Alford Jubilees: from pig wrestling to fancy dress …

Coronation Portrait of Her Majesty the Queen 2nd June 1953 . Cecil Beaton 1904 to1980 Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2022

As Alford prepares to celebrate the first Platinum Jubilee it seems like the perfect time to review the newspaper reports of how it was done for previous monarchs.

Queen Victoria: Golden Jubilee 1887

Queen Victoria’s reign commenced on 20th June 1837, she would reign for over 63 years. On the 20th June 1887 Queen Victoria breakfasted at Frogmore, close to Prince Albert’s Mausoleum, before sitting down to a gold plate banquet at Buckingham palace with fifty foreign royals and the governing heads of Britain’s overseas colonies and dominions. The following day the sovereign attended a service of Thanksgiving at Westminster before returning to Buckingham Palace through the cheering crowds, the day closed with fireworks.

The Golden Jubilee State Banquet at Buckingham Palace June 1887
ROBERT TAYLOR PRITCHETT 1828-1907 Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2022

The Queen returning to Buckingham Palace after the Jubilee Service 21st June 1887.
NICHOLAS CHEVALIER (1828-1902) Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2022

The Alford Celebrations: 23rd June 1887

There was a brilliant display of flags, banners and decorations on Tuesday, and the demand could not be multiplied. The drapers were quickly cleared out and “Turkey Red” and other flag stuffs were measured off by hundreds of yards for home manufacture. The entrance to the jubilee ground was marked by a beautiful arch with the mottos “God bless our Queen” and “Jubilee”, and the stately trees added much to the effect. Stamford Mercury – Friday June 24th 1887

Seventy seven years on from the last 50th Jubilee, that of George III, the people were ready to celebrate. Business premises in the town were adorned with flags and bunting, shields and banners presenting loyal mottos filled every space, several shops had prepared gas illuminations displaying words of support. Private residences in the East end of the town continued the national colour theme beyond the large flag fluttering at the church. The Southern end of Alford contained several flags and banners with loyal mottos spread across the narrow passageways. Park Lane, the Police Station, the Justice Room and the Manor House were dressed in a wide range of loyal decorations with a “considerable amount” of bunting along West Street.

The morning of the 23rd June was reserved for thanksgiving services at the church and Wesleyan chapel. Formal assemblies took place at 1 O’clock in the Market Place stretching along West Street from the Church:

  • The Volunteers under command of Major Higgins – Market Place
  • Hamilton Lodge of Freemason in full dress – Market Place
  • Alford Fire Brigade and Engine, marshalled by Sergt. Geary – Market Place
  • Oddfellows in full regalia with banners and flags – Church St
  • Britannia Lodge in full regalia – Church gates
  • Foresters in full attire with horsemen – by Messrs Rhodes & Carnleys
  • Druids – Messrs Hildreds
  • Temperance & Total Abstinence Societies “with a handsome new banner in blue and gold” – Mr L Stephensons
  • Juvenile Friendly Societies with their medals and ribbons, bearing banerets and flags – Park Lane
  • Church Sunday Schools
  • Wesleyan schools – North Market Place
  • Primitive Free Methodist, Congregational and Mission Schools, laden with flags, emblems and mottos – South Market Place.

The Excelsior brass band led this grand procession of people, walking three to four abreast, through the streets the whole parade stretched over half a mile. Five decorated carriages held the youngest participants of the day. Initially they marched to the East, returning and travelling along South Street, Hamilton Road, Bourne Rd and Station Road, before travelling the entire length of West Street, returning to the Market Place to sing the National Anthem. Loud cheers and a volley fired from the Rifle Corps closed this part of the proceedings. The children marched to their school rooms to take tea and a further 1500 adults were given tea in a marquee close to the Manor House.

An evening of sports followed tea, a full grandstand watched cheering and waving their hats as the entertainment and no small amount of hilarity ensued.

The Rifle Volunteer team won the tug of war pulling the GNR, the platelayer’s and the millwright’s teams over the line. An obstacle race involving nets, poles and swinging barrels provided much amusement as did the class for holding a greasy pig by the tail. A hurdle race, 100 yards flat and a sack race also took place before the popular evening dance and the days final gathering.

