Category:British Empire Exhibition (1924)

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The British Empire Exhibition of 1924 was a massive affair, inhabiting a specially-built complex of buildings in Northwest London. The exhibition impacted on the public imagination with displays including the LNER's freshly-named 4472 Flying Scotsman passenger locomotive, and the first public display of Queen Mary's dollhouse.

Almost everything built for the original complex has now gone, but for many years the main physical reminder that the Exhibition took place was the iconic twin-towered Imperial Stadium, which occupied a special place in the hearts of British football fans under its subsequent name, Wembley Stadium (which was eventually demolished in 2002/3, and replaced with a new stadium on the same site in 2007).

The long, straight walk directly south from Wembley Park underground station to the Stadium was originally the central walkway through the Exhibition complex, with giant halls on either side, and the Stadium at the end.

1924 promotional text:

The 1924 exhibition produced standardised promotional descriptions of the various parts of the exhibition, which were made available to third parties to edit down for their own purposes. The paragraphs below have been assembled from multiple sources.

YOU have often wanted to travel the world. At Wembley you will be able to do so at a minimum of cost, in a minimum of time, with a minimum of a minimum of trouble, studying as you go the shop windows of the British Empire. You will be able to go behind those windows and see how the goods are produced and meet the men and women who produce them. Every aspect of life, civilised and uncivilised, will be shown in an Exhibition which is the last word in comfort and convenience. You may go many times to the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in six months : you must go at least once.

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THE British Empire Exhibition will be the chief event of 1924. Never before has an exhibition on such an elaborate scale been prepared. It is costing over £ 10,000,000 to produce, and an entirely new concrete city has been erected to house it. The most conservative expert calculations put the probable number of visitors between April and October at a minimum of 25,000,000. Though its exhibits will be confined to the British Empire, in all but name the Exhibition will be international, for the British Empire covers a quarter of the known globe, and every one of the Dominions and Colonies within its bounds is taking part.

THE grounds at Wembley will reproduce in miniature the entire resources of the British Empire There the visitor will be able to inspect the Empire from end to end. From Canada it is but a stone's throw to Australia, from Australia a short step to India and the Far East, from Hong Kong a few minutes walk to New Zealand or Malay. In a single day he will be able to learn more geography than a year of hard study would teach him. And he will be able to see in each case the conditions of life of the country he is visiting. That is the importance of the British Empire Exhibition. It is a stocktaking of the whole of the resources of the Empire.

VARIETY AND COLOUR

THE Exhibition buildings consist of a Royal Pavilion, a Stadium, a Palace of Engineering, A Palace of Art, and many others, apart altogether from the pavilions the Dominions and Colonies are themselves erecting. The design of the main buildings is on simple classical lines, severe in character and free form unnecessary ornamentation. Variety and colour are provided by the kiosks and bandstands, with which the grounds are provided, and by the more elaborate beauty of the Eastern Pavilions. The grounds themselves, which run to over 216 acres, are being laid out with all the skill known to the modern landscape artist. An ornamental lake, which runs through the centre of the grounds, will provide excellent boating facilities.

Though the predominant purpose of the Exhibition is serious, every effort has been made to leave stereotyped exhibition methods behind. A coal mine at work will show what the coal industry means to the country ; a complete range of cotton machinery at work will emphasise the importance of the cotton industry. And so it is throughout. No museum this, but a live, up-to-date enterprise worthy of the Empire it is designed to reproduce.

For amusement the latest devices known to the ingenuity of man will be collected in an amusements park three times the size of the largest existing amusements park in the United Kingdom. Apart from the scenic railways, switchbacks, water rides, and other attractions of the fair which will be on a scale altogether unprecedented, there will be special attractions which will make the Exhibition famous in the annals of the showman.

PALACE OF ENGINEERING

THE Palace of Engineering is probably the largest concrete building in the world. It covers an area six and a half times the size of Trafalgar Square, and has a floor space of over half a million square feet. Five full-size railway lines, connecting with the main trunk lines of the country, traverse the building from end to end to enable exhibits to be put in place quickly. Five huge overhead cranes serve to swing exhibits from the trucks in which they arrive into positions they are to occupy.

The section devoted to shipbuilding, marine, mechanical and general engineering, will form probably the finest display of general engineering ever brought together in any one exhibition. The electrical engineering section will contain as an exhibit a monster power station, to the making of which forty firms are contributing. This will provide electricity for running all the machinery in the various sections of the Exhibition, and for lighting the entire Exhibition at night.

In the Motor Transport Section will be representative exhibits of motor-cars, motors and accessories. In the Land Transport Section will be found the exhibits of the great railway companies and of the chief makers of rolling stock. In this section the "Metro" have secured considerable space, and are presenting an exhibit of outstanding interest. This exhibit, which should be visited by all, will comprise a latest type electric car; huge relief model map covering districts served by the "Metro"; actual working train control diagram, showing movement of trains; model of typical "Metro-Land" residence, and an information bureau where full information on all matters can be obtained.

PALACE OF INDUSTRY

THE Palace of Industry, which is only slightly smaller in size than the Palace of Engineering, will house such industries as do not come under the general heading of engineering. The largest single exhibit will be that given by the Chemical industry, which in all will occupy an area of 37,500 square feet. The central feature of the display will be an exhibit of research in pure chemistry, in which the Association of British Chemical Manufacturers, which has organised the whole Chemical Section, is being aided by the Royal Society.

