Tuesday, 5 June 2012


Our family will be celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee with a garden party (weather permitting!).  We will be eating copious amounts of traditional British food; sandwiches, coronation chicken, trifle and lots of cup cakes!  Washed down with beer, wine and of course cups of tea! There will be games for the children and buntings and flags flying, but how did our ancestors in Chesterfield celebrate previous Jubilee's?

Queen Victoria reigned to celebrate two Jubilee's; her 50 year Golden Jubilee on 20th June 1887 and her 60 years  reign, Diamond Jubilee in 1897.  Chesterfield certainly marked both occasions with joyous royal spirit and patriotism which left a lasting memorial in the market town of Chesterfield ~

Golden Jubilee ~

The town of Chesterfield was undecided on how to mark the Golden Jubilee, Victoria being a much loved and adored Queen the town wished to honour her appropriately.  There were three proposals put forward as suggested memorials ~

*purchase of a public park
*clearing of the debt owed on the Stephenson's Memorial Hall
*opening of new medical wards at the towns Royal Hospital

After great consideration by the council and Mayor Alderman Wood it was decided that the need for provision of a public recreation ground was of paramount importance to the well being of the inhabitants of Chesterfield and so a public park was to be the memorial of the Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.   The park was named Queens Park and is little changed to this day.

Three sites were under consideration for the placement of the park, but the 22 acre plot south of the town centre was settled upon. Being placed between the River Hipper and Boythorpe on land known as Maynards Meadows.

Much fund raising was undertaken by the residents of Chesterfield, including the Chesterfield Amateur Dramatic Societies "Grand Jubilee Performance" held at the Stephenson Memorial Hall on Tuesday 19th April 1887.  Entertainers included Miss Marie Rhodes, Miss Eva Lillian and Mr G F Bywater.  Tickets could be reserved prior to the performance for 3s or 10s for a family ticket to admit four persons.

Jubilee fever hit Chesterfield, souvenir tea sets, mugs and other paraphernalia were advertised for sale. A letter written to the Board Of Guardians at Chesterfield Workhouse from the members of the Chesterfield Jubilee Recreation Ground Committee, stated that "a special treat should be given on the occasion, of the celebration of the Queen's Jubilee to the inmates of the workhouse and the children at the Industrial Schools" an applause of "hear hear" was heard at the meeting.

Mayor Alderman Wood played his part in fund raising by holding a Jubilee Garden Party at his home at Hady.  On Wednesday 5th July at 5pm he opened his greenhouses and grounds for viewing and there was a concert performed by the Chesterfield Harmonic Society, Chesterfield Volunteer Brass Band and the Chesterfield Hand Bell Ringers.  Tickets were for sale at the Derbyshire Times and Derbyshire Courier newspaper offices, but for those who could not afford the ticket price I am sure the music rang out all around Chesterfield and filled the townspeople with glad tidings.

Eventually in August the Mayor Wood announced that £3114 16s had been raised so far, which was enough to purchase 17 acres of the land at West Bars from Mr Maynard.  The town marked the Golden Jubilee at the dedication of the park on 21st September 1887.  There was a long procession of subscriber's, public bodies, representatives of Chesterfield's trade and industry, Sunday Schools and the local Yeomanry who all marched through the main streets of Chesterfield to the land at Maynards Meadows.   Mayor Alderman Wood was presented with a silver spade with an ebony handle in order to plant a commemorative tree to mark the dedication.

Spade used by Mayor Wood
Taken from Modern Chesterfield, Pendleton & Jacques, 1908

Later that day the Mayor entertained the subscribers to lunch at the Upper Corn Exchange.  The volunteers were also given dinner, the elderly of Chesterfield lunched in the park and the Sunday School children returned to their respective schools and were treated to tea. 

The Queen was not the only reason for a Jubilee celebration in Chesterfield that year; the Holy Trinity Church celebrated the Jubilee of the laying of the foundation stone for the Church in 1837.  The Church wrote to Her Majesty telling her of the connection and how the Church was the burial place of the "genius" George Stevenson.  The Church received a telegraph in reply dated 19th May, from Windsor Castle at 09.10, stating that "the Queen thanks you and your parishioners for your kind and loyal congratulations".

And what was the weather like in June 1887? a question all English men would ask!  Well according to an article in the Derbyshire Times, dated 2nd July 1887 the Derbyshire Volunteers spent their Jubilee camping at Blackpool and celebrated the event with a big bonfire.  The men are said to have returned "looking as bronzed and sunburnt as men well can".  So it looks like the weather was good on the East coast at least, or was it the big bonfire that caused the bronzed look?!

Brampton held their Jubilee celebrations on the August bank holiday.  It began with a luncheon for ticket holders and a free lunch for the elderly.  The Chesterfield Volunteer Band then assembled at Brampton post office and led a procession to Walton Dam, where all types of games were held including "Cranky Horses" (any offers on what this game is??), shooting galleries and coconut throwing.  Local breweries; Brampton and Scarsdale gave 30 gallons of beer each to the festivities.  The Derbyshire Times recorded that there was 600lb beef, 350lb's of ham, 840lb's of bread, 50lb's of tea and 20 gallons of milk consumed that afternoon.