At dark the streets were again lined to view the torchlit procession, which started from the residence of Mr Carnley on Station Road and was a very imposing spectacle. As a grand finale the torchbearers and the general public heartily and effectively sang the National Anthem in the Market Place. The illuminations of the Manor House, where the windows and door were tricked with scores of lamps and gas devices … set off the decorations and kept people from the villages until a late hour. Stamford Mercury – Friday 01July 1887

Similar events occured in most of the surrounding villages, the format of thanksgiving, a procession followed by tea and sports was common to all. In some cases farmers fed and entertained their employees others funded proceedings by general subscription. The sports at Aby included the addition of climbing a greasy pole, at Farlesthorpe Mr Charles Brooks hosted entertained the whole village with Roast beef and plum pudding, some sports ensued, non participants looked on enjoying ale and tobacco, that evening ended with a firework display.

Queen Victoria : Diamond Jubilee 1897

Ten years later the establishment and the public were keen to celebrate their longest reigning sovereign. The Queen passed the anniversary day quietly before commencing a week of banqueting and celebrations in the public eye. On the 21st June a grande Royal Procession made its way to St Pauls for an open air thanksgiving service. The parade continued around the City and into South London before returning to Buckingham Palace. Queen Victoria was reported to be particularly moved by the reception she received.

No one ever, I believe, has met with such an ovation as was given to me, passing through those 6 miles of streets… The cheering was quite deafening and every face seemed to be filled with real joy. I was much moved and gratified.

Extract from Queen Victoria’s Journal: RCT.UK

The Diamond Jubilee, June-July 1897: Arrival of the Queen at St Paul’s Cathedral, June 1897
ROBERT TAYLOR PRITCHETT (1828-1907) Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2022

The Alford Celebrations: June 1897

The Diamond Jubilee Celebrations in Alford followed a similar pattern to those of 1887. Church bells announced the arrival of the special day, and a small thanksgiving service was held at noon. The organisations then assembled at 2 O’clock for the procession, notable additions to the gathering were the Alford Wheelers along with other cycling and athletic clubs. The parade ended at the Market Place for a photograph and a further service was held which included all of the non-conformist ministers. The National Anthem and a rifle salute closed the proceedings. Tea, sports and the torchlit parade all followed the format of the Golden Jubilee, the one diversion mentioned was that of the torches being thrown on a heap in the Market Place to form a small bonfire following the singing of the National Anthem. Just ten years after the preceeding Jubilee less newspaper coverage was allocated locally to the detail, however photographs suggest that the decorations and enthisiasm in the town were far from lacking.

King George V and Queen Mary: Silver Jubilee 1935

Another 38 years, including the hard years of WWI, would pass before the next Jubilee celebrations.

King George V and Queen Mary were the first British monarchs to celebrate a Silver Jubilee. In London the now familiar plans were prepared. A Royal procession to St Pauls for Thanksgiving , followed by banquets, sports and pageants galore marked the London Celebrations.

The Alford Celebrations: 6th May 1935

The Spring of 1935 was a perfect time for Jubilee Celebrations and once again the people of Alford excelled themselves. A public meeting in the drill hall on 7th March 1935 became the first step on the road to Alford’s celebrations. The meeting turned out to be one of the largest of its kind and a good indicator of the level of public interest and support for the festivities. The agreed proposal of voluntary subscriptions to fund the events proved popular quickly providing £120 enabling a variety of sub committees to be formed.

The involvement of the wider population in the planning stages is reflected in the inclusive nature of the carnival and festival atmosphere that these celebrations achieved.

Premises GH Sutton painted for the 1935 Jubilee
courtesy Clive Sutton

A week before the great day the town began to dress itself in festive garb … houses and business premises all over the town started to display the national colours until by Saturday evening Alford presented a scene of bright colour , seldom if ever seen before. the centre of the town in and around the Market Place was literally alive with colour. Mr GH Sutton had spent several days in decorating his business premises. The whole shop front was painted in a tasteful colour scheme of red, white and blue with a panel on each side. In the left hand panel was painted a portrait of His majesty the King and in the right hand panel was a similar representation of his gracious consort the Queen: and in gilt letters surmounting the whole was painted “Long Live the King”. … All of the business people had done their part and as one walked about the town one saw demonstrations of loyalty everywhere. And it seemed that nature was co-operating with artificial devices , for seldom had the gardens in the town looked better. Louth Standard Saturday 11th May 1935

Clive Sutton still remembers his father and grandfather departing to handpaint the signs of country inns, skills which undoubtedly enabled then to recreate the beautiful portraits of the King and Queen on the shop front as described above.

Jubilee Day in Alford

The townsfolk awoke to a peel of bells at 7:30am announcing the beginning of Jubilee day. Three hours later large crowds gathered in the sunshine to view the bunting and flowers before attending the thanksgiving service. The gathering included ministers and choir members from non conformist churches.

