THE QUEEN'S DIAMOND JUBILEE, 1887 at Hampstead Heath!
from "The History of Highgate"
(with added illustrations)
JUBILEE FĒTE AT HIGHGATE
" The longest day in the year 1887 will be remembered by the young and old of Highgate as one of the brightest and happiest of their lives.
On that, the great Jubilee Day, when all England was, as it were, en féte, when the Queen was proceeding through tens and hundreds of thousands of her subjects to a grand thanksgiving service in the old Abbey of Westminster; when a very peal of praise was arising from a million hearts beating in a thousand cities, the people of Highgate were preparing for their celebration of the glad event, which was to take a very practical form.
Last month a meeting was held, and a discussion took place as to the best way of celebrating the Jubilee, and it was decided to hold a féte, to which the poor children and adults could be invited free of charge.
Of course an undertaking of this kind needed considerable preparation, and a committee was at once formed for carrying the project into execution.
They were divided into sub-committees, one of which arranged the sports, music, and other entertainments, another made all provision for a substantial meal, and a third, a kind of general purposes committee, saw to the performance of a lot of detail work.
Invitations for subscriptions were sent out, and the cordial response that was made was quite sufficient to convince the committee of the general desire to celebrate the Jubilee of Her Most Gracious Majesty in Highgate by a demonstration that would mark it as a red-letter day in the memories of all the children, and give some pleasant recreation to the working population.
To carry out these works the committee at once set to work.
A large field or meadow adjoining Mr. Ward's farm, Fitzroy Park, was secured — for which, by-the-bye, the sum of £15 had to be paid — and the arrangements, which included a display of fireworks, were quite completed when the grand Jubilee Day arrived.
With regard to this spot, a better and more suitable place for such an outing could not be found.
Turning off from the Spaniard's Road,a short path leads into the meadow, where at once a magnificent view meets the eye.
From the entrance for some distance the ground is level, and on the right-hand side lies a wood, whose trees, with their waving arms and rustling leaves — already growing sere and brown in the almost tropical sun — invite the weary one to their cooling shelter.
To the left the ground gradually declines, rising again in a little while with another wood, in the midst of which, and surrounded with beautiful gardens, a castellated mansion appears.
A flag is flowing from its topmost tower, its folds fluttering in the breeze that scarcely stirs the grass below.
As the eye travels on toward the south a break in the hill appears, and one of the prettiest views of the city is obtained.
St. Paul's Cathedral looms up through a slight mist on the extreme left, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament are just included in the extreme right, while in the centre are plainly discerned the stations of St. Pancras, King's-cross, and Euston.
The whole of the intervening space is a mass of houses, spires, and towers, in the near distance rising the tall tower of Holloway Castle.
This, then, was the favoured spot, the Elysian field for the time being, of the inhabitants of Highgate, and right royally did they enjoy themselves.
A programme of sports had been arranged, and besides this, numerous races for suitable prizes were run by the school children, and other amusements were provided, so that the spirit of enjoyment might not lag.
Children know how to enjoy themselves, if let alone with their liberty, and there were not a few who on this occasion roamed about at their own sweet will, or played at such games as suited their inclination and age.
As the afternoon drew to a close, the appetites of the guests— for such we must call them — began to grow keen, and at the appointed hour a thousand children were feeding with a zeal that was commendable.
They were allowed to enjoy a good meal, but no time was lost, for others had to follow after them, until all were satisfied.
Rogers, of Highgate, contracted for this part of the business, and that it gave entire satisfaction need not be mentioned.
At last the evening shadows began to fall, the sun disappeared, the air grew chilly, and the large party of holiday makers, for the most part weary enough, gathered together to witness what turned out to be a splendid display of fireworks.
These included rockets, crackers, and set pieces, the most interesting of the latter being a piece representing the letters V. I., surmounted by a crown.
The last device having been fired, ' God Save the Queen ' was played, and with thankful hearts, if with tired feet, the recipients of a cheerful and unselfish bounty wended their way home, with a knowledge that they had spent a happy as well as an innocent Jubilee.
In the evening Highgate was very prettily illuminated, and the fluttering of many hundred flags gave life and colour to the scene. It is estimated that not less than five thousand persons were present at the féte.
Two trees were planted by the Vicar of St. Michael's, in the presence of a large number of children, in the shrubbery in front of the church.
