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Henry Cole (1808–82)

Henry Cole was involved in public service from early life. In 1845 Cole joined the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce where he found likeminded people interested in reform across all sectors. As a council member of the Society of Arts he worked directly for its president, Prince Albert.

Membership of the Society placed Cole at the centre of the group in charge of organising the Great Exhibition in 1851. His role became that of promoter, publicist and administrator. Cole travelled widely to promote the exhibition. Following the success of the exhibition, surplus funds were used to purchase land south of Hyde Park. Prince Albert hoped that the site could be used to promote industry and the arts as the exhibition had. Cole spent the next 20 years making South Kensington a national centre for arts and sciences.