You are in [Events] [King's Visit 1912]

In brief:

In 1910 arrangements had been in place for King Edward VII to visit the Hon John Ward at Chilton Lodge, where he had lived since 1908. Sadly King Edward VII died in May 1910, shortly before the visit was to be made. There was much disappointment around the town.

However, his successor King George V did visit the Hon John Ward at Chilton Lodge between 21-26 Oct 1912. The proposed visit captured the enthusiasm of the whole town, which set about the task of preparing and decorating the town with enormous energy.

Who was Hon John Ward?

The Hon John Ward was a good friend of King George V. John Ward was aged 42 years in 1912, and the King was 47. John Ward had served in the Boer War, and was later to serve in the First World War. He had been an Equerry to Edward VII, and on that King's death he became an Extra Equerry to George V.

John Ward had married Jean Templeton Reid, daughter of Whitelaw Reid, the American Ambassador, on 23 Jun 1908. Chilton Lodge was bought by her father (for £45,000) who gave it to the couple as a wedding present! For much more on this, see Chilton Lodge.

The preparations for the visit:

The visit was of a purely private nature - the King visiting Chilton for a few days shooting. However, Hungerford was a very patriotic town. Once it was known that the King was to travel by train, there was a clear opportunity to decorate the town - and committees were established to co-ordinate the plans.

The King was to arrive on Mon 21 October. Over the previous week, much work went into erecting the various decorations and devices which were to transform the town.

All the decorations, from the top of Park Street, where the Railway Company’s efforts ended, to the limits of the town at the west end of Charnham Street, were one concise design. There were Venetian masts placed in huge barrels covered with tri-coloured paper and surmounted with greenery. From the masts, festoons of flowers, with double lines of fairy lights were arranged, along with Japanese lanterns, trophies, and illuminated crowns. At various points grand decorated arches were erected across the street, including patriotic words such as “God save the King"and "Speed the plough”.

The wide High Street was a blaze of colour, by day and by night. In the light of day, one could appreciate the garlands, pennants, trophies, and devices of greenery. There was gay-coloured bunting and thousands of flags, imparting a vivid colour scheme. After dark, the thousands of fairy lights were particularly picturesque.

The grand finale to the decorative scheme was the novel arch adjacent to the Sun Inn in Charnham Street. It was the only arch funded privately, and was constructed by Messrs H Gibbons and Sons Ltd, the local iron works.  It consisted of two elevators, ploughs and agricultural implements, with flags rising from sheaves of wheat placed at the top, while streamers of straw trailed down either side. “Loyal Labour” were the words on one side of the arch, and “Industry” was the word on the other side. A seed machine, turnip pulper and water barrel were among the agricultural implements placed at the base. It was seen at its best when lit by 150 electric globes, "each of 16 candle power", these powered by a special generator mounted on a 60hp Daimler chassis.

The railway station also received special treatment by the GWR Company. It was completely transformed, special attention being directed to the platform and buildings on the down line, at which the King alighted, but the waiting-room and platform on the other side, and the over-bridge were not overlooked. Trophies and shields were extensively used, along with bunting and flags. The walls of the offices and waiting rooms on the main building were covered with crimson cloth, heavily fringed with gold, while from the verandah small flags and shields were displayed. A specially improvised gangway, through which his Majesty passed to his motor car was arranged, the large booking hall being screened off for the purpose. The Royal Coat of Arms occupied a prominent position over the door, while other devices were picturesquely arranged. The platform was covered with a Royal carpet of the familiar fleur-de-lys pattern. An interesting feature of the decorations here was the inclusion of American flags, Mrs Ward (the King’s hostess at Chilton) being a daughter of the American Ambassador. The front of the station buildings, and even the chimneys, were also decorated. The same scheme as that adopted by the committee for the decoration of the route through the town, viz, festoons from Venetian masts, was employed in the embellishment of the station approach.

The railway bridge across the High Street had been completely covered with dark red cloth, outlined with gold fringe, and relieved by fringe festoons and trophies.

Many people added to the general effect by decorating their own private and commercial buildings, all following the agreed scheme.

