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British Industrial History

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1852 Cork Exhibition

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The first Irish industrial Exhibition was a world's fair held in Cork in 1852. It was opened on 10th June by the Lord Lieutenant, the Earl of Eglinton and was housed in the Albert Quay area in a cruciform building designed by John Benson[1] with three wings given over to industrial exhibits such as whiskey, projectile shells, hydraulic presses, Valentia slate and gingham and a fourth to fine arts.[2]

The aim of the 1852 National Exhibition in Cork was to help lift the country out of the doldrums of the barely-concluded Great Famine, whose effects would be seen and felt for generations.[3]

The profits of the Cork Exhibition were used to build the Atheneum (Opera House).

"The Exhibition is held in the Corn Exchange, a new building. The entrance, or Northern Hall (the Corn Exchange proper), entered from the quays, is 76 feet square and 50 feet high, divided into nave and aisles, the nave rising into a species of clerestory, with elevated side lights. This fine apartment contains in various glass cases all the fine texture articles, damask, linens, tabinets, crochet, embroidery, &c.; and here also a tabinet and velvet loom are in full operation, showing the process of weaving those articles. From this hall is a noble arched entrance, twenty feet wide, descending by the steps into one of the finest rooms in Europe, the Fine Art Hall, 145 feet by 53 feet, in the centre 45 feet high: it has an arched roof in one span, with luminated timber girders, and a continuous top light in the centre, 8 feet 6 inches at each side. The extreme end is circular, where is placed a noble organ, and an orchestra to contain 200 performers—the latter temporary, to be removed after the first day's performance of the ode. The view from the Northern Hall of this beautiful room, when filled with sculpture and painting, will be beautiful. The united length of these rooms seen at one time is 221 feet, running north and south. Running east and west, adjoining the North Hall, and crossing the Fine Arts Hall, is a transept 320 feet long, by 30 feet wide; adjoining which to the south at each end are halls, each about 130 feet bb 80 feet—in all six great halls for the various purposes of the Exhibition, with committee and refreshment rooms, and various offices attached, spacious courts, &c Read More...."[4]

The Industrial Movement in Ireland - Illustrated by the National Exhibition of 1852 by John Francis Maguire, M.P. Mayor of Cork - Available to view here - digitized by

See The Official Catalogue of the National Exhibition of the Arts, Manufacturers and Products of Ireland[5]

See Also

  • Further Reading:-
    • Pettit, Sean F. (1977); ‘The First National Exhibition, 1852’, in Pettit, S.F., This City of Cork 1700-1900 (Cork: Studio Publications, 1977)
    • The First Irish Industrial Exhibition: Cork 1852 by A. C. Davies, Irish Economic and Social History, Vol. 2 (1975), pp. 46-59:

Sources of Information

  2. Wikipedia
  4. Illustrated London News, Vol. 20, 1852, p.462