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Queen Victoria's Visit to Wolverhampton

30th November 1866

We have made a version of these Local History pages that are more accessable for visually impaired users. If you wish to go to these pages click here.

These pages relating to the visit of Queen Victoria give a glimpse of what ordinary people thought of their monarch and the excitement generated by the royal visit. They enable us to consider Queen Victoria from a different aspect; no longer a remote national figure, we see how she touched the lives of ordinary people in a particular locality.

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For an eye witness account of the day Find out more

Background

In 1861 Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, died and she went into a period of deep mourning. Led by their mayor, George Lees Underhill the people of Wolverhampton began a subscription to raise funds to erect a statue in his memory. Queen Victoria was consulted as to what form she wished the memorial to take and it was agreed that a statue of him mounted on his favourite horse and dressed in the uniform of a field marshall would be appropriate. Thomas Thorneycroft, a renowned sculptor was chosen to make the statue. Eventually the statue was finished in 1866.

It was decided that the Queen should be asked to come in person to Wolverhampton to unveil the memorial to her husband even though she had still not made any public appearances outside of London by 1866. Prominent men from Wolverhampton including the Mayor, two Aldermen and the Town Clerk travelled to London and put their request to the Queen through the Home Secretary. They expected Queen Victoria to refuse since she had rejected previous requests from Manchester and Liverpool. Surprisingly, she agreed and declared that she would visit Wolverhampton in 9 days time. It is not certain why she agreed. One local story is that a group of Wolverhampton widows wrote a letter of sympathy to the Queen and she was so touched by it that she resolved to visit the area if she made any future public appearances outside the capital. Another explanation is that her advisers told her that she needed to resume her pubic duties because she was losing popularity with her people and the invitation to Wolverhampton was one of the first duties that came along.

Click on the image to enlarge
Click on the image to enlarge
Visit of Queen Victoria 1866 (V1/VIC/1a)

Preparations for the visit went ahead at full speed. The Wolverhampton Chronicle reported that:

"Every man who could handle a pick, saw a board, or drive a nail, found employment,…gas fitters and professional decorators…thronged the streets. All business except such as was connected with the ceremony was suspended".

Houses were decorated and streets were lit with illuminations. Arches were decorated with tools to show the towns' main industries were erected in different parts of Wolverhampton.

Queen Victoria arrived by train with other members of her family and rode in a procession of open carriages through the town to Market Place where the statue was veiled by curtains in the national colours. A pavilion had been erected to protect the royal party along with a grandstand for two thousand people. The mayor John Morris, who read to her a speech of welcome and handed her a copy of it, received the Queen. Queen Victoria was so impressed with the reception she had been given that she asked John Morris to kneel and borrowing a sword from Lord Alfred Paget, astonished everyone by making him Sir John. She then signalled to Mr Thorneycroft the sculptor, who drew a cord to complete the unveiling and she walked around to inspect the memorial. After the ceremony the royal party took a different route back to the Great Western Railway where they had lunch before leaving for Windsor.

The day had been declared a public holiday by the Mayor and people flocked all over the Midlands to try and catch a glimpse of the Queen since she rarely visited the area. Schools and factories closed and the people of Wolverhampton thronged onto the streets to enjoy the illuminations and witnessed a grand firework display at the racecourse. (now West Park)

Eye witness account

This is an account of the day Queen Victoria visited Wolverhampton from the reminiscences of a police officer who was on duty on the 30th November 1866.

Tit Bits on Police Life by Sergeant George S. Ray (DX-739)

The account has been transcribed from a manuscript as it was written, with no alterations made to mistakes of fact, spelling and punctuation. Note that the date is incorrect and that his spelling and punctuation are 'unusual.'

Queen Victoria Visited Wolverhampton
November 22nd 1866

Her Majesty Queen Victoria visited the Borough of Wolverhampton and and unveiled Prince Concerts Statue in Queen Square until then called the Market Square Since Wolverhampton as Been Wolverhampton there was ever so meney people in it in one day Every street lined with people the short route She went and the Greatest Respect shown to her and her party The police had a long and tyerson Day at it I was marched down to the out Side of the Low Levell Station with a Vast number of others and took up my position the whole Line of Route was Lined with policemen and Rifle Vollenteers - After the prossion had passed I followed up to the top of Queen Street and than made my way into the Square by the statue We where on duty up to a Late houre at night The people where very orderly but the pickpockets had a fare day One of street cleaners named Rogers informed me that he found upward of sixty purses in cleaning out the Gulley holes on his Round.

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