Background

In the 1880s, many changes were made in Wolverhampton as a result of the passing of the Artisan’s Dwelling Act of 1875, by Disraeli's Government. It empowered local authorities to pull down slums and replace them with decent buildings, and to provide better accommodation for working class families. In Wolverhampton, the Act was implemented in 1881, and a large number of slum properties were demolished, new roads were built, and some of the existing roads were widened. One of them was Lichfield Street, which originally ran from Queen Square to Princes Square, and was only 23 feet wide. It contained many old buildings, some of which were half-timbered. The old buildings were demolished, and the street was widened and extended to Victoria Square, to provide access to the railway stations.

Alterations were also made to Horse Fair, which followed a circuitous route between Stafford Street, North Street, and Charles Street (where Ring Road St. Peter's is today). It was only 26 feet wide in places. After the old buildings were demolished, Horse Fair was widened, and ran directly from Stafford Street to North Street. It's name was changed to Wulfruna Street, and the area between the street and the old market hall was opened-up to become The Market Patch. This part of Wulfruna Street and the surrounding area is now occupied by the Civic Centre.


Horse Fair, and the area to the north of the Market Hall. From Steen and Blacket’s 1871 map.

Wolverhampton Art Gallery

In 1881, the Mayor of Wolverhampton, Alderman Jones, presented £500 to the town, in order to provide works of art relating to local manufacturing. As a result of the gift, a local businessman, who wished to remain anonymous, wrote the following letter to the Mayor:

Dear Mr. Mayor,

I see you have started a subscription for an Art Gallery in the town. I am therefore prepared to erect and present to the town a building of the value of £5,000 upon the following conditions: - First, the town to provide a suitable site with provision for enlargement. Second, that you form a committee, consisting of yourself, the Rector, and Sir Rupert Kettle, for the purpose of maturing the plans, say whether a museum should be associated with it, and for the purposes of inducing a gentleman in the neighbourhood to contribute works of art in painting, sculptor etc, and when you have promises to the extent of 10,000 and are otherwise ready, I am prepared to begin building. Third, it must be a strict condition that no other person, except yourself, know the name of the giver. Of course the secrecy I require does not prevent you mentioning the offer before you vacate your office.

Yours very truly

The letter was written by Philip Horsman, who remained anonymous until the opening of the building on the 30th May 1884. He paid the total cost of the building which amounted to £8,500. The council provided the land in between the two newly redeveloped streets, Lichfield Street, and Wulfruna Street. The building was designed by Mr. Julius A. Chatwin of Birmingham, and built by Philip Horsman's firm, Horsman & Company.

In order to raise funds for the both the art gallery, and the School of Art at the back, it was decided that a fine art and industrial exhibition should be held, to coincide with the opening of the gallery. The previous exhibitions in 1839 and 1869 had both made a good profit, and so it seemed likely that the same would happen again.


The Art Gallery in about 1900.

The 1884 Exhibition

The exhibition occupied three sites, the art gallery, and two temporary buildings, one housing the industrial exhibits, and another housing geological, archaeological, electrical, and telephony displays. The two temporary buildings were alongside the recently opened Wulfruna Street, on land that had previously been occupied by slum properties. The larger of the two, the engineering building, was built on the north-western side of Wulfruna Street, on land that would later be occupied by the wholesale market. The smallest building with the archaeological displays etc., stood on the north-western corner of the newly opened-up Market Patch.


The location of the exhibition.


A description of the exhibition from 'The Original Wolverhampton Guide', published by John Steen & Company in 1884.
To celebrate the exhibition, and the opening of the Art Gallery, much of the town centre was decorated with bunting and flags. The exhibition opened on Friday 30th May, 1884 in front of a large crowd, many of whom travelled on the special exhibition trains that ran during the twenty two week-long exhibition. The start of the exhibition coincided with the annual Whitsuntide Fair that was held in Queen Square, Wulfruna Street, and North Street. The opening ceremony began at the Town Hall with a procession led by the band of the 3rd South Staffordshire Volunteers. On arrival at the Art Gallery, the Mayor, Alderman Brotherton, presented a gold key to Lord Wrottesley, the Lord Lieutenant of the County, who gave a speech and opened the Art Gallery front door. The gold key had been donated by Chubbs. The procession then proceeded along the covered walkway to the industrial hall on the north side of Wulfruna Street, where a similar speech was given.

