History & Heritage

"God Bless the Royal Pair" - the Opening of Beaumont Park

13th October 1883

 

Duke & Duchess of AlbanyThe morning of Saturday 13 October 1883 promised fine weather for what was to be a day to remember in the history of Huddersfield. The town was to host its first Royal visit, by HRH Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany (the youngest son of Queen Victoria), and his wife Princess Helene, Duchess of Albany, for the official opening of Beaumont Park. The Council had allocated £1,000 - roughly equivalent to £72,000 today - for the event, and no expense was to be spared.

The Royal couple were met at the Railway station - grandly decorated for the occasion - by a small party, led by Mayor John Brigg and Mr Beaumont, the benefactor, who had given his name to the new park. After a brief official welcome the visitors were escorted to the Fine Arts and Industrial exhibition at the recently opened Technical School (now part of Huddersfield University), before proceeding to the Town Hall. There, the Royals were joined in a lavish luncheon not only by 150 fellow diners, but also by ticket-holding members of the public, who were admitted to spectate from the balcony!

 

 

The procession from the Town Hall to Beaumont Park set out at 1.30pm. All the roads on the processional route had been decked out with streamers, flags and bunting; the centrepiece of the decoration was a triumphal arch in Buxton Road, set in the style of a Norman Castle and with the motto "God Bless the Royal Pair" stretched across the battlements. Thousands of people lined the roads, anxious to get their first glimpse of Royalty. Headed by mounted police and 8 local brass bands, the procession was a spectacular assembly of wagons and floats showcasing local societies and trade exhibits, as well as private carriages; it was 4000 strong, and a mile and half long. Unfortunately, by the time it had reached Lockwood Road, the initially well-ordered parade had started to fall apart, as different modes of transport travelling at different speeds began to overtake or fall behind. Confusion reigned!

Nonetheless, the Royal party's arrival at the Park was delayed by only 30 minutes. Once there, the Duke's first task was ceremonially to open the gates (by the Park Keeper's Lodge) using a solid gold key, encrusted with 10 diamonds, 3 rubies, 2 emeralds, 30 pearls, and 30 turquoise, made for the occasion at the cost of £24. The visitors then walked down the main drive, amid cheering crowds, to the Butternab Road end of the Park, where they settled in a specially erected Pavilion in readiness for the official opening. Outside, things continued to run not entirely to plan. The area directly in front of the Pavilion was reserved for participants in the procession but the spectators in the Park began to stream into it. The police pushed the crowd back, but the parade was at this stage so widely spread out that it was another hour before everyone was in place.

Finally, having been introduced by Mayor Brigg, the Duke took the platform and publicly declared the Park open. Mr Beaumont and Alderman Hirst, Chairman of the Park Committee, responded to the Duke's speech. The Royal party then walked across to the newly constructed lake, where the Duchess completed the ceremonies by planting a sycamore tree, using a specially commissioned solid silver spade. The sycamore still flourishes in Beaumont Park.

The two distinguished visitors returned to their carriage for the journey back into Town, this time through Crosland Moor and Longroyd Bridge. It had started to rain, but even that could not dampen the spirits of the crowds of townsfolk still waiting along the roadsides. The first Royal visit was a truly memorable occasion for the Town and Huddersfield's first public park was now open.