The Treasurer of the fund was Mr. John Glover, J. P., Hon. Sec.
Mr. Conway Tatham, assisted by a large committee of residents.
The surplus fund, about £50, was presented to the Local Dispensary.
THE BEACON FIRE AT HAMPSTEAD
One of the most striking incidents of the Jubilee was the beacon fire on Hampstead Heath, which lighted up all the western slopes of Highgate and Parliament Hill, the account of which is worth preserving.
"The beacon fire on Hampstead Heath was built in a conical form, and was about forty feet in height and ninety feet in circumference at its base.
The height to the top of its flagstaff was over fifty feet.
A centre staff was raised, formed of three scaffold poles securely bound together by hoop iron.
Three equidistant struts of railway metals were fixed to keep this centre pole in position, and were secured at its top by a wrought iron ring and chain.
From the feet of these iron struts to the outside of the cone three flues were constructed of balks of old timber and boarding, so as to bring air from the outside to the centre of the fire, which was left as hollow as possible.
When the fire was well alight it was interesting to see how well these flues at the base acted.
Along each there was a tremendous rush of air and flame, and the heavy timber at the base of the fire was as completely consumed as the lighter fuel at the top.
The fire was built of some six tons of old railway sleepers,kindly given, with the railway metals, by Mr. J. Macdonald, one of the committee.
The Earl of Mansfield also gave a quantity of brushwood from Caen Wood. About thirty or forty loads of other materials were contributed by various inhabitants, all that had to be bought being 350 faggots.
No coal or coke whatever was used, though the contrary has been erroneously reported.
The instantaneous lighting was effected by an inflammable composition being placed at the top, from which a double quick match led to the ground.
By this means the beacon was lit at the top immediately the beacon fire at Harrow became visible."
A young lady lit the fire.
THE JUBILEE BEACONS AROUND LONDON
Mr. H. J. Foley, author of Our Lanes and Meadow-paths, says in a letter to the Pall Mall Gazette : —
" With the object of seeing and appreciating the lighting of the beacons in honour of Her Gracious Majesty, I made my way to the summit of Hampstead Heath about nine o'clock on Jubilee night, and found a large crowd assembled on the flagstaff hill around a conical-shaped bonfire some thirty feet high.
The glow of a brilliant but cloudless sunset was slowly paling in the north-western horizon, and a wide stretch of open country lay outspread in the twilight between.
The atmosphere was clear to perfection, but, if I was to see the distant beacons lit, I knew it was useless to remain where my eyes would soon be dazed by the glare of a huge fire close beside me.
So, remembering the wide landscape views I had once obtained from a green eminence to the west of the Heath, I made my way quickly to Telegraph Hill, and found that a few, very wise folk had adopted the same plan.
Here we had not only an equal view west-wards, but could enjoy broad prospects in two other directions, while the absence of all crowd permitted us to wander about at will.
Unfortunately, rockets have been going up in all directions into the liquid amber gloaming, so that we look in vain for the ten o'clock signals.
At length a blaze breaks forth in the neighbourhood of Harrow, speedily followed by a second farther off probably on Uxbridge Common.
The Heath rockets are sent whizzing upwards, and a moment after the bonfire bursts forth into a fiery tongue of flame.
And now, turning our eyes from the light, we watch the answering fires shoot forth from far-off hills.
Quickly they follow one another, till for two-thirds of a circle we are girdled with a horizon of twinkling lights.
Some are mere sparks, others shine like street lamps a hundred yards away, while on nearer points we see the smoke illumined and agitated by the brisk east wind.
It is a noble sight, these blazing emblems of the one prevailing sense of thankfulness for a long and glorious reign, starting up everyhere and there over that wide and silent sweep of rural country. Mill Hill, Barnet Ridge, Harrow, Weald Common, and Stanmore Heath, these are some of our nearer beacons.
Yonder is a red blaze on Cooper's Hill,overhanging Runnymede, and to the right of this a tiny bright spot shows us Nettlebed Hill, the highest point of the Chilterns, thirty-five miles from where we are standing.
To the right of Harrow Hill a similar dot of light tells us where Dunstable lies.
Southwards we count no less than ten beacon fires upon the Surrey hills.
To affix localities for these is in great measure conjecture, but surely the faintest and yet the highest can be no other than the beacon on the summit of Leith Hill, beyond Dorking.
From the tower of Harrow Church a strong signal light is flashed across the intervening valley.