Cotton textiles will occupy 32,187 square feet. A representative Committee covering al Lancashire cotton interests is organizing the section. The whole story of cotton production will be illustrated from the growing of the raw material to a complete working range of every sort of finished product. Wool textiles, organized by a powerful Committee at Bradford, will fill 15,000 square feet.

Ulster and her industries will occupy 6,187 square feet. The unique status of the Government of Northern Ireland within the Empire is emphasised at the Exhibition. Instead of having a separate pavilion in the grounds, the Government has taken one of the most prominent corners in the Palace of Industry, and is organizing there a show of the principal Ulster industries, including shipbuilding, flax and linen, and beverages.

In the section devoted to musical instruments the visitor will be able to hear every sort of British instrument in a series of sound-proof rooms.

BRITISH GOVERNMENT PAVILION

THE British government is erecting a Pavilion of appropriate dignity of structure and design. The Royal Suite for the use of the King and Queen will overlook the portico, which will be supported by columns thirty-two feet high, and will be guarded by six massive lions, symbolical of the might and dignity of the Empire. The Navy, Army and Air Force are are organising impressive displays, and many important aspects of Empire communication, Empire trade, Empire settlement and Imperial economic development will be presented. On a water stage seventy feet wide, which, by an ingenious mechanical arrangement, can be converted in a few minutes into an ordinary stage for other displays, certain historical episodes on sea and land and in the air will be realistically reproduced. The Air Force exhibition of models will be supplemented by exhibits of actual aeroplanes and aircraft in an aerodrome easily accessible from the Exhibition grounds. In the Central Court of Honour of the Pavilion, a gigantic model relief map of the world will show by changing lights the growth and extent of the Empire, its resources, development and population. The home country's productive capacity in relation to its ability to manufacture goods for export, and the importance of British overseas trade, will also be illustrated by a large scale model of Great Britain and Ireland. In an annexe there will be a cinema theatre where films of Imperial interest will be in continuous display. The Royal Mint, which will show a complete set of coins of the Empire and of British war medals, will strike special commemorative plaques. The Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture and other Departments will also be represented.

THE TOMB OF TUT

AN exact replica of the tomb of Tut-an-khamen at Luxor is being staged under the direction of one of the most distinguished Egyptologists of the day. There will be a Temple of Beauty in which the most beautiful women of the ages from Helen of Troy and Cleopatra down to the present day will be be seen in contemporary surroundings. Captive aeroplanes will circle round the park, and gliders enable the visitor to enjoy the latest development in the science of flying. A huge dancing hall, a street with a thousand side-shows, an aquarium with all the queerest of queer fish known to Neptune will serve to vary the interest.

Then there is the Imperial Stadium, which dominates the landscape for miles around, and is the largest and most complete sports arena in the world. It can hold 125,00 spectators, and is one of the greatest concrete wonders of modern times. Here during July and August will be staged a magnificent Pageant of Empire, in which, by a series of historical episodes, the development of the Empire from the earliest times will be illustrated. The Army and Navy and the chief cities of the United Kingdom will take part, and it is hoped that the Dominions will co-operate by presenting in a striking manner scenes from their history. The Boy Scouts will be holding an Imperial Jamboree during the first week in August, which will be attended by about 10,000 boys from all over the Empire. They, too, will take part in the Pageant.

MONSTER MILITARY TATTOOS

THE England versus Scotland Association Football match will take place on the Stadium pitch on 12th April, and on 26th April the Final Tie for the Association Football Cup will be played off.

On Empire Day a great military tattoo in which the largest band ever seen in the British Empire will take part will be held. Bandsmen to the number of about a thousand will be drawn from each line regiment in the British Army, and they will be reinforced by a mounted band formed on the same lines from the cavalry regiments. A second edition of the tattoo will be given in September after the Pageant of Empire.

A series of six mass concerts with over 10,000 voices and an orchestra of over 500 instruments will be staged in the stadium. Firework displays will be given at least once per week.

In a huge bandstand with accommodation for 10,000 people, daily concerts by the best British and Dominion bands will be given.

AN EMPIRE PARLIAMENT

A series of highly important Conferences on questions of Imperial interest will be held during the course of the Exhibition. The following are some of the more important: –

Empire Mining and Metallurgical Congress, organised by the Institute of Mining Engineers and Mining Association of Great Britain and other bodies.
World Power Conference (over which Lord Derby is to preside), organised by the British Electrical and Allied Manufacturers Association.
International Advertising Convention, organised by the Thirty Club.
Textiles Conference, organised by the Textiles Institute.

In addition, many industrial and other organisations are holding their Annual Congresses at Wembley in order to have the benefit of the experience and counsel of overseas visitors.

Restaurants are being scattered about the grounds on a lavish scale, and open-air tea gardens laid out among the many gardens.

Whether business or education or amusement be the attraction, the visitor to Wembley will find interest enough and to spare. The fact that the Exhibition can be reached in a quarter of an hour from Picadilly Circus makes it accessible to the whole world.

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