Throughout the Monday, finishing touches were made, and trains (from the west and east) brought many visitors to the town. Crowds started building at 6 o'clock, and by seven o'clock the streets of Hungerford were filled with people taking up various vantage points from which they might see the King and his party. Station approach, Station Road, Park Street, High Street, Bridge Street and Charnham Street were solid with people.

The arrival of the King, Mon 21 Oct 1912:

The magnificent Royal train, consisting of four first-class coaches, and the Royal saloon, drawn by the powerful engine, “King James”, bearing on its side the Royal Coat of Arms, glided into the station into the station punctually to the minute at 7 o'clock.The 76 ton 4-6-0 GWR engine 4024 "King James" was one of the ten 4000 Class locomotives, built in Swindon in 1909. It was renamed "Dutch Monarch" in 1927 when a new King Class og GWR engines (the 6000) was introduced. A similar engine - 4003 Lode Star - is shown in the Photo Gallery, and is preserved at the Steam Museum, Swindon.

(The King and Queen had been at Sandringham over the weekend, and had returned to St Pancras only that morning. He held a meeting of the Privy Council, and met an Indian Prince, before travelling to Paddington, from where the Royal train had left at 6.05pm).

There was a large reception group, including the Feoffeess, representatives of the police and railway company. Mr J C Adnams, the Constable, who was the inspiring genius, and Mr H D’o W Astley (the Steward of the Manor, and Town Clerk) presented the King with a Lancastrian red rose (picked from the garden of Mr George Platt).

In less than five minutes the King's car, which included the Hon John Ward, Colonel Sir Frederick Ponsonby, and Sir Charles Cust, RN, slowly left the station; the town band played the National Anthem. The car was surrounded as it proceeded at little more than a walking pace through the town, with the church bells ringing in the background. There was no great display of bodyguard, no lining the route with soldiers.

The king smiled, the crowds cheered, and waved hats and handkerchiefs.

Unfortunately, the weather was poor, and just after the King had passed through the town, a heavy deluge of rain extinguished most of the thousands of fairy lights that had only recently been lit by dozens of helpers.

The only formal incident in the procession through the town was the salute of the Fire Brigade, who stood to attention at the Bear Corner

As the King's car left the limits of the town and passed under the electrically illuminated Gibbons' arch, it speeded up along the Chilton road.

On arriving at Chilton he was greeted by the villagers, who turned out in force. The car passed under an arch erected at the bridge, and the carriage drive through the park to the mansion was lighted by 200 torch-bearers.

During the week:

Each day, following breakfast and transacting urgent business, the King's party had been away from Chilton at 9.30, driving to the Woolley Estate, which was well-known as one of the best partridge grounds in the country.

Shooting started soon after 10 o'clock. The party included the Earl of Ilchester, Lord Herbert, Lord Wolverton, Sir Frederick Ponsonby, Sir Charles Cust, and Captain the Hon Richard Molyneaux. The bag on the Tuesday consisted of 234 brace of partridges, 160 hares, and 107 pheasants. Mrs Ward and the other ladies of the party joined them at lunch at Farnborough.

For four successive days a crowd of villagers and visitors assembled in Hungerford Newtown to watch the King's car on his way to Woolley.

Lunch was held in a tent at 1 o'clock, the ladies joining the guns, and on the Thursday the Vicar of Hungerford (the Rev T S Gray) had the honour of lunching with the King.

Whilst at Chilton, the King enjoyed Kennet trout (9lbs 4oz in all) sent by the Feoffees, and also had Devon beef supplied by Messrs Hutchins and Co, of the High Street.

The Friday illuminations:

As the heavy rain on the Monday evening had curtailed the appreciation of all the illuminations, it was decided at a meeting held on the Wednesday night to light all the illuminations again on the Friday evening.

The hard work of re-lighting the fairy lights and Japanes lights was well rewarded - resulting in "a charming scene of light and beauty". The town was transformed.

With a fine evening on Friday and the glass going up, the townspeople were encouraged to think that they would be able to receive the King into the town on Saturday morning with the sun shining upon the decorations.

The King's departure:

But the expected fine weather did not materialise.

