The History of Lincoln Waites

The Art Treasures Exhibition in Manchester

May - Oct 1857

The Art Treasures Exhibition in Manchester was opened by Prince Albert on 5 May 1857 and visited by Queen Victoria on 29 June. This was the largest temporary art exhibition ever held in Britain. Its scale was spectacular, consisting of some 16,000 exhibits including 5,000 paintings and drawings, over 1,000 of which were old masters. The objects included not only paintings, watercolours, engravings, drawings, photographs and sculptures, but also tapestries, furniture, ivories, armour, enamels, china, gems and cutlery.

The exhibition was staged in a specially constructed Art Treasures Palace at the Old Trafford cricket ground because, a study of the prevailing winds, showed that it was relatively free of pollution (Manchester was an industrial city with a permanent blanket of smoke and smog which the art exhibits had to be protected from). The exhibition Palace extended over more than three acres.

The exhibition attracted over 1,300,000 visitors in just over five months between May and October 1857. It was organised by a committee of private citizens, whose aim was to correct the popular impression that the English had no taste for art, and to demonstrate that their collections equalled if not surpassed those of Continental Europe. Seen by more than 1.3 million people over 142 days, the exhibition gave rise to a newspaper, The Art-Treasures Examiner and an Art-Treasures Hotel.

The railway company that brought visitors to the exhibition made a profit of £50 000, whereas the exhibition itself yielded just £300.


(ref: The Art-Treasures Examiner: A Pictorial, Critical and Historical Record of the Art-Treasures Exhibition at Manchester in 1857. (The Manchester Examiner and Times, 1857.))

Lincoln's Exhibits

Lincoln Council did manage to send it's Civic Treasures along to Manchester. A letter from John Tweed [Town Clerk] to Richard Mason [previous Town Clerk] dated 9 April 1857 asking Mason to write some notes for the exhibit tells the tale: "Will you write a History of the Mace, Cap of Maintenance and other Insignia of the Corporation to go with them to the Manchester Exhibition of Art" (ref: L1/6/2).

They may have even managed to get Selby Dickinson's Waits Badge there. As, at the foot of the 1852 agreement between Selby Dickinson and the City Council there is a note which reads, "1857, May 8th. Memorandum... received from Mr Dickinson the Badge and Chain". Although this was 3 days after the exhibition opened, the Council may still have decided to send his Waits Badge and Chain to the Exhibition.