British Empire Exhibition

The British Empire Exhibition was a colonial exhibition held at Wembley, Middlesex in 1924 and 1925.A world tour in 1922 that lasted 10 months was mounted to promote participation, with Agatha Christie and her husband among the partcipants.[6] It was opened by King George V on St George's Day, 23 April 1924. 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.[7] Its official aim was "to stimulate trade, strengthen bonds that bind mother Country to her Sister States and Daughters, to bring into closer contact the one with each other, to enable all who owe allegiance to the British flag to meet on common ground and learn to know each other". Maxwell Ayrton was the architect for the project. 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. A special railway loop line and station were built, to connect the site to London Marylebone station.[8] The various buildings of the site were linked by several 'light railways', including the screw-driven 'Never-Stop Railway'.[9][10] 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 Exhibition was also the first occasion for which the British Post Office issued commemorative postage stamps. Two stamps were issued on 23 April 1924: a 1d in scarlet, and a 1 1?2d in brown, both being inscribed "British Empire Exhibition 1924"; they were designed by H. Nelson.[11] A second printing, identical to the first apart from the year being changed to 1925, was issued on 9 May 1925.[11] A List of Great Britain commemorative stamps gives further details of British commemorative postage stamps. Envelopes, letter cards, postcards[12] and many other souvenirs commemorating the event were produced as well. A grand "Pageant of Empire", organised by pageant master Frank Lascelles, was held at the Exhibition in the Empire Stadium from 21 July 1924, for which the newly appointed Master of the King's Musick, Sir Edward Elgar, composed an "Empire March" and the music for a series of songs with words by Alfred Noyes. However, a later speaking engagement by Prince Albert at the exhibition on 31 October 1925 proved to be highly embarrassing due to the Prince's pronounced stammer, which prompted him to consult speech therapist Lionel Logue for treatment. 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 hosted the fencing events for the 1948 Summer Olympics.

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