Coronation Celebrations in Bridgwater

This page seeks to chart the known coronation celebrations recorded in Bridgwater. The earliest seem to be banquets are recorded among the town’s expenses for the Proclamations of James I (VI of Scotland) in 1604 and the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 (Lawrence pp.90, 109)

James III (James Scott, Duke of Monmouth), 1685 – Proclamation

No contemporary description mentions Monmouth being Proclaimed king in Bridgwater, but the historian John Oldmixon (1673-1742) wrote the following in his History of England, during the Reigns of the Royal House of Stuart, published in 1730. Oldmixon worked in Bridgwater, so was presumably drawing on recent memory:

The Duke, after he was proclaim’d King at Taunton, march’d to Bridgwater, eight Miles distant. He had then with him the greatest Number of Men that ever were for him together, near 6,000 tolerably well arm’d. He was proclaim’d in this Town at the High Cross by the Mayor Mr. Alexander Popham, and his Brethren in their Formalities. Here his Declaration was read, and the Inhabitants with a sort of Emulation who should do most, sent all kinds of Provisions to the Soldiery in a rude sort of Camp in Castlefield near the Town, where six Regiments of Foot appear’d, distinguish’d by their Colours, and had the Face of an Army. … The Duke’s Quarters were in the Castle, where King Charles II and King James II at several times had also their Quarters. Here he rais’d more voluntary Contributions than in any other place, by the Management of Mr. Roger Hoar, Mr William Coleman, and other Inhabitants, great Friends and great Suffers for this cause, a very unaccountable one indeed at that time.

The High Cross, from where proclamations were made.

William IV and Adelaide, 8 September 1831 – Coronation

Bridgwater Alfred 12 September 1831 THE CORONATION

THE day appointed for the formal recognition of that compact between the King and his People, which is virtually made, at the instant on which the Monarch is first called upon to perform the duties of the kingly office, has been hitherto, by the common consent of mankind, dedicated to festivity and rejoicing. With us, this day was appropriately ushered in, by the launch of a schooner, of about 150 tons burthen, from the Dock-yard of Messrs. Watson and Co. As this correctly moulded and well-built little vessel glided into her native element, she was hailed by the name of the ‘William the Fourth,’ thus associating her with an event, which all loyal subjects celebrate, elusively on its own account, without any reference to the fleeting politics of the day.

The Bridgwater and Stowey Troop of yeomanry performed their evolutions, and fired a feu do joie in honour of the day. There were likewise several public dinners on the occasion, at most of which that rule was steadily adhered to, which is established among gentlemen as a principle never to be lost sight of;—that no local politics, or factious matter in debate shall be dragged forward to mar the harmony of a day which ought to be devoted to strictly constitutional loyalty. In the evening the Town was generally illuminated, and there were altogether fewer offensive marks of party spirit displayed than could have been expected, considering the unprincipled efforts made by a few vulgar demagogues to convert, for their own selfish purposes, a day of national rejoicing into another exhibition of democratical outrage.

Victoria, 28 June 1837 – Coronation

Summary from Squibbs’ History of Bridgwater: The 28 June, being the Coronation day of Queen Victoria, was kept as a general holiday with much rejoicing. The Corporation and Freemasons walked to St Mary’s Church and afterwards went in procession through the streets of the town.

Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, 20 and 21 June 1887

Summary from Squibbs’ History of Bridgwater: On Monday 20 June the Jubilee of Queen Victoria was celebrated. The occasion was marked in Bridgwater and throughout the neighbourhood with every demonstration of loyalty. Some months previous to the day a representative town committee was appointed and the question as to how the Jubilee might best be commemorated was earnestly discussed. It was then agreed that an effort should be made to mark the occasion by establishing public baths in the Borough, the cost to be provided by public subscription. Alderman F.J. Thompson generously offered £100 towards the cost, but the public appeal for subscriptions was so disappointing in its result that the proposal had to be abandoned. It was then agreed that the funds should be spent on a general demonstration. There was a grand procession through the town, including the Mayor and Corporation, Rifle Volunteers, three bands, the West Somerset Yeomanry, Magistrates, Fire Brigades, Friendly Societies, and general inhabitants, and all attended a special service at St Mary’s Church, which was crowded.

The Golden Jubilee Celebrations on the Cornhill, taken by S. W. Palfrey.
The Golden Jubilee Celebrations on the Cornhill, taken by S. W. Palfrey. The Bridgwater Rifle Corps was the name given to the 2nd Volunteer Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry, which had been formed from the old Somerset Volunteers in 1882. They would become the local territorial unit in 1908. Kindly supplied by the Blake Museum, Bridgwater. The Cornhill Railings were removed in 1895.

Those taking part in the procession afterwards assembled on the Cornhill where the national anthem was sung by the multitude, and the Volunteers fired a feu de joie. At 1pm a free dinner was provided at the Market House for 700 poor persons over 60 years of age. About half a ton of beef and mutton was cooked, and about the same weight of potatoes. A great number of plum puddings were kindly given by residents of the town.

