Great and general was the disappointment and regret caused at Higham Ferrers when, in June, the news of the King’s illness and the consequent postponement of the Coronation was made known, for it was felt that under the circumstances the only course was to postpone the festivities as arranged until the Coronation did take place. At that time it was thought that the ceremony would be deferred much longer than was actually the case, and accordingly when it was announced that August 9th was the date chosen for the Coronation, the local committee at once set to work to make the final arrangements for carrying out the programme they had already decided upon.
During the latter part of last week the townspeople generally and the Decorations Committee in particular were very busy in decorating the town, and the result of their labours, when seen on Saturday showed that their efforts had not been in vain. Nearly every house in the town displayed flags, or bunging or some decoration, but it was mainly in and around the Market-square that the decorations were most numerous. At each of the two principal entrances to the Square was erected an arch, trimmed with bunting, Chinese and Japanese lanterns, flags, etc. The Town Hall, had of course received special treatment. On the side there where fixed mottoes, portraits, flags, etc, while at night the front was outlined in gas jets and there were two devises “E.R.” also in gas jets. From tree to tree on the side of the Square were suspended festoons of coloured flags and fairy lamps. The houses at the rear of the trees and on the other side of the Square had also been tastefully decorated. The Market Cross and in the centre of the square had received special attention, being profusely decorated with festoons of coloured papers, lanterns, flags, etc. A platform had been erected in front of the side nearest the Town Hall, and covered with red carpet, two screens of red baize being put up at the sides. At the entrance to the Castle Field where the sports, etc were held, was erected another decorated arch. Altogether the town was very gay, and at night when the illuminations were lit, the sight was very pretty one.
The Mayor (Mr Owen Parker), who had been the moving spirit in arranging the festivities had received the King’s command to attend the Coronation at Westminster Abbey, and during the day his place in the town was taken by the Deputy-Mayor (Alderman T Patenall).
Services at the Parish Church were the first proceedings of the day. An early communion service was followed at 9.30 by a special coronation service. The special form of service was used, and there was a good congregation.
presented to Bertha Cherry who was born 1891/2.
Bertha met and married a Royal Welsh Fusilier c1915, when
he was billeted at Higham.
Photos sent to us by her granddaughter's husband, Geoff Mayne
The Rev. J. Dun conducted and asked for the prayers of the congregation on behalf of the King. At the close of the service the National Anthem was sung.
Just before eleven o’clock, the school children marched from the Board Schools to the Square, the Town Band leading the procession. On arrival they formed up on the Square, the Fire Brigade and Ambulance Corps acting as a guard of honour. A large crowd had assembled and listened with interest while the children under the direction of Mr George Hustwaite, headmaster, sang the following songs: “Hail! King of many nations”, “God bless our England”, “Rule Britannia” and “God Save the King”.
During the morning the medals given by the Mayor were presented to the children and were pinned on by a number of ladies.
Noon was the scheduled time for the ceremony of acclaiming the King to take place, but it was sometime before that hour when the Deputy-Mayor, wearing his robes, proceeded from the Town Hall to the Cross, accompanied by the Councillors and other officials.
On the platform the Deputy-Mayor was supported by Alderman T. Sanders, the Rev J. Dun, the Rev. G.H. Hayes, Dr Crew, and Mr F.J. Simpson (Deputy Town Clerk and secretary of the Coronation Committee). By this time there was a large number of people in the Square.
Ald. Patenall said: We are gathered with glad and thankful hearts to show our loyalty to the greatest sovereign of this earth. For eighteen months we have been under the reign of an uncrowned king. About this time that great event is taking place, and from all quarters of the earth will come forth from loyal hearts the glad acclamation to Heaven “God save the King”, and I ask you to join me and the Council in loud acclamation or the King. Three cheers for the King.
In response there burst forth from the crowd three enthusiastic cheers and led by the Band a verse of the National Anthem was sung.
Ald. Patenall then said he had introduce (sic) to them their greatly esteemed friend, Ald. Sanders, who we might style, ‘the grand old man of Higham Ferrers.”