Rain fell heavily throughout the morning and as the King's car passed through the town, more miserable conditions could not be imagined. It was a cold, raw morning, with the rain falling incessantly.

The Royal train was timed to leave Hungerfod at 10.40, but at 10 o'clock signs of activity were noticeable in the town, particularly at the railway station and its approach.

The members of the local Church Lads' Brigade arrived early, and took up positions on the station approach, along with the Boys' Brigade with their bugle band.

On the opposite side of the approach, in an enclosure were 400 school children, paraded under Mr C Camburn who with his staff of teachers, saw that the children were made as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. The rain did not damp the childrens' enthusiasm, and the boys proudly waved their Union Jacks, while the girls were adourned with tri-coloured favours.

And then, stretching away on either side, could be seen the tops of hundreds of umbrellas.

About half-past ten the waving of handkerchiefs by the crowd at the corner near Mr Alexander's signalised the approach of the car - this and the cheers of the crowd farther along the route. The car came very steadily round the corner, the members of the Brigades and the whole lines of children involuntarily to attentiion, the Town Band played the National Anthem and the car containing his Majesty proceeded at little more than a walking pace through the lines, returning the salute of the members of the Brigade.

The terrible weather prevented the King carrying out the intended inspection.

As the King entered the station the school-children sang the National Anthem. Assembled on the platform were the Constable, Town Clerk and Feoffees.

His Majesty, who was wearing the Lancastrian red rose presented to him by the Constable on his arrival on Monday evening, cordially shook hands with Mr Adnams and Hon John Ward, the King entered the Royal train, which had been drawn up on the down platform an hour before, and the train slowly left returning to London, for the King to spend the weekend in Buckingham Palace.

The press reports, photographs and cine films of the visit:

The visit by King George V to Chilton in October 1912 was a very important event in the area. The local press combined to produce a detailed and comprehensive report of the events of the week. The Wilts, Berks and Hants County Paper and Marlborough Times produced reports on 25 Oct and 1 Nov 1912.

A single broadsheet of the reports was reproduced by Hungerford Printing Works, and Peter Noon, who previously worked at the Printing Works, kindly gave a copy to the HHA in Jun 2016. The text of these reports is reproduced under Press report of King's visit.

Albert Parsons, our excellent local photographer, took the opportunity to photograph every part of the town, and as a result we now have a remarkable record of a week in the life of Hungerford.

A short cine film [3 min 30s] was taken of the festivities at the station when the King came to board his train back to London on Saturday 26 October. The film was among a collection of items kindly given to the HHA by the Tubb family in 2016. The HHA arranged for it to be digitised, and sound has been added to the silent film by Hugh Pihlens.

Photo Gallery:

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Most photographs were taken on Monday 21 Oct; there are a few taken during the week, including some in Hungerford Newtown when the King's car passed by a large crowd of onlookers.

A final set were taken on a very wet Saturday 26 Oct when the King left Hungerford station to return to London.

Together, this remarkable set of 26 photographs provide a wonderful record of Hungerford in Oct 1912.

Presentation albums of 7 (or ?8) photographs were produced as a "Souvenir of the Visit of his Majesty King George V" "with the Constable's Compliments".

The Constable and Feoffees at the station are: (L-R) Mr E Bushnell (Town Crier), Mr F W Church, Mr T Davidson (Swindon GWR Offices), Mr R R Earle, Dr H P Major, Mr G E Platt, Mr H D'o W Astley (Steward of the Manor), Mr J Alexander, Mr J C Adnams (Constable, in the centre), Mr G Wren, Mr A E Allright, Mr J Wooldridge, Mr T W Alexander, Dr L H Barker, Mr L H Beard, Mr S S Knight (Mayor of Newbury), Mr W Mapson, and Mr F E Hunt (Stationmaster).

- GWR engine 4003 "Lode Star" - similar to the "King James" used to haul the royal train on the King's Visit in 1912.

See also:

- Chilton Lodge

- Albert Parsons

- The combined detailed Press Report of King's visit.

- Parish Magazines, esp Jun 1910, Jan 1911

- Presentation album of 7 photographs - HHA Archives

- Movie of festivites at the station 26 October - HHA Archives