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The chamber of horrors and the origin of South Kensington

Event schedule details

Saturday 29 June

15.00-15.45

Event location details

Ondaatje Lecture Theatre

Royal Geographical Society

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Speaker: Sir Christopher Frayling

In 1853, in the wake of the Great Exhibition, the recently opened Museum of Manufactures (now the V&A) hosted one of its first shows in Marlborough House. The Gallery of False Principles was an attempt by Henry Cole to look at the science of design and debate the rules that separate the good from the bad and the ugly.

Alongside displays of furniture, ceramics, textiles and fashion, glass and metalwork (many from the Great Exhibition itself), the Gallery included everyday decorative objects considered 'utterly indefensible' for not meeting certain standards of design and taste. Labelled by the press as the ‘Chamber of Horrors’, the exhibition was reviewed by Charles Dickens’ 'Household Words' magazine which reported that one gentleman from Sydenham who had visited the show was taken aback to find most of the contents of his home had been categorised as bad taste…

Sir Christopher Frayling is former Rector of the Royal College of Art and former Chair of Arts Council England, and has for some years been attempting to track down the exhibits featured in the 'Gallery of False Principles'.  In his talk he will present his findings so far, giving you the chance to judge the ‘Chamber of Horrors’ for yourself.

This is part of our ‘Art of Science’ talks series. Take a look at the other talks in this series.


This event is free but booking is available to guarantee a place. 
Please arrive ten minutes before the event begins. If you arrive after the event has started, your ticket will be reallocated.
Limited tickets will be available on the day, but we recommend pre-booking to guarantee a place.

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Event categories

  • Adults
  • Talk