British Empire Exhibition

The story of Wembley and its important role in sports and culture today began with the British Empire Exhibition. The British Empire Exhibition was a major exhibition and celebration of empire held at Wembley over two years. There was an amusement park with roller coasters, musical performances, foods from around the world and even a display of figures carved from butter.

The Exhibition was officially opened by King George V on the 23rd April 1924 and represented 56 countries from all corners of the globe and within the British Empire in all their glory. Costing £12 million, it was the largest exhibition ever staged anywhere in the world and by the time it finished in 1925 it had attracted 27 million visitors and was truly a grand ‘Pageant of Empire’.

The ‘Wembley Lion’ was the official Exhibition symbol that was chosen and thought to represent Britain’s qualities of dignity, power and prestige. An alternative view however, was that Britain was represented by a cowardly lion, due to the hanging tail and in essence was very ‘un-English’.

In many ways this initial misrepresented logo summed up the ambiguous nature of the Exhibition and the fragile state of the Empire during the interwar periods. The event captured in microcosm the vivid expressions of attitudes towards the British Empire and was also a snapshot of British society in the 1920s .

With new roads, bus routes and services, the British Empire Exhibition contributed to the growth of Wembley. It was already an area that was steadily growing but, between 1921 and 1931, the population of Wembley trebled.