's wives would be able to give satisfaction in the production of sausage-rolls for the aristocratic visitors (laughter), an entertainment committee was got together, the town was canvassed, and in this work Mr. Claridge, Mr. Tindall, and Mr. Ashdown did their duty nobly. A public reception was accorded to the distinguished visitors, and those who wished to see them entertained had the privilege of doing so on payment. (Laughter). On the whole the Exhibition had been a great success, and had been instrumental in demonstrating that Leighton was not one of the holes and corners of the world, but that it stood high in the category of country towns. (Cheers.)
Mr. Sell, on rising, observed that he felt it a honour to be associated with an institution out of which had arisen this noble Exhibition. It was natural, he said, to render praise to the head which directed, be it the general of a victorious army, the popular Prime Minister of the day, or the successful promoters of this local undertaking. Just as one might stand before some great edifice that had arisen in strength and beauty, had defied accumulated ages, and might yet defy ages to come, so they were prone to think of the architect whose genius conceived, and by whose plans and directions that conception was worked out and matured to reality. But must they not also remember the workmen who had laboured and toiled until the mighty plan was completed? Without their aid the project could not have been carried out. Every comfort enjoyed in life, and almost every article of wealth and splendour they had been privileged with an opportunity of seeing in the Mansion of the Baroness de Rothschild, and these, with all the numerous articles of luxury and utility brought together at this Exhibition should remind them of labour. Every year the subject of popular education came more and more into notice, and the question was often asked, and would again be asked - Will education make the mechanic, the artisan, and the labourer less useful in the position of life occupied by them? The answer given by him, and those with whom he was connected, was - No; they thought not; they hoped not; because all talent properly cultivated and wisely directed, must contribute to the good of those who came under its influence, and tend to the advantage of society at large. There was a time in English history when the lamp of knowledge was supposed to be found in the mansions of the great, to hang in the hall of the squire, and to be discovered in colleges and museums of antiquity; but now, said the speaker, the popular notion was that it should be found in every house, hang from the shaft of every plough, and be planted in every cottage. The promoters of this Exhibition wished all present to understand that they considered the interests of employer and employed as not opposed to each other, but that both had a common interest in their country's prosperity. Upon the wall above their heads they read the words "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof." Then, as all men were dependent upon God, so was each individual more or less dependent upon his fellow. The subject reminded him of the beautiful words of Eliza Cook -
"Let every work be hallowed
That man performs for man;
And each take share of honour,
As part of one great plan."
The object, continued Mr. Sell, of the Working Men's Mutual Improvement Society was to diffuse knowledge to all classes of the community; and whatever might be advanced to the contrary, they believed the knowledge of the present day to be more sound, more practical, and perhaps more useful than that possessed in any previous age. The institution therefore sought, by the enlargement of its library, and by possessing an increased fund to provide for lectures, to advance the knowledge of its members upon all good secular subjects. The Exhibition they had held in 1868 had been described by Lord Charles Russell as a display of skilled leisure, and he (the speaker) thought the main feature in the present Exhibition had been the free labour of the leisure time of mechanics, artisans, and labourers, as illustrated in the various industrial objects collected together, and as seen in the many articles of needlework, &c., produced by ladies during their leisure hours. They might, he considered, say that this Exhibition had been as conspicuous for skilled leisure as for skilled labour.
Mr. E. W. Lewis briefly remarked that he should scarcely be doing his duty if he did not refer to the personal matter of the part he had taken in the Exhibition. In the duties connected therewith Mr. Middleton and perhaps more than any other member of the committee acted with him. The audience would easily understand that it was no easy task to settle all the conflicting claims of exhibitors and visitors, and especially to arrange matters to the satisfaction of all among the latter. He introduced this subject, however, to express his thanks to the visitors and exhibitors for the uniform kindness and courtesy received from them in the discharge of arduous duties, and which had aided him and his coadjutors considerably in carrying out the task imposed upon them.
Mr. Harris had no doubt that the assembly would have liked to have heard a few words from Mr. Abraham. He was a man who generally talked in a sensible if in a homely way, but he (Mr. Harris) was sure all would appreciate the silence enforced upon him by recent bereavement.
The Doxology was then sung, the Benediction pronounced by the Rev. Mr. Stallard, and Mr. Harris declared the Exhibition closed.
The company then dispersed, but it was some little time before many could be induced to take the last lingering and regretful farewell to the scene amid which so much pleasure had been found during the past month.