Agriculture was still the most important sector of the economies of Jersey and Guernsey in 1871 and the centrepiece of the Great Exhibition, which was visited by 30,000 people at the Victoria College showground, was a cattle show, featuring cows from both islands.
The gates of the college grounds opened at 11 am on 28 June as bright sunshine replaced the overnight rain and morning mist. So many people were pressing to get in that many managed to get through the Bagatelle Road entrance without paying.
The College Field staged horse and cattle classes, poultry and dog shows and an exhibition of agricultural implements.
The exhibition was opened at noon by the Lieut-Governor Major General Philip Guy, accompanied by the organisers, the Bailiffs of Jersey and Guernsey, Jurats, Deputies, Constables and Rectors.
The Lieut-Governor then toured the exhibition accompanied by the president of the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society and the exhibition committee president Charles Le Cornu, whose idea the exhibition had been. He had also been instrumental in the launch of the Society’s herdbook five years earlier.
Unfortunately no member of the Royal Family had been able to accept the invitation to attend the event, but it was hailed by everybody as an outstanding success. The official society report was written by the honorary secretary, the Rev William Le Maistre, Rector of St Peter:
- ”During the three weeks the exhibition remained open, it was highly valued, and the opportunity was taken advantage of by 30,000 visitors to see the magnificent show of cattle and the huge assortment of agricultural implements; to look on flowers of the richest hues and tints and emitting the most delicate perfume; to wonder at the variety shown in the canine tribe, and at the beauty of plumage in the birds; to examine the treasures of the land and the dep and to study the works of the old masters and of modern painters and artists; to attempt to unravel the ingenious contrivances of engineering skill or the mysteries of some novel mechanical fabric and appliance; to express their astonishment at the many monuments and proofs of patient toil and curious art; to gaze on curiosities drawn from all the quarters of the globe.
- ”Never were exhibited in this island cattle and stock which excelled those brought together on this occasion. The beauty of the Jerseys and Guernseys left nothing to be wished for. The reputation of these islands’ horned cattle will by this exhibition be extended and made better known on the continent and elsewhere, thus directly tending to increase the wealth and general prosperity of the inhabitants.
- ”In the horticulture departkment upwards of 130 entries were exhibited with great effect. In the dogs and poultry class were contained many birds of rare beauty and excellence. From the gorgeous peacock and proud turkey to the pugnacious bantam and the useful hen, examples might be found of almost every class of domestic fowl, while in that heterogeneous class of rabbits, guinea pigs and other pets and foreign and home birds and bees were to be found numerous specimens sure to please the eye, and satisfy the taste of the most fastidious.
- ”In the loan collection were specimens of the delicate workmanship of China and Japan, comfortable furs and fossils of the North; jewels and gold of Australia and of Peru; and a thousand other things brought to our shores by our enterprising seafaring men who have extended our commerce to the most distant parts.
- ”The crowds of visitors who attended the show rendered the secne most animated. The long rows of cattle, the occupants of the horse shed, the number of implements exhibited, the machinery in motion – all combined to form a scene not to be easily forgotten.”
- Great Exhibition, a further article