Her Majesty’s Record Reign – The Diamond Jubilee of 1897

jubilee berkshire

According to Kelly’s 1899 Directory of Berkshire, the main portion of the village of Theale formed one street along the (Bath) road from Reading to Newbury, lit by gas, with a population in 1891 of 909 people.1

Celebrating ‘Her Majesty’s Record Reign’ on Wednesday 30th June 1897,2 Theale was one of the last parishes in Berkshire to join in the Jubilee but by doing so it missed the violent storms which blighted some of the firework displays of the previous week.3

It’s not that they didn’t start organising things early. The grandly titled Theale Jubilee Committee, chaired by the Rev Stuart CF Angel-Smith,4 began ordering stationery (a notebook) from fellow committee member Mr JM Young, Family & Dispensing Chemist, Bookseller, Stationer, Newsagent & Tobacconist, as early as 7th April 1897.5

By the end of May, another committee member Mr William Flower, Grocer, Baker & Provision Merchant, had submitted quotes on two versions of the proposed children’s and adults’ teas. The children’s ‘cheap’ tea of bread and butter with cake came in at 6d (6 pence) a head. ‘Best Cake, buns, scones etc’ put the price up to 8d. The grown-ups’ basic of ham, boiled beef, bread and butter and cake was to be 1s (1 shilling), rising to 1s 8d if they wanted extras like veal and ham pie.6 In the end the committee must have struck a deal because they ordered a total of 698 teas at 8d and 234 mugs at 3d.7 Did the children get Mr Flower’s ‘Best Cake’? From the figures alone, it’s hard to tell but I hope so!

In June, the committee ordered a print run of 900 Diamond Jubilee Tickets, 36 ‘Shields in Gold’ and 400 programmes from Wheeler & Co of Bath Court, Mill Lane in Reading.8  Remarkably, one of these official programmes survives in the Berkshire Record Office in Reading.9

Theale’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations began with the village children processing to the recreation ground for organised sports, followed by the presentation of special Jubilee mugs, a quick ‘God Save the Queen’ and then tea. At 5.30pm tea was served to the adults prior to various sports events and dancing, in the freshly mown dancing ring in ‘Mr Harrison’s Field adjoining the Recreation Ground’, 7pm until 9.45pm. All was rounded off at 10, with another rousing and probably fairly merry ‘God Save the Queen’.

The programme notes that ‘Selections of Music will be performed by an efficient band from 2 till 10’ with four ‘Dancing MC’s’! The list of attractions included ‘Shooting Galleries, Cokernut Shies, Swing Boats, See Saws, Laughing Woman, Striking Machines and Toy Stalls’.10

The Berkshire Chronicle’s round-up of local Diamond Jubilee celebrations, gleefully includes tales of thrilling (and not so thrilling) firework displays but whilst I found bills for the services of the Beenham Band (£3), a constable (5s), 42 pale ales (5s 3d), marquees, tents and rick cloths (£1 15s 7d), rosettes (10d), white ribbons (6d), dry bows(?) (4s 6d) and gas for 16 lamps (1s 3d)11 there was, regrettably for the people of Theale, nothing about fireworks whatsoever!

For more information on the celebrations of 1897 I would recommend the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Online Scrapbook provided by Royal Household and the ever informative Berkshire Record Office.

[1] Kelly’s Directory of Berkshire 1899: Cold Ash
[2] Berkshire Record Office: Theale Civil Parish Records (MS Ref: CPC132B/18/5/1)
[3] Berkshire Chronicle Newspaper Saturday 26th June 1897 & Saturday 3rd July 1897
[4] Berkshire Record Office: Theale Civil Parish Records (MS Ref: CPC132B/18/5/1)
[5] Ibid (MS Ref: CPC132B/18/5/17)
[6] Ibid (MS Ref: CPC132B/18/5/11
[7] Ibid (MS Ref: CPC132B/18/5/6)
[8] Ibid (MS Ref: CPC132B/18/5/4
[9] Ibid (MS Ref: CPC132B/18/5/1)
[10] Ibid (MS Ref: CPC132B/18/5/1)
[11] Ibid (MS Ref: CPC132B/18/5/13, 8,7,20, 16 & 5)

© Emmy Eustace


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