The Fine Art Display

The fine art display in the Art Gallery included paintings and prints by David Cox, Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, George Romney, Peter Paul Rubens, J. M. W. Turner, Peter De Wint, and many others. There were etchings by Anthony van Dyck, and Rembrandt, and a display of needlework and embroidery, including lace shawls, and christening gowns.

The Industrial Display

The exhibits in the industrial hall included displays featuring some of the most up-to-date machinery, and the latest domestic appliances. There were displays by local manufacturers including Mander Brothers, Chubb & Son, Joseph Evans & Sons, Elwell-Parker Limited, and a display of the latest carriages produced by Forder & Company. Colonel Tom Thorneycroft of Tettenhall Towers also showed some of his inventions. The following description of the display is from 'The Engineer', 13th June, 1884:

Engineering at the Staffordshire Exhibition

The machinery and industrial sections in the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Industrial and Art Exhibition, which was opened on May 30th, and will remain open until the end of October, are well-filled with excellent specimens of engineering and similar work. The buildings are shortly to be lighted-up on the incandescent system by the Wolverhampton Electric Light Engineering and Storage Company.

The boiler selected to supply steam for driving the machinery in motion is the Babcock and Wilcox patent, made at Glasgow by the Singer Sewing Machine Manufacturing Company. The boiler is composed of a series of wrought iron tubes, expanded into continuous headers, and connected at each end with a horizontal steam and water drum, together with a mud drum at the lower end. All the connecting joints are made by wrought iron tubes expanded into bore-boles. It supplies steam to a 10 horse power variable expansion engine made by Messrs. Evans, of the Culwell Foundry, Wolverhampton, and fitted with the Pickering patent governor. In connection with the Babcock and Wilcox boiler, Mr. Jonah Davies, of Wolverhampton, shows, on behalf of the Patent Exhaust Steam Injector Company, an injector which works with exhaust steam.

The stand of Messrs. Crossley Brothers, Manchester, who were represented by their Wolverhampton agent, Mr. H. P. Lavender, contains a small "Otto," a Parker-Elwell dynamo, and a Parker-Elwell Planté accumulator, all engaged in exhibiting on a small scale, the incandescent system of domestic electric lighting by Mr. T. Taylor Smith. The dynamo drives twelve lamps of 20 candle power each. The Otto is of ½ horse power nominal and 1·9 horse power indicated, and the dynamo has been made specially for that size of engine. The arrangement is the same as that used to light-up by several of the swan companies. Though on a small scale, it is an object of much interest to the visitors at night. The firm will shortly add to the stand a new self-starter, 8 horse power engine, indicating 14.7, running at 160, and embracing all the latest improvements.

Messrs. Tangye, Birmingham, show steam engines and boilers, gas engines, and a variety of patent pumps, jacks, blocks, etc. There are steam pumps of various sizes capable of throwing water up to 7,330 gallons; ram pumps, and boiler feeders. Samples of their powerful steam jacks are also on view. At another stand Messrs. Tangye have examples of steel castings and of tool steel.

Messrs. Hathorn, Davey, and Co., of the Sun Foundry, Leeds, besides differential valve gear for pumping engines and model of compound differential engine, show a drawing of the differential pumping engine which is now being erected at Bradley for the South Staffordshire Mines Drainage Commissioners. This engine is on a large scale, the dimensions being: cylinders, 52 in., and 90 in.; 10 ft. stroke; ram pumps, 27 in. diameter, 10 ft. stroke. The capacity is four million gallons per day from a depth of 420 ft.

Gas engines driving a line of shafting are exhibited by the British Gas Engine and Engineering Company, of 11, Queen Victoria Street. One form of air compressor, indicating 3 horse power and controlled by one slide, is especially noticeable for its simplicity, and likewise for economical lubricating arrangements. The company is putting down an Atkinson compressor, making one working stroke every revolution.