More rockets burst in the sky on all parts of the horizon, the fires begin to dwindle, and we exchange the darkness of Telegraph Hill for the bright reflections from the illuminations in the mighty city at our feet, fully satisfied with our spectacle of one of the happiest and not the least successful celebrations of the Queen's Jubilee."
THE HORNSEY JUBILEE CELEBRATION
Was not held till the following Saturday, 25th June.
Although the Jubilee had been celebrated with more or less pomp and show in nearly every metropolitan district during the week, it was left for this little rural borough to put the cap on them all, and to finish the week's rejoicings by a festival equal, if not superior, to any of the kind yet given in London.
The arrangements for the holding of the féte had been in progress for some time, and, with a strong and earnest committee, and the co-operation of the villagers, only Queen's weather was wanting to make it a success.
Anxiety was visible in the faces of the children, and not a few of the elder ones, as they arose on the eventful morning to see a clouded sky, and to feel a dull, close atmosphere.
But the day turned out fine, and people, following its example, turned out also in fine style, until the afternoon, when the sun shone in all its summer splendour, driving the rain clouds to a considerable distance. The beautiful grounds of the Priory appeared suddenly to change into a fairy pleasure-ground, where happy men and women and lightsome children had nothing to do but romp and play in the sunshine all day long.
During the Jubilee week Hornsey came out well in decorations and illuminations, the former being composed chiefly of flags and red bunting, and the latter of innumerable V.R.'s placed in conspicuous positions.
Across the road in the High Street hung two large strips of bunting, on which were inscribed the words, ' God bless our Queen.'
On Saturday these decorations remained, if indeed they were not added to, and as the day advanced it was soon seen that what was destined to be a red-letter day had dawned.
The first tokens of the day's enjoyment were given by the arrival of nine gaily-coloured coaches, containing the girls from the King Edward Schools.
The latter, to the number of a hundred and fifty, accompanied by a band, rode through the village and into the grounds, where they awaited the entry of the others.
At noon a general muster of all the school children in the district took place. As these numbered about 2,500, it will be seen that the undertaking of getting them into anything like order was one of considerable difficulty.
Willingness, however, goes a long way, and with a little experience added to it, the greatest difficulties may be surmounted.
It was so in this case.
Each school mustered in its own vicinity, and when all was ready the various contingents met at one point in the High Street, and the whole procession wended its way in perfect order to the Priory.
The whole arrangement was organised by Colonel Bird, and its successful carrying out is sufficient praise to his skill and tact.
First came the scholars from Hornsey Day and Sunday Schools, who had formed up at St. Peter's Church, Harringay.
These, to the number of 1,400, were marshalled by Colonel Bird, and accompanied by the Millfield band to the general rendezvous in High Street.
Here they were received by the Hornsey Fire Brigade, with their engine, and the working men of the Local Board, who had, with the band of the Y division, marched from the fire station in Tottenham Lane.
While all the schools were assembling, selections of music were played by this band.
The children of Crouch End Board Schools, numbering 1,100, formed up in their own playground, and, headed by the boys' military band from the Strand Schools, Edmonton, marched to Ribblesdale Road, where they halted, afterwards forming up in the rear of Colonel Bird's detachment.
The Muswell Hill and Fortis Green children, numbering 200, assembled at St. James's Church, under the superintendence of Mr. Noble, who marched them in admirable order to join the other schools.
At one o'clock the whole of the above were in readiness for the grand march through the village.
The procession was over a mile in length, and formed one of the most impressive spectacles ever seen in Hornsey.
In the van was carried a large banner, on which were the words 'Hornsey Jubilee Festival,' on one side being 1837, and on the other 1887.
Behind the school children followed a large number of young and old people who did not belong to any of the public schools of Hornsey, but who had been invited as living in the district.
Each child on starting was given a bun, and on its arrival at the grounds, a medal, on the obverse side being the head of Her Majesty, and on the reverse, the occasion for which it was struck, viz., the Hornsey Celebration of the Jubilee. With bands playing and banners and flags flying, the procession marched along the street.
At two o'clock the athletic sports commenced, about which it will be sufficient to say that the races were run with zest, and the various events much enjoyed, both by racers and lookers-on.
A quarter of an hour later a dinner was given to the aged poor in one of the marquees.
These included sixty-three old women from Edmonton Union, who had been brought in vans to the spot.
