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Great Exhibition of 1851

Explore the planning, implementation and legacy of the Great Exhibition

The Great Exhibition of 1851: the British Nave dated 1851 by Joseph Nash
The Great Exhibition of 1851: the British Nave dated 1851 by Joseph Nash ©

On 1 May 1851 over 20,000 spectators gathered in the building dubbed the Crystal Palace to witness the opening of the Great Exhibition of 1851. Queen Victoria wrote in her journal,

This day is one of the greatest & most glorious days of our lives, with which, to my pride & joy the name of my dearly beloved Albert is for ever associated! It is a day which makes my heart swell with thankfulness...

Queen Victoria's Journal, RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (w). 1 May 1851 (Princess Beatrice's copes)

Prince Albert took a leading role in the organisation of the Exhibition and became a unifying force in its creation and legacy. Albert and the Royal Commissioners brought together 13,937 British and international exhibitors to create an exhibition that lasted five months and hosted over 6 million visitors. It later inspired a series of international exhibitions and became the building block for the South Kensington museums, known as ‘Albertopolis’.

The beginning

Prince Albert and Henry Cole were instrumental in the Exhibition planning


Commissioners established committees to organise distinct aspects of the Exhibition

The Exhibition

The Great Exhibition of 1851 opened on 1 May to a crowd of 20,000 people

A legacy

The Great Exhibition has had a lasting legacy