‘A great people invited all civilised nations to a festival to bring into comparison the works of human skill.’ So wrote Sir Henry Cole one of the exhibition’s organisers.

On 1 May 1851, Queen Victoria opened the exhibition in Hyde Park to crowds eager to see this display of British invention. It was held in a building made of steel and 30,000 panes of hand blown glass. Inside were machines, exhibits from all around the country, the Empire and wider world.

The catalogue to the Great Exhibition, copies of which are in many libraries, is also available online. This reveals many connections, for example with the Stokes Mortar, which was invented by the managing director of the Ipswich engineers, Ransomes, who had exhibited the equipment they were making for the railway companies. For Lincoln dwellers there is an entry for Clayton, Shuttleworth & Co with an oscillating steam-engine but with ‘arrangements simple and compact, suitable for working corn mills, sawing machinery etc

My great grandfather was secretary to the committee of Surgical Instrument makers and he managed the business of J Weiss Co at 62, The Strand. He was presented with a catalogue, the cover of which has been preserved.