Looking at this fascinating picture from Andrew Hawkes’ collection, showing an excited crowd for a royal visit in 1905, I thought I would do a bit of research into royal visits and celebrations from the past. The first visit that I can find mentioned was on 26th July 1496, when Henry VII apparently spent the night in Poole between visits to Christchurch and Corfe Castle. We can imagine him being greeted at the towngate by the mayor and local dignitories, but where he slept and what entertainment was provided for him, we don’t know.
Far more is known about Charles II’s visit in 1665. The king was accompanied by his natural son, the Duke of Monmouth and several other noblemen. After being received by the mayor, Peter Hall, the sheriff, William Frampton and aldermen, the king sat down to a dinner at Peter Hiley’s house in the corn market. Peter Hall’s house in High Street was perhaps not considered splendid enough. Afterwards, the king and his entourage ‘took Coll William Skutt’s boat to Brownsea, steered by the sayd Collonel, and rowed by six masters of shipps’. Returning to the quay, the mayor handed his majesty on shore ‘from whence he went on foote to the house of the said Coll Skutt, the said Sheriff going before, and the said mayor and Edward Man, senior bayliffe, bearing their maces before him, where was a stately banquett provided for him’. So the residents of High Street were treated to a royal procession to Skutt’s house, an ancient building known as the Priory on the other side of the corn market.
Twenty years before, William Skutt had been a colonel of volunteers in the Civil War, fighting against the king’s father, but that was all now forgotten. The king graciously appointed Skutt as the future mayor of Poole. After the royal party had gone, however, the corporation reverted to their own choice of mayor. William Skutt died only a few months after the visit.
Some 175 years later, in 1830, the exiled King of France, Charles X, landed at Hamworthy. During his journey, the king had escaped hostile crowds and he was understandably nervous of the people gathered to meet him on the shore at Hamworthy. Once he was assured that they were friendly and just curious to see him, he disembarked and was whisked off to stay at Lulworth Castle. Some members of his entourage, however, spent the night at the Antelope in High Street where locals noticed signs of damage to the carriages from angry mobs during the king’s flight.
The opening of the park by the Prince of Wales in 1890 was to be a great affair. Four triumphal arches had been put up in different parts of the town, including one in High Street near Chapel Lane. The Prince’s route through the park and around the town was hung with flags, banners and patriotic decorations. All the main streets, including High Street from Topp’s corner to the Quay, were to be closed to traffic. The Decorative Committee ‘decided to Illuminate the High-street throughout with numerous Chinese Lanterns and fairy lamps. The lamps will probably be festooned across the street, and the effect will surely be of the most pleasing description’. Unfortunately Princess was ill and could not take part in the festivities and a storm the previous day devastated the decorations in the park. After driving through the park, down the decorated High Street to the Quay and back through the town, the Prince returned to the railway station and declared the park open in the booking office! It was not quite as planned but not a total disaster.
In 1911, celebrations for the coronation of George V were ‘spoiled by wind and rain’ according to the headline in the Poole and Dorset Herald. Local people had gone to town on their preparations. ‘The decorations in the High-street were particularly attractive, and excelled those which were displayed on the memorable occasion of the relief of Mafeking. Flags, streamers and bunting, with patriotic sentiments and pictures of the King and Queen, were to be seen on all the business establishments and the few private residences in the High-street, whilst overhead the lines of flags and streamers formed a fluttering canopy. The commanding elevation of the Gas Company’s offices, with its handsome portico, supported by massive columns [Beech Hurst] lent itself admirably to a scheme of decorations, and this was taken full advantage of. Others who also added with prominence to this wealth of colour were Messrs. Ballard and Son, Mr. George Keene [No.145], Messrs Wheatley & Co., Mr. Hawkes [No. 99], Mr. J. Cole [No. 108], Mr. J. Warn [No. 50], Mr. J. Columbus [No. 16] (who had arranged flags to indicate names of royalty) and Mr. Jordans. The Port Mahon, White Hart and Crown Hotels also joined profusely in the colouring scheme, whilst the mass of beautiful flowers in red, white and blue on the window sills of the Antelope Hotel were also very attractive. Many of the private residences were prettily adorned.’
The wind and rain reported in the paper occurred during the parade in the park when a torrential downpour scattered the school children lined up there, causing temporary chaos. People rushed for shelter as parents tried desperately to locate their children. Eventually, order was restored.
There have been many royal visit and celebrations in the last 100 years and most recently, of course, the diamond jubilee festivities when decorations in High Street showed that patriotic feelings are not only a thing of the past. The chance to dress the place up and have a bit of a do is to good to miss.
Finally, what about the royal visit of 1905, illustrated in the picture I mentioned at the beginning? Unfortunately the newspaper for that date is damaged so I haven’t yet managed to work out who was visiting and what it was all about – more research needed there!
Does anyone have any memories of royal occasions they have taken part in?