In November of 1887 the now ex-Mayor Alderman Wood was made a freeman of the town of Chesterfield, in honour of the contributions he had made to the town and its townsfolk.  Money was raised for the purchase of a silver casket to be presented to him but instead he asked for the money to be put to the erecting of a bandstand in the Queens Park.

On Tuesday 9th October 1888 the Chesterfield Jubilee Committee met for a final time and all agreed that their work was done in raising money to purchase a public park to commemorate Her Majesty Queen Victoria.  There was £32 left in the kitty, which after discussion was decided best to be put into another fund to raise the money to purchase the final 5 acres.   The price of the bandstand was also discussed at the meeting; £130 for an open band stand and £160 for one with shutters. Over the next year further fund raising was undertaken by the ladies bazaar committee and the final amount to secure the purchase of the further 5 acres of land was raised in October 1889.

The Queens Park was finally opened to the public on 2nd August 1893.  The laying of a cricket pitch was commenced the same year.  Further years saw the addition of a cricket pavilion in 1898, a boating lake, cycling tracks and even a gymnasium.  In 1901, in dedication of the death of Queen Victoria a further 17 acres of land were purchased and named the Queens Park Annex. 

Queens Park cricket ground today, with the pavilion in the background

In 1909 a statue of a young girl holding a rose was presented to the park by a local sculptor Herbert Lee. 

At the final meeting of the Chesterfield Jubilee Committee, Alderman Wood the chairman commented that "He trusted that in years to come this (the park) would be a great source of pleasure and benefit not only to the inhabitants of Chesterfield but to all those in the surrounding district and that in years to come it would be thought that they commemorated the Queens Jubilee of 1887, in the most common sense and practical way it could be commemorated"   To this speech he received a resounding "hear hear" which I think we can all most certainly agree with.  Each of our generations to have passed since the year 1887 will have had many happy times and tales to tell of our Queens Park and this blog has reminded us that they most certainly did commemorate the Queens Jubilee in a commonsense and practical way ~ luckily for the town of Chesterfield.

Diamond Jubilee ~

Chesterfield Drill Hall ~ drawing in Derbyshire Times 1st October 1898
Image included with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk).
To commemorate the Diamond Jubilee the town of Chesterfield decided upon the building of a Drill Hall for the numerous Volunteers who had been previously based at Bakewell, the Headquarters of the 2nd Derbyshire Volunteer Battalion, Sherwood Foresters.  The men had often been required to drill out in all weathers and so a new drill hall would be of immense benefit to the Battalion.

Land was provided by the Corporation, at the top of Goldwell Hill near Ashgate Road.  The hall has now been demolished and is allotments.

Drill Hall, Chesterfield
picture care of www.picturethapast.org.uk

The Hall was opened on Wednesday 28th September 1898 by Lord Roberts V.C, described by the Derbyshire Times as "England's greatest General".   The weather was commented on as having been one or two showers, but nothing to dampen the proceedings as thousands converged onto Chesterfield to see Lord Roberts and the opening of the Drill Hall.  The people of Chesterfield rose to the occasion and hung out buntings and flags.  The Station Hotel on Corporation Street was adorned with flags in the form of shields and the Midland Hotel was decorated with greenery, shields and coloured flags.  Streamers and Union Jacks hung from Freeman's Hotel to the Stevenson Memorial Hall.  The town must have looked a colourful spectacle. 

A luncheon was provided afterwards for the most prominent members of Chesterfield at the Stephenson Memorial Hall.  Sports were held in the afternoon to entertain 5000 people at the Queens Park which included flat races and bicycle races.  The day was round off with around 10,00 people assembling in the Queens Park for a Military Torchlight Tatoo by "A" Company which was followed by a firework display.  The bandstand was illuminated with lights and a tent was erected for dancing. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

So, the Jubilee's of Chesterfield past have held a lasting impression on the town to this day.  If it were not for the foresight of Mayor Alderman Wood we would not have the park that we still use and enjoy today.  The drill hall has vanished from our landscape but now as I pass the allotments on my left as I drive along Saltergate, past the Goldwell Rooms onto Ashgate Road I will remember the excitement and thrill its presence once evoked on the people of Chesterfield.

Did our ancestor's join in with the celebrations of the Jubilee's past?  I hope so and I hope that they all enjoyed themselves!! The children may have delighted at their free Sunday School tea, the elderly the free luncheon's and the military amongst them a chance to have a brand new Drill Hall in the town centre which kept them out of the wind and rain!!  Would they, as did Mayor Alderman Wood think to the future and hope that we would all be happy with the choices they made? probably not, but here we are now remembering their actions over a century later!

I will leave the more recent Jubilee's for another time; our reigning Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has reached the same milestones as Queen Victoria did, the only two of our Monarch's to reach their Diamond Jubilee! 

Notes ~

The information, facts and figures in this blog post have been taken primarily from past copies of the Derbyshire Times Newspaper.

I did want to add a picture of the bandstand at the Queen's Park, but at present the Bank Holiday Fair is situated directly in front of it ~ so the picture will be added when possible.

Sources -
"Modern Chesterfield" by Pendleton and Jacques, 1908

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