A passion for pomp and ceremony
When they celebrated, the Victorians really pushed the boat out says Donald Stanley. Here’s how they did it in one Bucks town
BEACONSFIELD was no exception to the Victorian love of pageantry whether on a march of schoolchildren on their way to an annual ‘treat’, celebrating an heir succeeding to a great estate, or a national occasion.
When, in 1896, the children’s annual ‘treat’ was held in Wilton Park, 350 went in procession under a banner from their schools in Windsor End for games and tea followed by sports.
The same year, William Baring Du Pre had come of age and succeeded his late uncle, Caledon George Du Pre, to the Wilton Park Estate.
The council decorated the town with bunting and triumphal arches.
Du Pre, who was accompanied by his widowed mother and two sisters, was greeted by a reception committee, the horses unhitched from their coach which was then hauled to the mansion by sons of tenant farmers of the estate, and a salute fired from ‘some small ordnance’.
This was followed by luncheon, presentations by his new tenants, and toasts by the rector and General Grenfell. His mother and sisters rejoined the company to watch ‘a number of sports and old English games’. There was dancing, a huge bonfire, fireworks, and the town was illuminated.
Although Du Pre was a serving officer on leave, his new position brought other duties to perform before he was recalled to his regiment. These ranged from dealing with a murder as a Justice of the Peace, to chairing a lecture on X-rays by the landlord of the White Hart.
Subsequently he took part in the Boer War, during which he was taken prisoner, and the Great War.
He became MP for High Wycombe, High Sheriff and Deputy Lieutenant of the county, and a Lieutenant Colonel.
When the young rector brought his Scottish bride to the town the following year, their horses too were taken out of the shafts and the coach hauled by bell-ringers and members of the choir to the rectory, the entrance to which was strewn with flowers by the schoolchildren.
Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897 was also marked in appropriate style.
There was a dinner for the poor, tea and sports for children, dancing, games and ‘a great bonfire in Holloway’s Park and rockets let off’.
To cap it all, the town was chosen to host 130 men of the Royal Bucks Hussars before they escorted the Queen to Windsor Castle, witnessed by some of the schoolchildren.
William Baring du Pre’s arrival in Beaconsfield to take up his family inheritance and manorial seat at Wilton Park was the reason for a hearty celebration in the town. Inset, the entrance to Wilton Hall was suitably decorated to welcome home the new owner of the estate
The highly ornate invitation to welcome home William Du Pre, pictured right, was indicative of the kind of celebration that was staged