Askham Bros. and Wilson, of the Yorkshire Steel and Engineering Works, and Crucible Steel Foundry, Sheffield, have on view three sizes of Lucop and Cook's patent centrifugal pulveriser for treating various substances. They invite tests from visitors. All of these, so far, especially one with phosphates, have been eminently satisfactory. The firm also shows its new registered tramway wheel, which is an improvement on the old pattern, in as much as, instead of six plain arms, it has five lighter arms forked, making ten supports to the tire. Care has been taken not to increase the weight. These wheels have already, we understand, found much favour with tramway users in many parts of the country.

Messrs. Pullan, Tuke, and Co., engineers and millwrights, of the Cambrian Works, Leeds, show a specimen of Titley's brick and tile press. By one turn of the wheel or lever, it gives a traverse of 5½ in., and puts on a pressure as high as 30 tons. It is fitted with double action steel screw and phosphor bronze nuts. The capacity is not less than 3,000 bricks per ten hours.

Messrs. W. Allday and Sons, Branston Street Works, Birmingham, exhibit, for the first time, a new blowing fan on a French patent, of which the firm has as yet made only a few for England. The inside is one steel disc divided in the centre, with paddles on both the sides acting independently. The centre forms also an air accumulator, which gives a very large volume of blast. They show, likewise for the first time, an exhaust fan on the same principle as the preceding. An idea of the power can be obtained from the fact that by their use, 10 tons of corn may be lifted per hour 100 ft. high. This new fan, both in the blowing and exhaust types, is used largely on the Continent. At Turin, Berlin, and Brussels they may be seen at work, and a large carriage proprietary in Paris have adopted them throughout their premises. The new type will take hot blast as easily as cold, without special arrangement. Allday's improved exhaust fan is shown exhausting 2,000 cubic feet per minute. Of their improved silent blowing fan, made in sizes to blow from one to 150 fires, a specimen was shown capable of blowing for fifty-two smiths' fires, and of melting 7½ tons of metal per hour. The Duplex fans are also exhibited.

As usual, several novelties are shown by Messrs. Joseph Evans and Sons, engineers, of the Culwell Foundry, Wolverhampton. As perhaps the largest pump makers in the kingdom, they are, of course, strong in this particular class of exhibit. There is a double ram pump with 14 in. cylinder, 10 in. ram, and 11 in. stroke, and pumping 11,900 gallons per hour. The crank, crank pin, crank shaft, and eccentrics, are all in one forging. The "kite" is inverted, so that the momentum of the flywheel is communicated to the ram direct. There is also a portable Cornish steam pump and boiler; Tonkin's patent, specially made for the water department of the Birmingham Corporation for low lifts in emptying mains, water pipes, etc. By the motion of a lever, one can either exhaust into the chimney or into the suction pipe, thus at once avoiding an escape of exhaust steam in the chimney and producing a vacuum to assist the pump. In the suction pipe is an enlarged chamber filled with a grill to keep out stones. It can be immediately cleared out by sliding open a door underneath. The Premier air pump and compressor is convertible by a quarter turn of a lever on the same principle as that in the Birmingham specialty. The firm shows also an improved hydraulic press pump, and yet working up to 5,000 lb. the square inch. The cylinder is 6in., with 6in. stroke, and ⅝ in. ram. Phosphor bronze is used for the pump barrel and valve chambers.

A novelty in the shape of a contractor's pump, with telescopic tubular legs, by which the pump can be raised from 3ft. to 5ft. 6in., is shown among a large collection by Messrs. Lee, Howl, Ward, and Howl, engineers, of Tipton. Among other pumps is one for hand or power, worked by a double set of valves and plunger. A personal test showed the column of water to be quite unbroken, and the capacity is stated to be a throw of 10,000 gallous an hour, 80 ft. high, for a 2½ pump. Among the drills, for which the firm lay themselves out extensively, is a new one, patented only a few weeks ago. At an expense of only a few shillings, an action is obtained identical with the costly cam self-feed motion.

