Friday 12 September 2014

Time-Space Visualiser: Penrith On June 23rd, 1887

I imagine someone somewhere has glibly called photographs 'windows into the past', but in the case of these recent arrivals, the description is totally justified. There are two of them, both the size of an LP record, and even though they're somewhat faded, get close enough and the detail really comes alive.

July 20th, 1887 was Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. She wrote in her diary:

"Had a large family dinner. All the Royalties assembled in the Bow Room, and we dined in the Supper-room, which looked splendid with the buffet covered with the gold plate. The table was a large horseshoe one, with many lights on it.

"The King of Denmark took me in, and Willy of Greece sat on my other side. The Princes were all in uniform, and the Princesses were all beautifully dressed. Afterwards we went into the Ballroom, where my band played."

Sounds like a great night. A couple of days later, it was Penrith's turn to celebrate. According to this report in the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald the events kicked off with a rousing speech from the local M.P. J.W. Lowther, who called for three cheers, “Cheers which will make this old market place of Penrith ring and ring again, cheers which shall be remembered by all of us here present to our dying day."

The report continues:

A church service at St. Andrew’s was followed by a great procession. Supt. Fowler, of the local constabulary, on horseback, headed six carriages, containing the MP and other leading lights, and hundreds on foot, including Oddfellows, Druids, Forresters and Sons of Temperance.
A short stop was made while the chairman of the local board of health, Mr. James, re-named Scot Lane as Brunswick Road, as the thoroughfare had just been widened and improved.
It was the turn of the children to parade in the afternoon, this time with Mr. Fairer, the chairman of the jubilee committee, leading on his horse. While youngsters were presented with special mugs, old folk were entertained to a “knife and fork” feast in the Exchange Hall (later to become J. H. Howe’s dress shop in Angel Lane and, ultimately, demolished to make way for the Angel Square development).
The highlight was a sports meeting on the Foundry Field, with the cavalry band playing while athletes ran, jumped and wrestled. Everybody must have been exhausted by the end of the day, for the program also included a fireworks display on the Beacon and a dinner for 100 leading personalities at the Crown Hotel.

The photos below, taken by local portrait and landscape photographer James Huff, show the gathering in the centre of town to watch the procession. In the second shot though, a lot of the crowd spotted Huff, and are looking straight at us, through the years...

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