The Melbourne International Exhibition 1880

Richard assisted his wife, Eliza, who was beautifully turned out for this auspicious occasion, into the carriage and then climbed in beside her.  It was Friday 1st October, and a public holiday had been declared. They were on their way to the Opening of the Melbourne International Exhibition.  

The carriage drove away from their Jeffcott Street home on route to the Exhibition Buildings on the other side of the city.  As they travelled down Lonsdale Street they were amazed at the huge crowds who had flocked to the city. Swanston and Spring Streets were lined with people hoping to get a good view of the procession.  Richard knew there would be thousands assembled at the best vantage points on the steps of the Treasury Building and Parliament House. Flags of every description flew on all of the major buildings. 

Luckily they had arrived in plenty of time, so when they alighted from the carriage at the entrance, they were able to make their way into the building with little impediment.  Richard escorted his wife to her seat and then made his way to his seat with the other commissioners.  

Richard, as a Councillor of the City of Melbourne, had felt great pride when he had been appointed as one of the Commissioners.  They were charged with the onerous task of organising the building of the new Exhibition Building and the running of the International Exhibition of Works and Industries of Art. As he sat waiting for the formalities to get underway, a small sigh escaped Richard. He thought back to that appointment, and remembered wondering how they could possibly make this happen in two short years. However, plans for the new Exhibition Building in the Carlton Gardens were soon drawn up and the  foundation-stone was laid early in 1879, by the then Governor of Victoria, His Excellency, Sir George Bowen. Richard and the other commissioners had worked diligently to ensure this huge event, with exhibitors from all over the world, was a success. He had served on three committees, one of which was the Building committee. So he, of course, had been heavily involved in appointing the architect and overseeing the construction of the new Exhibition Buildings. Costs had blown out, as more space became necessary to accommodate the many applications from international exhibitors. 

Fortunately, ‘Marvellous Melbourne’, as it was known at the time, had been able to pull off this amazing display of industry and arts, due to the gold rush and wool industry boom which the whole of the state of Victoria had been experiencing for around thirty years.  

Richard knew that outside the participants in the procession, which included trades organisations, military battalions, firemen and bands, would be converging from all over the city, walking proudly behind their colourful banners. At the Swanston Street corner they would await the arrival of the Governor and his entourage  from Government House, and then the procession would proceed down Spring Street to the main entrance of the Exhibition Building.

Finally the moment arrived.  The sound of the military band announced the arrival of the Governor and the vice regal party. As they ascended the dais, all stood for the playing of the national anthem, God Save the Queen, followed by three rousing cheers.  The assembly then took their seats again for the performance of the cantata. The Exhibition was officially opened by His Excellency, Lord Normanby, Governor of Victoria. Immediately following the opening, the gigantic gold plated Statue of Industry was unveiled.

The final report presented by the commissioners, was to show that the Exhibition had been wholly satisfactory.  Over a million people had paid for admission and the economic benefits were said to have gone a long way towards recouping the cost of the extravaganza.  The commissioners reported that the exhibition would open up new markets and make Australia better known throughout the world. 

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