Festival of Empire

View from the Canadian replica Parliament Building of the Festival at the Crystal Palace
Map of the event
New Zealand replica Parliament Building (based on old New Zealand Parliament Buildings)
Canadian Building (replica of the original Centre Block in Ottawa
South African Building (based on Houses of Parliament, Cape Town

The Festival of Empire or Festival of the Empire was held at The Crystal Palace in London in 1911, to celebrate the coronation of King George V. It opened on 12 May.


Exhibitions of products from the countries of the Empire were displayed in three-quarter size models of their Parliamentary buildings erected in the grounds:[1]

The buildings were constructed of timber and plaster as they were meant to be temporary.[2]

Pageant of London

A pageant, organised by 'Master of the Pageants' Frank Lascelles, dramatising the history of London, England and the Empire was held.[3][4] The first performance of the pageant was on 8 June 1911; in four parts, performed on separate days, it celebrated the ‘magnificence, glory and honour of the Empire and the Mother Country’. Music was provided for The Pageant of London by 20 composers including Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, Frank Bridge,[5] Cecil Forsyth, Henry Balfour Gardiner, Edward German and Haydn Wood. This was performed by a military band of 50 players and a chorus of 500 voices,[6] directed by W.H. Bell.[7] The Pageant was so successful that performances were extended from July, when they were due to end, to 2 September.[8]

Inter-Empire Championships

As part of the festival, an Inter-Empire sports championship was held in which teams from Australasia (a combined team from Australia and New Zealand), Canada, South Africa, and the United Kingdom competed in five athletics events (100 yards, 220 yards, 880 yards, 1 mile and 120 yards hurdles), two swimming events (100 yards and 1 mile), heavyweight boxing and middleweight wrestling.[9] This is regarded as a forerunner of the British Empire Games (now Commonwealth Games), held from 1930.

Competitors included Harold Hardwick (from Australia), Malcolm Champion (from New Zealand) and John Tait (from Canada).

Sport Event Winner Notes
Athletics 100-yard dash  Frank Halbhaus (CAN) 10.4 seconds[10]
Athletics 220-yard dash  Frank Halbhaus (CAN) 23.0 seconds[10]
Athletics 880-yard dash  Jim Hill (GBR) 1:58.6 minutes[10]
Athletics Mile run  John Lindsay Tait (CAN) 4:46.2 minutes[10]
Athletics 120-yard hurdles  Kenneth Powell (GBR) 16.0 seconds[10]
Swimming One mile swim  George Hodgson (CAN) [11]
Swimming 100-yard swim  Harold Hardwick (AUS) [11]
Boxing Heavyweight  Harold Hardwick (AUS) [11]
Wrestling Middle-weight  Stanley Vivian Bacon (GBR) [11]

See also


  1. The Crystal Palace/ The Great Exhibition of 1851
  2. http://www.studygroup.org.uk/Exhibitions/Pages/1911%20Crystal.htm
  3. Crystal Palace Park
  4. D.S. Ryan 'Staging the imperial city: the Pageant of London, 1911' in Imperial Cities: Landscape, Display and Identity, eds. F. Driver & D. Gilbert, Manchester University Press, 1999, pp. 117-135
  5. Hindmarsh, Paul (1982). Frank Bridge: A Thematic Catalogue, 1900–1941. London: Faber Music. pp. 69–70.
  6. Mitchell, Jon C. (2001). A Comprehensive Biography of Composer Gustav Holst with Correspondence and Diary Excerpts, Including His American Years. Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press. p. 93. ISBN 0-7734-7522-2.3
  7. Richards, Jeffrey (2001). Imperialism and music: Britain 1976-1953. Manchester University Press: p. 190
  8. Richards, p. 193
  9. Commonwealth Games Medallists. GBR Athletics. Retrieved on 2014-05-31.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 Commonwealth Games Medallists - Athletics (men). GBR Athletics. Retrieved on 2014-05-31.
  11. 1 2 3 4 New Zealanders in — The Empire Games — Specially written for the “N.Z. Railways Magazine”. The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 12 (March 1, 1938.). Retrieved on 2014-05-31.
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