It was a happy sight, and yet a solemn one, to see these old dames eating a Jubilee dinner, that by them would never be repeated.
This was the second Jubilee one of them had seen, we were informed.
At any rate, she would not see another.
A little further off sat one who could not see at all ; poor thing, she was blind.
Her benefactors were unseen, but doubtless her heart was none the less thankful towards them.
Others were in various stages of decay, but all looked happy, and one, when grasping the Colonel's outstretched hand, answered sprightly, to his query whether she was 'only thirty,' with the rejoinder that she was three times that age.
The dinner to the aged, which had been enlivened with music by the Hornsey Police String Band, in due time came to an end, and Mr. H. R. Williams, mounting the platform, welcomed them all with a few sympathetic words.
' He was glad to see them,' he said, and their cheers told him the feeling was mutual. '
Some of those present,' continued the speaker, ' hardly expected to see the Jubilee, but there they were, and all rejoicing with the nation on the arrival of such a happy period.
He would not ask them to drink the health of the Queen, because they had nothing to drink it with, but perhaps they would give her three cheers instead.'
These were given with great heartiness, and of course a similar compliment was paid to Mr. Williams.
The band then played ' God Save the Queen,' and the dinner came to an end.
One feature concerning the festival was that it was not political or religious in a party sense. For once in their lives partisans were united, showing that, after all, petty prejudices and paltry opinions are but skin deep, and that the divine attributes of love and humanity are ever flowing in a gentle stream beneath.
At four o'clock the bugle sounded for the assembly of all the children to tea, and an hour later the aged poor were treated with a like refreshment, during which a vocal and instrumental concert was given.
Vocal performances of an attractive character were also given at the rear of the house.
Other entertainments were not wanting.
There was a grand cricket match between the Police Y Division and the Alert Cricket Club, in which some remarkably funny playing was shown.
The bowling of the latter club was very effective. The ' World-renowned De Factos' were present, with 'their wonderful illusions and magical entertainments, juggling, conjuring, etc. ; Professor Percival amused many with a marvellous exhibition of ventriloquism ; while a Punch and Judy Show was an endless source of fun.
But all happy days have an end, and by-and-bye,
' Evening came, The setting sun stretched his celestial rods of light Across the level landscape,'
and a general movement towards the gates indicated that the féte was at an end.
The King Edward School children went off first, preceded by their band playing a lively march, and the other schools filed out after their respective banners.
The whole party were, however, not to separate without a few words from the owner of the beautiful grounds, by whose kindness and liberality such a happy day had been spent.
On rising to speak, Mr. Williams was greeted with an ovation.
' He said he was glad to see so many present.
It was one of those auspicious occasions that they would remember to the last day of their lives.
He was thankful that the weather had been so fine, and hoped that they all had thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
It had been a great pleasure for him to throw open his grounds for their use, but all the praise must not be given to him.
They were greatly indebted to the committee of gentlemen who undertook the matter and carried it out so successfully.
They deserved thanks more than himself.
It had been a source of the greatest gratification to him and his wife and family, but the success of the whole affair had depended to a large extent upon the gentlemen around him. They had very frequently gone into the small hours of the morning when he had been asleep, and contributed so much towards the success of the entertainment that they deserved the best thanks of them all.
He trusted they would all get safely home, and, having enjoyed a good day, long remember it as a worthy celebration of Her Majesty's Jubilee.'
The bands having played ' God Bless the Prince of Wales,' ' Rule
Britannia,' and ' God Save the Queen,' in the words of which the
people joined, three hearty cheers were given for Mr. Williams, and
another three for Mrs. Williams and the family.
This brought the féte to a conclusion, but it was some time before the grounds were cleared of the eight or nine thousand persons that, during the day, passed through the gates.'
The promoters of the grand Jubilee féte at Hornsey on Saturday last must have had their hearts gladdened by the sight of the thousands of happy faces around them, and the proprietor of the beautiful grounds must have felt fully recompensed for the trouble he had taken in the affair, and the possible damage to his property by the frolicsome people that thronged his garden and lawn.
The children in future years will retain grateful thoughts of the benefactors who were the means of carrying the idea into effect. Certainly the Hornsey children, nor the old people from the Union, ever spent such a day before in their lives. The annals of this district will at any rate contain one bright page.
The surplus funds, about £59, were presented to the Great Northern Hospital.