Office of the Evening Post Doncaster. August 1951
THE regular Hundred Years Ago features in our weeklies are of exceptional interest, and this week we remember how Doncaster went wild when Queen Victoria visited the town in August 1851.
She stayed one night only at the Angel in Frenchgate. While here she never said anything worth recording, never cut a tape or opened a building, but the expressions of Doncaster’s loyalty were extraordinary. They made the most of the opportunity.
She was accompanied by her beloved Albert and three children – the Prince of Wales, the Princess Royal, Prince Alfred, and Princess Alice – such a clutch of Royalty had never been seen in the town. There would be six more children by the time Albert died. Victoria was queen regnant – and queen pregnant.
Perhaps it was enough to say that they came to this old town when they might have called at York, or Harrogate or some place a little more fashionable. Perhaps Doncaster felt it was being put on the map, being offered some sort of recognition, but for what?
And what was it about her personality that endeared her to the common people? She was 32 when she came; a lively attractive woman and not at all like the image we have of her in her old age – unsmiling and always in mourning.
The journals called it “one of the most auspicious and gratifying events which had ever occured in this ancient borough. The temporary sojourn of this beloved queen, prince and entourage ...never created greater enthusiasm when she made a brief triumphant entry.”
And so on and so on, column after column, page after page of praise and wonder. But after all she was Queen and Empress, she was the nominal ruler of millions – and she was never likely to come again.
It was a bit “over the top” as they say today but the Angel afterwards became “and Royal” by special permission.
Today we hold our National Union of Journalists branch meetings in one of its dark-panelled rooms.*
n Spring Gardens Methodist Church, one of our grander buildings is becoming too expensive to heat. The price of coke has risen so much they are turning to gas.
n A Thorne couple, Mr and Mrs Joe Holt, have celebrated their golden wedding. They live in Queen Street, but have spent nearly all their working lives in Humber keels, the canal boats most people call barges. They were taken onboard to live in the little rear cabin when they were babies and Mr Holt became an apprentice keelman at the age of 10 and skipper at 17.
They journeyed all over South Yorkshire taking the local coal along the canals into the Trent, and from the Trent as far east as Hull to fuel the fishing fleets.
Mr Holt said that before the colliery was sunk most people in Thorne were keelmen. “There wasn’t much else to do for a living.” There are still many keel families living in Thorne and Stainforth but the traditional sail-powered keel has gone forever.
n A Teenager from Barnby Dun was brought before the Borough magistrates for refusing to undergo a medical examination for national service. He said he was seeking guidance from the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in the hope that his case could be heard before a higher court. He claimed he was ordained at the age of 10 as a Jehovah Witness and he was not eligible for military service. He was remanded on bail. When Mr Preece, the clerk to the magistrates asked if anyone would stand surety for £20, five women immediately volunteered.
n The Dell illuminations at Hexthorpe are much admired, as usual, but the writer of a letter to the Editor is not entirely happy.
“It is all beautifully done but our enjoyment has been spoiled by the canned music blaring raucously from every corner. Why not a little of Handel’s Water Music, or Eine Kleine Nachtmusik or something from Merrie England? Why should our eardrums be stricken by Spike Jones’s soul-shattering renditions, which may be all very well in their place but not here in a fairy-like scene. Why not play Teddy Bears’ Picnic ? There is an endless supply of lovely music to choose from. I can only be saddened and shocked by the bad taste of the music director responsible at the Dell.”
n Identities and other details were not given when a woman appeared before Doncaster magistrates accused of assaulting and ill-treating a girl aged six and a man with neglecting her.
Mr Bracewell, prosecuting for the NSPCC said an inspector called at a house to ask about the girl. She was brought up from the cellar naked and covered in black from head to foot
Dr Ward gave the medical evidence, as is usual in these circumstances.
He said the child was suffering from multiple bruising on her face, two six-inch abrasions on her back and two similar ones on her thigh. Other parts of her body were badly bruised consistent with her having been severely pummelled.
We can only imagine what has happened. She must have been close to death when the inspector called.
Dr Ward has many horrific stories of squalor and ignorance in this area. This looks like becoming such a story.
Neighbours of such families must know something of what is happening next door, but will dismiss it as “not my business. We don’t like to poke our noses where we aren’t wanted.” Perhaps it is a good time to rethink; this vulerable six-year-old could have died.
n A reader says that in the space of three miles the Great North Road which passes through Doncaster has seven different names, starting from the northern end, where it is York Road. On entering the Borough proper it becomes North Bridge, then for 330 yards it is French Gate. After an even shorter distance it is High Street, then Hall Gate, then South Parade, then Bennetthorpe and finally we call it Bawtry Road after which it passes out of the Borough boundary and resumes its proper name, North Road.
For the moment it must be one of the busiest roads in England but when, or if, there is a bypass round the southern or northern borders of our town life will be easier for everyone.
n The popularity of the Doncaster Co-operative Society increases week by week. There are now 44,890 members, an increase of 1,200 in six months. The dividend is 1s 1d in the pound . When my Uncle Reg died mum had the Co-op funeral directors and got the divi on her number, 20809.
n Mr William Smith, of Balby Road, a newsagent and tobacconist, and former England and Huddersfield outside left, who was in the Huddersfield team which won the league championship 1924-25-26 left £1,900. He scored the goal for Preston in the FA Cup final in 1922 and was manager of Rochdale for a short time.
n Mr Rawson, a tranport director, farmer and Doncaster Aero Club member, formerly of Edenthorpe, left £32,000 net. He had a quality herd of Jersey cattle, and left £500 to the lady who cared for them. Why hasn’t she been interviewed by a reporter?
n Mrs Williams, of Our Dumb Friends League had three donkeys which looked like having to go for slaughter because nobody could be found to care for them. But Mrs Williams, being Mrs W, bought them all herself and has given one to Hesley Hall School for the Crippled and the other two are going to Barnardos Homes.
*1851 was an historic year for Doncaster. In the year the Queen came, the men making the Great Northern railway rolling stock were removed from Boston to Doncaster because the company had been unable to obtain the land required for the extension of their works. A convenient locality in the railway system was required.
Mr Denison, afterwards Sir Edmund Beckett, chairman of the company and formerly a resident of Doncaster, successfully advocated the claims of his home town.
When first opened the Plant Works at Doncaster employed about 800 but by the end of the century they were making some of the world’s finest locomotives, carriages and wagons and employing thousands. Why is there no statue to Denison/Beckett?
It was he who made Doncaster the industrial centre it was to become.