Over 3,000 children of the town were provided with tea in Mr J.H. Waddon’s Rope Walk. Afterwards, and to their great joy, they played various games. They were also presented with commemorative medals, as were many who did not attend the celebrations, and the total number of medals distributed was about four thousand. In the afternoon a public fete took place at Blacklands at which some 2,000 people were present. A variety of entertainment was much enjoyed and a military tournament attracted much interest.

A long red streamer was flown from the top of St Mary’s Church spire in honour of the jubilee.

Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee 22 June 1897

The Bridgwater Mercury of 30 June 1897 notes initial plans for a new Almshouse, a statue to Admiral Blake and trees to ornament the town, all of which had to be abandoned for lack of sufficient funds. Also abandoned was a plan to feed the aged poor of the borough. A Mayoral procession was held, which included the Volunteers, the Friendly Societies, etc, as in 1887.

‘It is true the decorations were not on such a lavish or extensive scale as the importance of the occasion demanded, but private enterprise had contributed towards making the streets present a gay and festive aspect’. Mention of draping the platfrom on the Cornhill and illuminating the the Market House and Town Hall with stars.

An open air thanksgiving service held on the Cornhill. Volunteers were led by Colonel Thomas Foster Barham, who was mounted… their band the B.A. Christy’s led their procession. Baptist Fife and Drum band also in attendance. Police and Firebrigade also processed.

Hymns sung at the Cornhill, the Mayor gave a speech, the Volunteers fired a feu do joie, the band played the National Anthem, then three cheers. The Mayoress and other ladies attended the Cornhill in a carriage.

In the afternoon tea was given to the town’s 3,000 school children on the Cornhill. Afterwards a fete, gala and sports were held.

In the evening a fireworks display.

A picture of the Cornhill dias can be seen in Bridgwater Images of England by the Blake Museum (1998), p.120.

Edward VII and Alexandra, 9 August 1902 – Coronation

The major feature of the day was the opening of the Blake Gardens, a detailed description can be found here.

A picture of the Cornhill decorations be seen in Squibbs’ History, no.144.

Also see the Edward VII Coronation Medal Here.

Coronation Celebrations Triumphal Arch.
A triumphal arch erected between the Queen/Round House and Valiant Soldier pubs for the coronation celebrations. This picture was published by J. Vearncombe of 29 Cattle Market (Penel Orlieu). A similar picture, without onlooker, but with more flags an decorations on the arch, appears in Squibbs’ History, no.157.

George V, 10 May 1910 – Proclamation

Central Somerset Gazette 13 May 1910: The Proclamation of King George V was made at Bridgwater on Tuesday. Thousands congregated on the Cornhill to hear the proclamation read by the Mayor (Councillor R.O. Sully), a platform having been erected around the statue of Admiral Blake. The mayor read the Proclamation in clear and ringing tones, after which the Territorial companies, at the command of Colonel Edward Trevor, fired a feu de joie, the R.A. Christy band playing a verse of the National Anthem between each round. The companies afterwards gave the royal salute and cheers for the King. The Proclamation was read on the site formerly occupied by the old market-cross, at which the Duke of Monmouth was proclaimed King shortly before his defeat by the Royalist Army in 1685.

The feu-de-joie  by the Territorials
The feu-de-joie by the Territorials
Mayor Sully and Colonel Trevor
Detail of the same, showing Mayor Sully and Colonel Trevor

George V and Mary, 22 June 1911 – Coronation

Shepton Mallet Journal 31 March 1911 – a public subscription had been gathered to pay for the celebrations, and tickets were sold for the coronation event, the proceeds being distributed to the poor and elderly persons over 65. Children under 14 would be presented with medals.

Western Daily Press 23 June 1911 – bunting had been spread around the town, most houses were decorated with flags, while the municipal buildings were adorned with evergreens, banners and flags. Early in the morning bells were rung from St Mary’s and a silver shield was presented to the 3rd Patrol of Bridgwater Scouts by the mayor, which he had paid for. Church services were held, then processions, joined by the local companies of Territorial soldiers and the Army Service Corps, along with the boy scouts. Service in St Mary’s church was conducted by Rev. A.H. Powell, while the Dissenting Congregations held a combined meeting in the Fore Street Congregational chapel, where all the respective ministers spoke. Shortly after noon a huge gathering was held on the Cornhill, where the Mayor gave an address to the new king, which culminated in a feu-de-joie by C and D companies of the 5th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry. The a procession marched through the town, then a gala and fete were held on the Taunton Road football ground.

Also see the George V Coronation Medal Here.

