The day Queen Vic­to­ria brought joy and cel­e­bra­tion to the Black Coun­try

Black Country Bugle - - YOUR LETTERS -

OR­DI­NARY Blackby Coun­try folk hadn’t AWORKMAN lot to cheer about dur­ing the bleak years of the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion, when hard work and sur­viv­ing piti­ful liv­ing con­di­tions out­weighed any chance to en­joy even a mod­est so­cial life and leisure time.

So when the word was bandied about that the Queen of Eng­land was com­ing to town a cel­e­bra­tion of hys­te­ria broke out both in Wolver­ham­prton, her ul­ti­mate des­ti­na­tion and right across the whole of the Black Coun­try and be­yond. The chances of ever seee­ing the Queen again in a live sit­u­a­tion were re­mote to say the least and ev­ery man and his wife wanted to be present on Novem­ber 30 1866.

Queen Vic­to­ria and her hus­band Prince Al­bert were an ador­ing cou­ple, so when Al­bert died in 1861 Vic­to­ria was dis­traught with grief and re­treated from pub­lic life, un­til the wi­d­ows of Wolver­hamp­ton, sym­pa­thetic to her sit­u­a­tion, per­suaded her to change her mind. They had sent her a let­ter which Vic­to­ria found deeply mov­ing and de­spite in­vi­ta­tions from cities such as Man­ches­ter and Liver­pool, she de­clared that if she ap­peared again at a pub­lic func­tion it would be Wolver­hamp­ton.

The death of Al­bert, who had been a much loved and ad­mired Prince Con­sort through­out the coun­try, sparked a race to erect stat­ues in his hon­our. In Wolver­hamp­ton the Mayor, Ge­orge Un­der­hill, led fund-rais­ing for a com­mis­sion to sculp­tor Thomas Thorny­croft, well known for stat­ues of Boudicca and Queen Vic­to­ria her­self, to pro­duce one for the town.

The Queen was con­sulted on this and she re­quested the carved im­age of Prince Al­bert should show him rid­ing his favourite horse. The horse and Al­bert’s uni­form were put at the sculp­tor’s dis­posal and the Queen her­self went to Thorny­croft’s stu­dio to see how the statue was pro­gress­ing. The work of art was com­pleted at a cost of £1150 and Queen Vic­to­ria her­self de­cided on the date for the un­veil­ing, Fri­day Novem­ber 30.

Need­less to say the town of Wolver­hamp­ton was thrown into chaotic cel­e­bra­tion. The statue was erected on a plinth in High Green, and a grand­stand and scar­let and gold pav­il­ion were con­structed nearby for 2,000 in­vited guests. Routes to High Green from Low Level Sta­tion had been cho­sen to al­low as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble the chance to see the Queen and her en­tourage. Ev­ery­where streets had been dec­o­rated ex­ten­sively, houses cleaned, even painted and ex­tra dec­o­ra­tions added.

Low Level Sta­tion was also used for hold­ing the Queen’s re­fresh­ments af­ter the cer­e­mony and lo­cal builder Henry Lo­vatt had been charged with the job of cre­at­ing three classes of din­ing room and even more classes of lava­to­ries for the Queen and her at­ten­dees.


As you might ex­pect Fri­day Novem­ber 30 was cold with a win­ter chill, but nev­er­the­less it had been de­clared a hol­i­day to en­able as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble to wit­ness the ar­rival of Queen Vic­to­ria, and dur­ing the morn­ing thou­sands of peo­ple be­gan to fill the streets, spe­cially hired trains from Birm­ing­ham, Worces­ter, Stafford, Stoke and other Black Coun­try towns, swelling the num­bers. Royal pro­to­col meant Vic­to­ria not only had to travel in the Royal train, but the short jour­ney from the sta­tion to High Green had to be com­pleted in the Royal coaches and sev­eral of these had been brought up from Lon­don dur­ing the week and kept at the Swan Ho­tel, High Green.

The Royal party ar­rived at 1.08pm and in­cluded the Prince and Princess Chris­tian and Princess Louise and the fa­mous John Brown, the Queen’s manser­vant. A Royal salute was fired by the Ar­tillery Vol­un­teers which sent a sig­nal to St Peters Church to start a peal of bells. The pro­ces­sion left the sta­tion to tul­mul­tuous ap­plause, cheer­ing and shout­ing, a day never be­fore wit­nessed in Wolver­hamp­ton or any­where else in the Black Coun­try.

The Royal coach passed through an arch of coal that had been spe­cially made for the visit with the words “Wel­come to our Queen” clearly vis­i­ble, and pro­ceeded to­wards High Green. Amid the cheer­ing of thou­sands of voices the Queen took her seat and then a si­lence over­took ev­ery­one’s ex­cite­ment as the Bishop of Lich­field de­liv­ered a prayer. Then the Recorder read from the il­lu­mi­nated ad­dress with the Cor­po­rate Seal, invit­ing the Queen, when she was ready, to un­veil the statue of her beloved Al­bert. The Mayor, John Mor­ris, then handed this Ad­dress to the Queen who was so im­pressed with the re­cep­tion she had re­ceived from the peo­ple of Wolver­hamp­ton and the Black Coun­try, she called for a sword and to ev­ery­one’s as­ton­ish­ment told John Mor­ris to kneel and knighted him on the spot. At this point the cheer­ing crowd who had just seen this in­cred­i­ble ges­ture cheered even louder. The Queen was now ready to un­veil the statue and a very proud Thomas Thor­n­ey­croft did the hon­ours.

With the un­veil­ing cer­e­mony com­plete the Queen and her en­tourage re­turned to their Royal coaches and made their way back to the sta­tion for a late lun­cheon. The Queen would once again have passed un­der­neath the arch of coal, the per­fect sym­bol to de­scribe the Black Coun­try at the time. Soon af­ter 3.45pm the Royal train left for Lon­don.

The Queen may have left, leav­ing mem­o­ries to be told and re­told down the gen­er­a­tions, but the cel­e­bra­tions of her visit car­ried on well into the night with a fire­work dis­play held at the Race Course, now West Park.

As a re­sult of Queen Vic­to­ria’s fa­mous visit on Novem­ber 30 1866, High Green was re­named Queen Square and ad­ja­cent Cock Street be­came

The fa­mous Wolver­hamp­ton coal arch at Low Level Sta­tion Novem­ber 30 1866

Queen Vic­to­ria and Prince Al­bert very much in love

Prince Al­bert’s statue

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