Friday 26 June 2020

Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee celebrations in Macclesfield

Earlier this year at Cheshire Archives and Local Studies we examined some images of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee celebrations in Macclesfield, in 1887. These images are now available on the Cheshire Image Bank and can be viewed here. Amy, one of our work placement students, enthusiastically researched the images and put together this blog post to tell us more...

Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee was celebrated on June 20th and 21st, 1887. For the Queen herself, the celebrations included a royal banquet and, escorted by the Indian Cavalry, a celebratory procession in London, before returning to Buckingham Palace for a final appearance on the balcony, receiving huge cheers from the crowds below.

In Macclesfield, Sunday School children gathered on Park Green and sang the National Anthem in celebration. Photographs from the day show crowds of people assembled in a procession, arriving at Park Green. The photographs show mill buildings such as Frost Mill, which was destroyed in a fire in 2011, and the Methodist Free Church, also known as Chapel Mill, which became the head office of Gradus Ltd.

Banners were held by those taking part in the procession, including one which can be seen depicting Queen Victoria. Crowds also gathered in windows and on rooftops to watch; clearly health and safety laws were less stringent in those days!

Mill Street, Chestergate and Market Place were decorated with flags and bunting. Local businesses such as P & Wood Printers can be seen on Mill Street. The public house known as the Wheatsheaf can be seen in Market Place, as well as Macclesfield Town Hall. Instead of cars, horse-drawn carts can be seen in these photographs. Queen Victoria herself rode in her gilded state landau drawn by six cream-coloured horses during her jubilee celebrations, as part of the procession through London.

The people of Macclesfield showed strong loyalty and adoration to their Queen. An example of this can be seen in a silk counterpane presented to Queen Victoria by the women of Macclesfield as a gift to celebrate her Golden Jubilee. The counterpane reads "Victoria by the Grace of God Queen" surrounding the letters VIR. This is surrounded by four Cheshire crests and a border of leaves and butterflies. A note at the bottom of the counterpane reads "Presented to Her Majesty Queen Victoria in her Jubilee Year MDCCCLXXXVII by the women of Macclesfield in the County of Chester". This counterpane was presented to Queen Victoria at Osbourne House, on the Isle of Wight, on August 19th, 1887. The counterpane was made of silk to represent Macclesfield, which at the time had the largest silk industry in the United Kingdom. An illuminated address accompanying the counterpane reads:
Victoria, by the Grace of God, Queen. To the Queen's most excellent Majesty, may it please your Majesty. The Women of Macclesfield desire to approach your Majesty with feelings of most Dutiful and Loyal Affection, and to offer you their Sincere Congratulations that a kind Providence has preserved your Majesty for so many years to reign over a prosperous people. The happy event of your Majesty's jubilee - the occasion of a World's Rejoicing - affords them the opportunity of presenting for your most gracious acceptance, the accompanying embroidered silk counterpane, which is entirely of Macclesfield Manufacture, and which represents the Industry of Macclesfield, The Largest Silk Manufacturing District in the United Kingdom. That God may continue to guide and bless your Majesty for many years to come, is the Sincere and Earnest prayer of your Majesty's faithful and devoted subjects. Signed on behalf of the Women of Macclesfield. 

On June 22nd, 1887, Macclesfield residents gathered in West Park to plant an oak sapling to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee. Men, women and children can be seen gathered on, in front of, and even under a platform in the park to be part of a photograph of the event. West Park was originally known as Macclesfield Public Park, and was opened in 1854 to give working people access to the countryside after the closure of the commons in 1804. Within three weeks of Councillor John May's proposal that a public park be opened in Macclesfield, £300 had been collected in small amounts from 17,000 working people in the town, which became known as "The Pennies of the Poor". This was one of the most successful fundraisers in the town at that time, showing the strong public desire to have access to a space for leisure and to be around nature.

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