In an earlier post, I described the events around a visit to Northampton by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1844. A photograph that has appeared in social media posts several times shows a crowded churchyard of St Peter’s in which some structures were erected to allow those present to get a good view of a significant procession. I was intrigued as this photograph was annotated ‘in 1913’ and long after the 1844 visit. A newspaper search soon revealed there had been a subsequent royal visit to the town on 23 September 1913, 69 years after the previous monarch’s visit.
My question was, can we find out more about this event and who these people in the picture were? The Northampton Mercury provided several pages of reporting on the event and gives some fascinating detail.
The King, George V and Queen Mary had been staying at Balmoral and travelled to Althorp station 1 by train to be guests of 6th Earl Spencer2, a Liberal politician who had previously served as an MP. The bigger purpose of the visit was for the King to review military training and manoeuvres taking place in North Buckinghamshire.
The Northampton Mercury describes the arrival at Northampton.
THE JOURNEY FROM ALTHORP
The special train which, conveyed the Royal party from Balmoral arrived at Althorp Park Station at eight o’clock on Tuesday morning, and it was nearly half past eleven before the King and Queen and the Royal party left Althorp House for Northampton. Outside the gates of the entrance nearest to Harleston, a crowd of two or three hundred people had collected and gave their Majesties hearty cheers as they went by. From the turn to Brampton to the Northampton end of Harleston village the road was lined with village folk. Three arches of flags and evergreens had been erected, the Duchess of Grafton having kindly supplied the evergreens. One very fine arch at the entrance to the village bore the motto: “long live our King and Queen. Welcome.” The schoolchildren were given good positions on a stand on the right side of the road.
Here and at Duston, the same enthusiastic loyal cheers greeted the royal motor. With kindly thought orders had been given for the drivers to slow up somewhat in passing, and scarcity one was there that did not catch a glimpse of the King and Queen as they repeatedly bowed their acknowledgements. At Duston, the school children were seated in wagons, which were placed on the grass at the side of the road. The same scenes of enthusiasm greeted the Queen upon her return.
It was a sedate and patient throng that waited an hour or more at the Dallington boundary to give the Borough’s first cheer .to their Majesties. It was unlike any part of the stream of people which stretched onward to the Market-square in an ever-growing density. The people of St. James’ End had no barriers and needed none. They were expectant but willing to wait quietly; further along, they were willing to wait, but not quietly. In the one place, there was excited conversation; in the other, there was a constant din and a medley of sounds.
Yet the people of St. James’ End welcomed their monarch in a no half-hearted manner. As the Royal car slowed down on the brow of the hill a cheer went up which rippled along till it broadened into a roar as the fleet of cars headed by his Majesty, ran at a slackened speed through the masses that lined the main road.
The King, looking well and happy, was in conversation with the Duke of Connaught. He glanced frequently at the crowds, and the smile on his face betokened the pleasure he felt at the ancient borough’s greeting.
His Majesty gave a kindly notice to the 1,500 children who were grouped in front of St. James’s Council Schools, as well as to the smaller assembly at the Church Schools on the other side.
Again, at the West Bridge, there was a demonstration which evidently impressed His Majesty. First were 400 members of the Boys’ Brigade who, put upon the alert by the sound of their bugle giving the royal salute as the cars drove round the bend, stood smartly at the salute. Next to them were a thousand Boy Scouts in picturesque colours, who, also receiving the intimation from their troop bugles, raised their left hands to their “wide awake” hats, whilst the flag bearers dipped the colours. It was an imposing display of the flower of the county’s boyhood, and with them stood their proud leader, General Sir Robert Baden Powell.
At All Saints’ Church, the excitement was intense, and here the shrill “Hurrahs” of many hundreds of school children mingled with the deeper cheers of the men-folk. Along the Drapery the scene was one of thrilling demonstration, and viewed from the bottom of the thoroughfare was one of wonderful colour and animation. In remarkable contrast to all this excitement was the comparative silence which fell upon the crowd as the cars passed out of view. It betokened the satisfaction of the people, who having seen their King were amply rewarded for a long wait in the comfortless streets.3
The Northampton Mercury continues the story.
ON THE MARKET SQUARE
From an early hour in the morning, crowds began to line the barriers on the Market, and enthusiasts bent on missing nothing of what was to be seen took up their positions in the windows. Judging by the size of the crowd as early as nine o’clock the precaution taken by the police in erecting a substantial barrier was wise. By tea o’clock the Square seemed full, but a continual stream of people was pouring in at all four corners. Many of these, however, were seat-holders and did not add to the pressure on the square.
Considerable interest was aroused about ten o’clock by a band rehearsal. Councillor Joseph Rogers was in command, and the National Anthem was played right through to test the sounding properties of the bandstand. The stirring strains of the “Grenadiers’ March” set the crowd on the jig at once, and proved a welcome relief from the general depression caused by the unending drizzle of rain. At half-past ten the strains of martial music were heard approaching, and the 4th Battalion of the Northants Regiment, with the magnificent figure of Colonel Ripley, mounted on a spirited horse, that seemed to prance to the music, leading the way. The men marched with bayonets fixed and presented a splendid feature. They were formed up on the Parade in front of the “Mercury” and “Echo” office, with the colours and the Guard of Honour in the centre.
