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British Industrial History

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1924 British Empire Exhibition

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1924. Aluminium plate. Made for the British Empire Exhibition by Robert W. Coan's Aluminium foundry..
1924. Aluminium plate.
1924. Aluminium plate.


The British Empire Exhibition was a colonial exhibition held at Wembley, Middlesex in 1924 and 1925.

It was opened by King George V on St George’s Day, 23 April. The British Empire contained 58 countries at that time, and only Gambia and Gibraltar did not take part. It cost £12 million and was the largest exhibition ever staged anywhere in the world - it attracted 27 million visitors.

The three main buildings were the Palaces of Industry, Engineering and Arts. The Palace of Engineering was the world's largest reinforced concrete building, a building method that allowed quick construction. Among its exhibits was the now famous railway locomotive, LNER no. 4472 Flying Scotsman; this was joined in 1925 by GWR 4079 Pendennis Castle.

A special railway loop line and station were built, to connect the site to London Marylebone station. The various buildings of the site were linked by several 'light railways', including the screw-driven 'Never-Stop Railway'.

Most of the exhibition halls were intended to be temporary and demolished afterwards, but at least the Palace of Engineering and the British Government Pavilion survived into the 1970s, if only because of the high cost of demolition of the huge concrete structures. The Empire Pool became the Wembley Arena, and at the suggestion of the chair of the exhibition committee, Scotsman Sir James Stevenson, the Empire Stadium was kept; it became Wembley Stadium, the home of Football in England until 2002 when it was demolished to be replaced by a new stadium.

The management of the exhibition asked the Imperial Studies Committee of the Royal Colonial Institute to assist them with the educational aspect of the exhibition, which resulted in a 12-volume book "The British Empire: A survey" with Hugh Gunn as the General Editor, and which was published in London in 1924.

The Palace of Engineering

"The building in which the engineering exhibits are housed is an immense structure of ferro-concrete" and glass. Its exterior is very reserved, not to say austere, and its interior has no architectural charms beyond those associated with spaciousness. It is a little irregular in plan, with a maximum length of 950ft. and a maximum width of 725ft. It divided into eleven longitudinal bays, of which five, occupying the central portion of the area. are 75ft. wide, whilst the others are 50ft wide. There are no galleries and the height to the lower members of the roof principals of the big bays is about 4 1/2 ft. Railway tracks of standard gauge run the whole length of the five 75ft. bays, which are also served by 25-ton overhead cranes." From The Engineer 1924/04/25.

Exhibition Journal Series

The Engineer covered the British Empire Exhibition in great detail with a series of twenty-eight articles detailing the companies involved and their exhibits. The PDF files below cover every article in the series from The Engineer journals April - October 1924. Click on the links to open and read the PDFs.








Cotton Textile Industry

See: 1924 British Empire Exhibition: Cotton Textile Industry.


The following list, details all the exhibiting companies covered in The Engineer's British Empire Exhibition series above. They are sorted into the categories they fell under during the exhibition.

  • NB

Electrical Engineering Exhibits

Electric Instruments

Food Production Plant

General Engineering Exhibits

Model Paper-Making Plant

Railway Track, Signalling and Safety Appliances

Scientific Instruments

Textile Machinery in the Palace of Industry

Wireless Apparatus

Wood-Working Machinery

See Also


Sources of Information

  • [1] Wikipedia
  • The Engineer Journals