Handbook of the Bazaar (1898)

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This month’s document is a brochure to an event held at South Place in 1898 to raise funds to pay off the debt of the chapel.

The brochure gives a wonderful insight into the myriad of activities held at South Place, such as rambles and soirees, lectures and discourses, as well as revealing many of the personalities who contributed towards the events and management of South Place Ethical Society, as it was known then. Primarily though, as the title suggests, it is a handbook to the three-day fundraising event held between November 16-18, 1898, listing the various events and activities involved, thereby allowing us a glimpse into the social and cultural events of middle-class Londoners at the very end of the 19th century.

SPES/6/3/2 - Hat trimming competition ("for gentlemen only"), 1898
SPES/6/3/2 – Hat trimming competition (“for gentlemen only”), 1898

 

SPES/6/3/2/ - Come and visit the Electric Grotto!
SPES/6/3/2/ – Come and visit the Electric Grotto!

Fun activities with the latest in telecommunications!

A stereoscope was one of the most popular forms of entertainment towards the end of the 19th century. It was a device consisting of two side-by-side lenses in front of two identical pictures taken from slightly different view points. The viewer looking through the lenses would see a three-dimensional image of the picture.

SPES/6/3/2 - Different types of stalls at the bazaar, 1898
SPES/6/3/2 – Different types of stalls at the bazaar, 1898

Some of the many different stalls on offer at the Bazaar were run by numerous members of South Place, many of whom are listed here. Some  of the more well-known names that can be found dotted amongst the Conway Hall archives are the Dixons and Lidstones. These families, joined through marriage, have connections to South Place as early as 1850 and continue right through to the present day. Nicholas Lidstone maintained the rather run-down South Place Chapel and later became the Treasurer for the Conway Hall construction fund which finally opened in 1929.

SPES/6/3/2 - Price list for refreshments, 1898
SPES/6/3/2 – Price list for refreshments, 1898

Some of the delights on offer if you’re hungry!

SPES/6/3/2 - Programme of activities for November 17, 1898
SPES/6/3/2 – Programme of activities for 17th November, 1898

The page above illustrates some of the different fundraising activities that took place the three-day fundraising event. This included songs, musical interludes, and renditions of Shakespeare. In the wider picture, South Place during this period and well into the middle of the 20th century had an extensive cultural programme filled with rambles, dances, lectures, children’s parties, and plays.

I chose this fascinating document for this month’s selection because it provides a wonderful glimpse into the cultural life of late 19th century London, not just in terms of what was happening in South Place, but also in the wider picture with developments in scientific developments, for example, that impacted society. Additionally, it identifies many of the names of South Place notables who played such an important role in shaping and developing the society to what it is today.

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