Easter – as reported in the Illustrated London News

In a previous blog post, one of our Triborough Reference Librarians, Debby Wale,  looked at how Valentine’s Day had been reported in The Illustrated London News. This time Debby looks at how Easter was reported in the same publication.

From 1842, The Illustrated London News became the world’s first fully illustrated weekly newspaper. It is a fascinating social record, providing a vivid picture of British and world events. We take it for granted now seeing news as it happens, with images beamed across the globe to our living rooms.

Below is the “Festival of Corpus Christi in Madrid.” Illustrated London News 3 April 1847

Festival of Corpus Christi in Madrid, 3 April 1847

Festival of Corpus Christi in Madrid, 3 April 1847

The Paso strictly speaking means the figure of the Saviour during his passion.

“These Pasos” says Mr Ford “are only brought out on grand occasions, principally during the Holy Week. The rest of the year they are stowed away in regular store-houses. The expense is very great, both in the construction and costume of the machinert, and in the number of persons employed in managing and attending the ceremonial. The French invasion. The progress of poverty, and the advance of intellect, have tended to reduce the number of Pasos, which amounted to more than fifty in Seville alone. Every parish has it’s own figure or group, which were paraded in the Holy Week; particular incidents of Our Saviour’s passion were represented by Companies, Brotherhoods, or guilds, and these took their name from the image or mystery which they upheld.”

However great the distress, Mr ford tells us that money is seldom wanting, for these ceremonies gratify many national peculiarities. First the show delights old and young, then it is an excuse for an holiday, for making most days in the week a Sunday, and for an exhibition of dress hallowed with a character of doing a religious duty. The members thus gratifying their personal vanity and love of parade, costume, and titles; and their tinsel, moreover, passes for a meritoroius act.

The name Corpus Christi is Latin for ‘the body of Christ’ and this festival is still enacted to the current time.

The language in The Illustrated London News is very much of it’s time – demonstrated perfectly in the piece below from the issue dated 19 April 1851:

Easter and the Great Exhibition

The Easter holidays will be this year supplied with an additional lion, in the mighty building in Hyde-Park; not, indeed, that the mass of holiday-makers can hope to penetrate the portals, to all but a favoured few as impregnable as the guarded gates of the citadel of Badajoz, or that they will have the wildest chance of even passing a glance into that interior in which the ingenuity and the skill of the world is now rearing the great industrial trophy of the age.

Sounds rather like trying to get a ticket for London 2012.…

The Great Exhibition Building, known as Crystal Palace.

The Great Exhibition Building in Hyde Park, sketched from Kensington Gardens Bridge

The Great Exhibition Building in Hyde Park, sketched from Kensington Gardens Bridge

The Great Exhibition - the last day of receiving goods

The Great Exhibition – the last day of receiving goods

The Great Exhibition Building - cutting down trees in the north transept

The Great Exhibition Building – cutting down trees in the north transept

If you want to find out more about The Great Exhibition and have a Hammersmith and Fulham library card, log in to Britannica online and search for Crystal Palace.

The Crystal Palace, designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, was a remarkable construction of prefabricated parts. It consisted of an intricate network of slender iron rods sustaining walls of clear glass. The main body of the building was 1,848 feet (563 metres) long and 408 feet (124 metres) wide; the height of the central transept was 108 feet (33 metres). The construction occupied some 18 acres (7 hectares) on the ground, while its total floor area was about 990,000 square feet (92,000 square metres, or about 23 acres [9 hectares]). On the ground floor and galleries there were more than 8 miles (13 km) of display tables.

‘Crystal Palace’ Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Library Edition.
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2013

The Great Exhibition Building no longer exists but you can visit another of their Easter suggestions. As described in the April 22 1848 issue:

 There is not a more rational mode of passing an Easter holiday in the metropolis than a visit to this famous prison-palace.

They were referring to the Tower of London….

The Tower of London, 22 April 1848

The Tower of London, 22 April 1848

Debby Wale

Debby Wale

Debby Wale, Triborough Reference Librarian

Fulham Reference Library

Further information

  • Fulham Reference Library has almost the complete holdings of The Illustrated London News in their store.
  • The Encyclopedia Britannica can be accessed via our Online Reference Library page. You’ll need a Hammersmith and Fulham library card to access this.
  • Westminster City Libraries has electronic access to The Illustrated London News via Westminster City Libraries website. You’ll need at Westminster Libraries card to access this.
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