The Market Place assembly was scheduled for 1:30pm with a 2pm departure . The formal procession became more of a carnival parade in 1935, the introduction of several fancy dress classes with prizes in each class had lightened the occasion. The procession formation, led by Inspector G Holmes and Police Sergeant Francis was as follows:

  • Town band under direction RC Barnes
  • Members of Urban District Council and their officials
  • Ministers of religion
  • ex- servicemen
  • members of Salvation Army
  • Fire brigade
  • Oddfellows
  • Foresters
  • Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes
  • school children
  • Various classes in fancy dress
    • Decorated bicycles
    • Trades and farm waggons gaily decorated
    • Artisan class
    • Other decorated vehicles

Among the latter was a dray carrying the local Red Cross, displaying the efficiency shield Alford had won the previous year. Their display included a depiction of Florence Nightingale with her lamp accompanied by twelve nurses and a bedridden patient undergoing treatment. The Cubs and Scouts also rode in their respective drays, the cubs portraying a camp fire scene. The Foresters vehicle was laden with red white and blue bunting, along with silver bells. Their theme was a woodland setting containing Robin Hood and his Merry men along with Maid Marian.

Farm vehicles of note were those of Mr Twigg of Tothby who presented a fine turn out with two of his boys representing the King and Queen, while Councillor Seymour entered a covered waggon in the control of two cowboys representing the popular song“roll along covered waggon roll along“. Other gaily decorated farm waggons were from Mr J Middletons’s farm at Ailby and MR FW Read’s at Rigsby. The tradesmans turnouts were all cheerily bedecked, including Hunt’s Bus Service and Messrs Soulby Sons and Winch.

The Drill Hall was the venue for providing 400 children with tea prior to the commencement of the early evening sports. In 1935 the focus for food and sports turned towards the children but there were a few adult classes, one which stands out being a veterans race for men over 35, each runner being given a yard start for every year over 35. Over 558 participants entered the sports classes with the skipping race for younger girls requiring 10 heats due to the popularity.

Alford Ablaze

The sun went down in the full glory of a summer day and the town lit up once more. The street lamps were lit by special arrangement with the gas company and many shops were well lit with lines of coloured light crossing the streets.

The Market Places and West Street were ablaze with lights enhancing their displays. A string of lights crossed West Street from Mr JH Farnsworth’s shop winding through the trees in the Manor House gardens. Mr Damon and Councillor Seymour brilliantly illuminated their houses and ensured further strings of lights crossed West Street.

Further on near the railway station Mr JE Thompsons’ premises made a lovely picture with the lion and lake in his garden shimmering with appropriately coloured light.

Bonfire and dancing

The way was lit for the crowds to accompany the torch lit procession from the Market Place to the bonfire at the top of Miles Cross hill. The town band led 200 torch bearers and a large crowd out of town soon after 9 O’clock to a field off the Rigsby Road. The local scouts had built a huge bonfire, one of a chain of beacons which were lit around the country. As the Alford procession reached the cross roads villagers from Willoughby and Well and elsewhere joined the throng.

75 larch trees , more than four waggon loads of hedge cuttings, six tar barrels, 160 old motor tyres, and 155 gallons of waster oil went into the making of a great bonfire, which had been constructed by Mr Frost, chief woodman of Well Estate , assisted by other employees of Major Rawnsley. In order to provide against any untoward contingency the beacon had been guarded by local scouts since Friday night.

And so in the fields and along the road many hundreds of people were assembled when the whistle blown by Captain Jay gave warning of impending conflagration. Precisely at 10 O’clock the signal rocket went up, the scouts advanced to apply their torches to the accumulation of combustable material and Alford’s fire blazed into the sky. The remainder of the torches were thrown into the blaze, and a short display of fireworks, let off by members of the Alford Fire Brigade, made a memorable scene.

… most went home, but there was a provision still for those who would not go home until morning. A subcommittee had arranged for dancing in the Corn Exchange , where the musical programme was provided by Ray Johnson’s band from Sutton on Sea … these enthusiasts kept up the dancing and merrymaking until 2am. Louth Standard Saturday 11th May 1935

Enjoy your jubilee celebrations …

Princess Elizabeth with lilies 1929 photographed by her father, before their were lives changed forever by the abdication of her uncle. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2022

Published by

Mrs T

Beyond the day job, and the garden, I love to delve into local and family history. While pursuing one project other snippets frequently distract me, resulting in the eclectic mix of tales from the past found here.

2 thoughts on “Alford Jubilees: from pig wrestling to fancy dress …”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.