In 1882, Kingston held an exhibition similar in conception to the famous 1851 Great Exhibition, albeit on a much smaller scale. The Kingston exhibition consisted of 784 exhbitors showing 1425 exhibits, and was open for 10 days. During this period, 18,222 persons paid for admission, generating £522 6s. 3d. through the turnstiles, contributing to a total turnover of £1093 5s. 5d., and final profits of £343 3s. 6d.
The exhibition was significant in signalling the desire of local authorities to cater for the appetite for Fine Art, and it is a crucial date in the story of the formation of the art school. The exhibition report found in the local studies archives indicates that the exhibition organisers earmarked the surplus to help form what would eventually become Kingston University, as well as Kingston Museum:
‘this surplus, it appears to the Committee, should be devoted to the same object for which the Exhibition was originated, viz., the promotion and encouragement of Industry and Art in the neighbourhood.’
‘The Committee consider that, if possible, it might be desirable to establish a permanent “School of Industry and Art” in Kingston, and also a Museum; and although the sum handed over to the trustees is inadequate for this purpose, they hope it may prove a nucleus for the funds of some such undertaking.’
Thus, the origins of the art school, the local museum, and the university itself are all inextricably linked.