Messrs. T. Perry and Son, engineers, Bilston, show a powerful guillotine shearing machine for sheet metal. They also show a fine specimen of chilled roll, 21 in. by 48in., with ground surface for zinc, copper, or other sheet, whose perfection of polish is quite worth the glass and wood case placed around it. A 26 in. diameter mill pinion with helical teeth, and other specimens of ironworks' engineering, are also shown.

A collection of chilled iron wheels, for tramways and other purposes, are sent by Messrs. Miller and Co., of the London Road Foundry, Leeds. Many of them are in section, to show depth of chill. The firm had a similar display at the Philadelphia Exhibition, and as a result, have shipped many thousand tons to United States' centres.

What can be done in the way of chilled roll manufacture in South Staffordshire is conspicuously shown also at the stand of Messrs. Charles Akrill and Co., Gold's Green Foundry, West Bromwich, represented by Mr. Geo. Wright. They have a stand of five chilled rolls of 12½ in., 18½ in., 21½ in., 24½ in., and 3l in. diameter respectively, the corresponding lengths for the first three being 3ft, 8in., 4ft., and 9ft. 4 in. The largest has just been produced for an Austrian mill. It weighs 13 tons. The chill is l in. deep all over, and the work may be said to be a triumph of casting, since it was turned out on the first trial without a flaw. The difference between this roll and those ranged above it for the sake of comparison was strikingly apparent.

Among a varied assortment of machinery connected with the nut and bolt and tube manufacture, Mr. Samuel Platt, engineer, of King's Hill Foundry, Wednesbury, has a specially designed noiseless bolt-screwing machine which deserves to be known outside the local nut and bolt centres, to which at present its use is chiefly confined. It is a three pulley machine, driven by two bands, one straight and one crossed, and is reversed by lowering the lower end of a cross lever. The reversing gear is kept in its place by a ball on the hanging lever. The reversing motion is accomplished without strain or noise. It manipulates bolt and nut together. Another machine by the same exhibitor which has found favour in New Zealand and New South Wales for artesian well purposes is a specially designed improved revolving cutter, which can be worked by hand or by power, and will cut off any sized tube from ⅛ in. to 4 in. It will also treat small round iron, brass, or copper. The weight is 1 cwt. 3 qr. 18 lb.

Among a selection of mills shown by Messrs. W. M. Ward and Co., Limerick Foundry, Great Bridge, is a large crushing mill specially made for bulldog, pottery, ores, and the like, and quite worthy of the reputation it is acquiring at ironworks in the South Staffordshire and other iron-making centres.

A direct-acting centrifugal machine for drying and extracting purposes, largely used for foreign sugar manufactories, is shown by Mr. Henry Denton, St. Peter's Ironworks, Wolverhampton, together with an 8 horse power agricultural engine, and a sample of his patent steel chain harrows. A fine collection of wrought iron tubes and fittings of all descriptions is shown by the Mayor of the Borough, Mr. Wm. John Brotherton, of the Imperial Tube Works.

Prominent among the iron manufacturing houses who show are the Earl of Dudley, Messrs. Stephen Thompson and Co., and Messrs. Hatton, Sons, and Co., all of whom have excellent exhibits, as also have certain other iron-making firms likewise represented.

The Geological and Archaeological Display

The geological display included maps and photographs of interesting geological sites from all over the world, and a selection of fossils. There was a section about coal mining, which included mining tools, and plant fossils that were found in Staffordshire coal seams. There was also a collection of stuffed birds, butterflies and moths. The archaeological section included a large display of autographs of famous people, and a section consisting of old enamelware and weaponry from many countries. There was also a selection of locally made japanware, manufactured between 1775 and 1845.

Conclusion

The exhibition closed on 31st October, 1884. Lord Wrottesley gave a speech at the closing ceremony, and stated that the exhibition had "done its work. It had educated Wolverhampton and kept Wolverhampton and Staffordshire still forward in the van of progress".

The event was a great success, and the £2,000 raised, was given to the committee of the Art Gallery by the Corporation.


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