Pigeons and bees at the Crystal Palace

Time travel is by far the most practical and achievable sort of travel at the moment. Whilst a time lord might be tempted to zip forward a few years in the hope that the deficiencies of the present day will have been supplied by the morrow, even for those of us without time machines, travel to the past is still perfectly accessible. What we lack in time machines at MusiCB3, we make up for in concert programmes, and a couple of days ago I found myself pulling a random volume off the shelf and delving into 1870s London, with a little help from the Crystal Palace Saturday Concert programmes.

Interesting though it is to discover what London was listening to in 1876, I found myself being distracted by the advertisements sprinkled liberally through the programmes. Remembering that Susi had explored advertisements printed in the St James’s Hall concert programmes in a previous MusiCB3 post, I had high hopes of finding similar delights among the Crystal Palace programmes, and was not disappointed…

There were a great number of entertainments on offer at the Crystal Palace in the January of 1876, in addition to the Saturday Concerts. These ranged from demonstrations of hypnotism (with volunteers from amongst the public) to the Great Annual Show of Pigeons by the National Peristeronic Society.

Roller skating was on offer on the skating rink next to the Aquarium stairs, for which one could hire Plimpton’s Patent Roller Skates. These roller skates, with the new four wheel ‘quad’ design patented by American inventor James Leonard Plimpton, apparently made the art of skating easier to acquire than inline skates or ice skates.

The health of concert-goers was not neglected, and recommendations for the perfect brand of tea for music-lovers were complemented by advertisements for Eno’s Fruit Salt, of which ‘no traveller should leave his home without a supply’, since as well as being a cure for pretty much everything, it is also a drink which is simply ‘BETTER IN EVERY SENSE OF THE TERM, TO AN UNLIMITED EXTENT.’

Thought was given to concert-goers journeys to and from the Palace, with the boots of Waukenphast and Co. recommended as ‘not a hinderance but a help to walking’. These boots, available for both ladies and gentlemen, enabled the wearer to walk five miles an hour easily…

On the evening of March 24th, season ticket holders were invited to a Spelling Bee in the Concert Room, complete with musical interludes between the rounds. An American craze encouraged by the widespread use of Noah Webster‘s spelling books, spelling bees became a popular entertainment in London in the 1860s and 70s.

The University Library holds volumes of programme notes of the Crystal Palace Saturday Concerts from the 1870s-1890s. These volumes came to the UL as part of the bequest of Richard Pendlebury, and each have his monogram embossed on the cover.


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2 Responses to Pigeons and bees at the Crystal Palace

  1. Is the George Grove who was to referee the spelling be THE George Grove?>


    • Kate says:

      I like to think so… Since Grove was secretary of the Crystal Palace Company after the Palace’s move to Sydenham, it seems pretty likely!


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