Ald. Sanders’ address was delivered in his characteristic vein. In it he said: I feel it is a great presumption on my part to stand where I do, but my reason is that the Mayor asked me to do it, and when the asks me to do a thing I cannot for the life of me refuse it. He said I was the oldest member of that dignified body, and I am getting to be an old man now. I am not so old as people take me to be, though (Laughter). I was much amused by the question out to me recently by a little girl, who asked me “Did you know the people who built the ark?”. I replied that ‘I was not living in that part of the world just then” (Laughter). I am happy to tell you, my friends, that I was at the last Coronation, that of the Queen. I have had the pleasure - misfortune I call it, for I wish I was young again, I do with all sincerity of living under four monarchs. The first three years I was under George the Fourth. It was the quietest time of my life (Laughter). Then I was under William the Fourth for seven years. I was here at the last Coronation and stood within two or three yards of where I am now standing and I never felt so happy in my life as I did then. For then a gentleman came up to me and asked “Tom, have you any money?” (Laughter). I said “No” and he put 6d in my hand. That’s the very first 6d I had as far as I can remember. It soon disappeared, and when I went home I had no more than when I left (Laughter). Today I will give a silver sixpence to every child more than three years and below eleven years of age (Loud cheers). [He gave out about 500 silver sixpences that day]. I hope they will be very happy and will remember this day with much pleasure. I am glad we meet to-day under such happy circumstances. In June, when the King lay ill, darkness covered the Empire. Through the skill of our physicians and God’s blessing he is restored to health again, and we meet to-day to crown him. It is a thousand years since the foundations of the British Empire was laid. It was laid by a man whose name is mentioned with love, respect and admiration - Alfred the great (Cheers). He came when the country was in trouble but this grand man made up his mind about one thing, that Britons never should be slaves and he never rested until he had thrown the Danes out. He was one of the best Kings who ever lived (Cheers). At the age of eleven it was my privilege to celebrate the Coronation of our good queen. She filled her place with honour and dignity and satisfaction to the whole Empire (Cheers). She left a worthy son who will follow in her footsteps. His good queen we all respect and love. I spoke a little while ago of a Danish invasion. There was another Danish invasion 35 years ago. King Christian of Denmark brought with him one of the most beautiful girls ever known. London turned out to give them a welcome and I was there. And never did any girl receive such an ovation as did Alexandra. As she passed through the streets of London I must confess I was jealous. I wished I was the Prince of Wales (Laughter). We did not reject this invasion, we accepted it. Brought by such parents she will turn out a model Queen, as she has proved herself a model woman and mother, and she will hand her name down to further generations as has done the queen who has left us. There is to be an oak tree planted by the Mayoress. I hope it will grow and proper and in years to come will be called the Coronation Oak. We are all here on common ground, and I should like everyone to sing that splendid hymn “Praise God from whom all blessings flow”.
Alderman Thomas Sanders
Postcard published by the
Rushden Echo shortly after
After the Doxology had been sung, the Rev. J. Dun thanked Mr Sanders for his address. He was sure they all wished Mr Sanders long life and every blessing.
Rev. G.H. Hayes said it gave him great pleasure to endorse the remarks made by their worthy Vicar. He rejoiced to be present on such an auspicious occasion and to hear an address which seemed almost like a masterpiece from the “grand old man of Higham Ferrers.”
Mr Sanders in reply to hearty applause said he hoped to live to the next Coronation and might it be 50 years hence. He would only be 130 years old then (Laughter and applause).
Then the male portion of the inhabitants proceeded to the Castle Field, where luncheon was partaken in a large marquee, estimated to hold about 800.
Prizes were offered for the best table decoration in the luncheon tent and were won by the following:
cut flowers (persons over 16) Mrs Felce, wild flowers (under 16) 1. Miss Groome, 2. Miss H Oldham, 3. Miss Clayton.
In the afternoon the children had tea, and after them the female inhabitants over 16.
Much interest was shown in a big programme of sports which had gone through during the afternoon. The Town Band gave selections and throughout the day rendered splendid service, and played for dancing during the evening.
Owing to the Mayor’s absence the planting of the Coronation Oak by the Mayoress timed to take place at 5 o’clock was deferred until 7 o’clock.
Some time before the arrival of the 6.57 train at the M.R. Station there had assembled at the approach to the station such a crowd as is not often seen in Higham Ferrers, everyone determined in giving the Mayor a reception worthy of the occasion. And they did so. As the train drew in there was a loud burst of cheering. In a minute or two the Mayor, fully robed, left the railway carriage and was received by the Deputy-Mayor, passing between the ranks of a guard of honour composed of ambulance men he made his way to the landau in waiting. As some of the crown caught sight of him they cheered and cheered again. The horse had been removed from the vehicle and the firemen took its place, as many private individuals as possible getting a hold of the ropes and assisting in dragging the carriage. In the carriage with the Mayor were the Mayoress and Alderman Sanders, while the Mayor’s Sergeant (Mr Felce) who had been in London in attendance on the Mayor took his seat on the box. Then the procession moved off, the band playing “For he’s a jolly good fellow” and other lively marches. The greatest enthusiasm was shown as the procession passed through the town to the Castle Field, a huge crowd following in the wake of the carriage.
