by Janet McNamara
Brentford & Chiswick Local History Journal 8 (1999)
When Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840, the townsfolk of New Brentford agreed to celebrate the occasion since, after the ceremony at St James’s Palace, the Royal couple would be passing through the town on their way to the wedding breakfast at Windsor Castle.
The town held a meeting and resolved that two triumphal arches should be erected over the High Street and that a dinner should be given to the school children of the parish. A committee was formed to organise the events. Thomas Faulkner, reporting in 1845, wrote that the oldest inhabitant could not remember such a ‘spirit of loyalty, unity and enthusiasm in all ranks’ so doubtless there was not much difficulty in collecting subscription money to finance the festivities.
The day of the wedding (Monday, 10 February) began with a peal of bells from St Lawrence’s Church and the hoisting of a large Union Jack on the tower. The arches which had been erected earlier were decorated with greenery, flags, white favours and lamps. In the centre of the arch that stood outside the church was a large imperial crown with the initials ‘V and A’ and the words ‘United and Happy’. The arch outside the Castle Inn (to the east of the present Barclays Bank) sported two large stars and the signs: ‘V and A’ and ‘Welcome’,
At noon the 200 children gathered in the boys’ National School in the Ham, no doubt well washed and brushed. They were each given a white bow to wear and a copy of the National Anthem with two extra verses specially written for the occasion by the vicar, the Rev Dr Stoddart. They read:
Welcome to Britain’s coast
Albert! Victoria’s boast.
Noble and brave
Hail! this their wedding day
Hail! their united sway
Bridegroom and Bride, we pray
God bless and save!
Henceforth may faction cease,
Love joy and wealth increase,
May rich and poor rejoice!
Welcome with heart and voice!
Albert! Victoria’s choice!
God save the Queen.
At one o’clock the children were given their dinner which consisted of roast beef and plump [sic] pudding prepared by the landlord of the Three Pigeons Inn, which stood on the site of the present Tile Superstore. Afterwards royal healths were drunk and the National Anthem enthusiastically sung. There were speeches and thanks were proposed to all subscribers and to the national schools. Colonel Clitherow from Boston Manor and his family were mentioned particularly since the Clitherows had given the land on which to build the school (the building is still in the Ham) and had for many years maintained an interest in the welfare of the town’s schools and other institutions.
Seats for the children were put up in front of the churchyard where they waited with the committee for the arrival of the Queen and Prince Albert. The whole line of the High Street was thronged with townsfolk. Faulkner reports that ‘many very respectable persons from the neighbourhood were to be seen on the pavement or in their carriages waiting for the royal procession.’ It appears that the Royal party most graciously acknowledged their welcoming ‘huzzas’.
In the evening The Three Pigeons, The Castle and several houses were illuminated, flags and lovers’ knots were exhibited in windows. Satisfaction was expressed with all the arrangements made by the committee and it was decided that young and old would never forget this eventful occasion.
Sources used: The History and Antiquities of Brentford, Ealing and Chiswick by Thomas Faulkner, 1845; And So Make a City Here by G E Bate, 1948.
Janet McNamara is a Hounslow Heritage Guide and the author of the new guide book to Boston Manor House