The Market Square was now presenting a scene of great animation. At every window were crowds of eager faces, and along most of the roof balustrades and sky lines were gathered venturesome groups who seemed undismayed by either the wet or the peril of a nasty slide to the earth below. A round of applause greeted the arrival of the band of the 1st Life Guards who marched to the bandstand preceded by Alderman W. Bree and Councillor J. Rogers, who smilingly replied to the chaff of their friends in the crowd.
The Crimean veterans of Northampton, who were accommodated with seats so as to have a good view of the dais, were received with cheers, which were renewed with vigour as the Mayoress, carrying the bouquet she was to present to the Queen, drove up in her motor car. The Mayoress carried herself with that charming grace that has characterised her throughout her year of office, and bowed graciously in acknowledgement of the warm welcome accorded her.
A moment or so later the Mayor, accompanied by the ex-Mayor and the Town Clerk, arrived and were also heartily cheered.
The Spencer children arrived together, and were not at first recognised, but were applauded with warmth as soon as they alighted from their car. They showed the keenest interest in all that was taking place on the Market-square and expressed astonishment at the masses of people and the groups on the top of the highest buildings in the vicinity.
By half-past eleven all those who had seats to look after, and the bulk of the crowd seemed to have gathered, and for some time a curious stillness hung, over the assembly so that it was possible to hear what was being said by some excited youths on the far side of the square. The tedium of waiting was relieved by the Guards Band who, to the delight of the crowd, which showed its appreciation by vigorous applause, played patriotic British airs.
The day’s events as significant as they were for the town, they were planned to be a memorable occasion for the children of the town, including the erection of raised stands to provide the best view of the procession.
THE SCHOOL CHILDREN
Among the many memorable scenes on the line of route, there were none more striking than the masses of school children who, to the number of 15,600, were gathered at various points and given special positions from which to view the Royal procession The children were grouped at St. James’-road School playground, St. Peter’s Churchyard, by the west and east sides All Saints’ Church, and on the footpath between the Hospital gate and Houghton road, and as the procession passed each of those points the children sang the National Anthem with a verve and enthusiasm that clearly delighted both the King and the Queen.
Every child wore a favour of the national colours and leaflets, some red, others white, and others blue had been distributed. As the children sang they waved their leaflets, and the combination of rapidly moving colours made the scenes at each station extremely pretty.
Provision had been made for all scholars. of the upper departments and the scholars of Standard I., where that standard is taught in an infants’ department. The children assembled at their various schools, and under the supervision of the head and assistant teachers marched in procession to the stations to which they had been allotted. The children from St. Andrew’s and Spring-lane Schools joined those of the St. James’ Council and Church Schools on the stands in St. James’-road School playground and the pavement in front of the playground, s so that they were the first group of children to obtain a view of their Majesties.
Returning to the original photograph, the following section clarifies where the children at St. Peter’s churchyard originated.
The next assembly was on the stand erected in St. Peter’s Churchyard, and others were massed on the pavement in front, of the church. These children were drawn from St. Peter’s School and Campbell-square and St. Katharine’s Schools.
At the west end — the front — of All Saints’ Church were the scholars of St. Paul’s, St. George’s, and All Saints’ Schools, with the boys and girls of Becket and Sargeant’s schools in their picturesque uniforms and dresses. The stand at the east end of All Saints’ Churchyard was occupied by the children of the Kingsthorpe-grove Council School and Kingsthorpe Church School, while the Scholars of St. Matthew’s, Kettering-road, St Mary’s Boys, Military- road, St. Giles, Barry-road, Stimpson-avenue, Vernon-terrace, and St. Edmund’s Schools were accommodated on the footpath of Chyne-walk between the Hospital gate and Houghton-road.
For the children of Far Cotton School provision was made on the Towcester-road, while those of Nazareth Home saw their Majesties from the garden of Mr. C. Quinn, Harleston-road.
A slide show of additional images from the Royal visit to Northampton courtesy of gettyimagesEmbed from Getty Images
- Althorp Park station was on the London & North Western Railway between Northampton and Long Buckby. The station closed in 1960.
- Charles Robert Spencer, 6th Earl Spencer, KG, GCVO, VD, PC (1857 – 1922), styled The Honourable Charles Spencer until 1905 and known as Viscount Althorp between 1905 and 1910, was a Liberal politician. An MP from 1880 to 1895 and again from 1900 to 1905, he served as Vice-Chamberlain of the Household from 1892 to 1895. He became a peer as Viscount Althorp in 1905, he was Lord Chamberlain from 1905 to 1912 in the Liberal administrations headed by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and H. H. Asquith. In 1910, he succeeded his half-brother as Earl Spencer.
- Northampton Mercury, 26 September 1913
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