On arrival at the field, the carriage was drawn up near to the spot where the oak was to be planted and when something like silence reign over the crown the Mayor rose to speak. He said: Ladies and gentlemen I am sure you will believe me when I say they are no idle words I utter when I say that this welcome which you have accorded me has quite overcome me. It is as unexpected as I know it is underserved (“No, No”). But it is like the public of Higham Ferrers when anyone attempts to discharge, however inefficiently, what they conceive to be their duty, they always meet with the warmest welcome, and the greatest encouragement, from those whose privilege it is theirs to represent. It has been a proud privilege to me to-day to represent this borough at a great national event which had fortunately taken place at Westminster Abbey (Loud cheers). There were many mayors present, many representing large and important towns, but I am quite satisfied that not one amongst the number present was more conscious of representing the whole hearted loyalty of the people than the Mayor of Higham Ferrers (Cheers). You will rejoice with me, I am sure, Ladies and Gentleman, to know that the solemn ceremony was not by any means a great spectacle alone, but was in the highest degree a deeply impressive religious act, and so it appeared to the vast crowns of people assembled in and near the Abbey. You will also rejoice that, although as might have been expected after the long and dangerous illness through which his majesty has passed, he was somewhat fatigued with the great exertion the ceremony imposed upon him, yet the King returned from the Abbey most cheerfully and apparently in good health (Cheers). He was affected in his entry, I am sure, and on his retirement by the marvellous demonstration which the thousands upon thousands of people accorded him. As to his lovely escort, the Queen, her very presence touched the hearts of her people. I am glad beyond measure that the very beautiful weather which we have experienced in London to-day has also favoured you in Higham Ferrers. It is needless for me to say that I was deeply concerned the whole morning as to what was happening here. In London we only wanted King’s weather to make this holiday a day of the greatest possible rejoicing. I am happy that the weather we had in London was also favouring you here. It was a great disappointment at one point of view that I should leave you, but I knew so well that the whole arrangements would be so admirably carried out by my kind friends on the committee. I have to avail myself of this opportunity to thank the whole of them for the work they have done, are doing to-day and will yet do to-day. I am grateful to you beyond words for this very warm welcome you have accorded me on my return from representing you before the King to-day (Loud cheers).
Three hearty cheers were then given for His Worship, and also for the Mayoress.
The Mayor then said: I have been asked to request the Mayoress to plant this oak, and I do so with very much pleasure. I think we shall all agree that the field where we are assembled to-day is a very appropriate one to hold this great ceremony in. It is bound up with the proud history of this ancient borough, and for eight centuries it has at least held a prominent and unique position not only in the borough but in the district. It was long ago the playground of the Peverils, the Ferrers and later of the great John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. To-day it is to bear witness to the loyalty and devotion to our king and country of the people of Higham. I hope that as the giant oak is symbolic of the majesty and strength of the great empire we are so proud to be citizens of, that this sapling will bear witness in the ages yet unborn to the loyalty, devotion and patriotism of the people of Higham, as we know them in the earlier days of the 20th century. I hope it will remind those who come after us that they have to maintain the high standard of loyalty and devotion to which we are the witnesses to-day. They have indeed a very high standard to sustain to render themselves the worthy successors of the proud people I see around me.
Then the Mayoress helped to lower the sapling into the hole prepared for it and shovelled some earth in. The Band played “Heart of oak” and a rocket was fired.
After more cheers for the ‘Coronation Oak’ Ald. Sanders and the Deputy-Mayor, procession was reformed and the Mayor taken to his house.
Coronation Toasts 1902
In the evening there was dancing and at dusk, after a firework display in the Castle Field, a torchlight procession was formed and marched to a field on the Chelveston road, where in the presence of a large crown, the bonfire was lit by the Mayoress and Mrs F.J. Simpson. The band rendered numerous selections and after a time headed the procession back into the town. On the Square dancing was kept up until midnight.
Thus closed a memorable day for the Borough of Higham Ferrers. To the Coronation Committee, and to all who assisted, hearty thanks are due, for through their untiring efforts everything passed of successfully.
On Sunday at the Parish Church, the services were of a special character, thanksgiving being made for the King’s recovery. The preacher in the morning was the Rev. C.B. Jenning (formerly of Madeira) and in the evening the Rev. J. Dun. At both services the National Anthem was sung.