The feu-de-joie by C and D companies of the 5th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry
The feu-de-joie by C and D companies of the 5th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry
Detail of the Corporation. Mayor Pollard  at the Coronation Celebrations.
Detail of the Corporation. Mayor Pollard can be seen centre, with Rev Powell to the left. The gentleman with the beard in profile on the far left is William Thompson. The gentleman to the right of Pollard, holding his hat, is the previous Mayor, R.O. Sully. The next man, also holding his hat, is Alderman Foster. The man behind the mayor in legal wig, is possibly W.T. Baker, Town Clerk.
The officer, on the far left is Colonel Edward Trevor.
Detail of the dignitaries assembled for the Coronation Celebrations.

Edward VII, January 1936 – Proclamation

Extract from the Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser, 29 January 1936, PROCTSSION TO CORNHILL. A procession was then formed. consisting of buglers of the 5th Battalion S.L.I. (T.D.), Town Crier, Mace bearers with the maces draped in black, the Mayer and Recorder, Mayoress and Town Clerk, Deputy Mayor and Magistrates, clergy of all denominations, Aldermen, Councillors, officials, residents and burgesses of the Borough: Led by the buglers the procession proceeded through High-street to the Cornhill, where a platform had been erected on the forecourt of the Market House immediately behind the Blake Statue. Around the forecourt the schoolchildren of the town were drawn up with their teachers and behind them was a dense crowd of townspeople.

READING OF THE PROCLAMATION Following a fanfare by the buglers the Town Crier called for silence, and the Mayor then read out the Proclamation, which was broadcast to the huge crowd hr means of an amplifier.

Illustrated London News 1st February 1936
Postcard of the Proclamation
The Mayor, F.J. Reed at the podium giving the address. The gentleman in the wig is probably Mr H.A. Clidero, Town Clerk.

George VI and Elizabeth, December 1936 – Proclamation

Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser 19 December 1936 – COUNCIL’S TELEGRAM TO KING: At the spot on Bridgwater Cornhill where Monmouth was proclaimed just over 250 years ago, and where 11 months ago the burgesses met to hear the Proclamation of Edward VIII a large crowd gathered to acclaim the new King, George VI. Prior to the historic ceremony, there was a special meeting of the Town Council. at which it was unanimously resolved to send a telegram to His Majesty expressing the town’s continued allegiance to the Throne. The Mayor (Alderman F. J. Reed), who presided. said before they proceeded to the Cornhill to read the Proclamation he thought it fitting that the Council should meet to pass a resolution, expressive of the loyalty of the town to the Crown. The resolution was as follows :—” The townspeople of the Borough of Bridgwater send loyal and respectful greetings to Your Majesty on your accession, and express their continued allegiance to the Throne.” The Deputy-Mayor (Alderman C. Bryer), seconded the resolution.

PROCESSION TO CORNHILL After passing the resolution, there was a civic procession from the Town Hall to the Cornhill. At its head were the buglers of the 6th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry, and the Bridgwater Christy Band. The mayor (wearing his robes and chain of office) and Mayoress (wearing her gold chain) were preceded by the Town Crier and Mace Bearers, and followed by the Town Clerk (Mr. H. A. Clidero) and Magistrates’ Clerk (Mr. P. P. Tyrrell), both in wig and gown. the Vicar of St. Mary’s (Preb E. A. Hughes-Davies, in cassock and surplice), the Mayor’s Chaplain (Rev. Roger G. Thomas) five robed ex-Mayors—Aldermen C. Bryer, S. Berry, F. F. Haggett. W. Deacon, and P. Symons—Counellors, officials. representatives of the Boy Scouts. Girl Guides, and others.

A dais had been erected in front of the Blake Statue for the Mayor and Council, with a microphone from which the reading of the Proclamation was amplified.

Following a fanfare by the buglers, the Town Crier called for order with the customary words, ” Oyez, Oyez, Oyez.” and the Mayor then read the Proclamation. A second fanfare was sounded by buglers, the National Anthem was played by the the band, and the ceremony concluded with three cheers for the new King, given on the call of the Mayor.

George VI and Elizabeth, 12 May 1937 – Coronation

Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser 08 May 1937 – the planned Coronation festivities. The town was being lavishly decorated under the supervision of the Borough Engineers, the crowning feature being the transformation of the Cornhill Market house dome into the crown. The Town Hall was also decorated with garlands, bunting and flags, with GOD SAVE THE KING running the whole length of the building. Two coronation arches were erected at either end of the town bridge. Souvenir mugs were given to schoolchildren. Distributions would be given the poor and elderly. Come coronation day, after noon the Mayor would give a speech at the Cornhill to the town’s schoolchildren. Afterwards the Mayor would plant an oak tree in Blake Gardens. Tea would be provided to school children, and patients in the hospitals and care homes, and supper to the inmates of the Workhouse. The Christie Band would perform on the Cornhill, a ball would be held in the Blake Hall, and a special Carnival procession and bonfire would be held, among other events.

Also see the George VI Coronation Medal Here.

Prior to the Coronation Celebrations: The Cornhill decorations.
The decorations at night. The Town Bridge was also elaborately decorated with two triumphal arches: a picture can be seen in Rod Fitzhugh and Will Loudon’s Bygone Bridgwater and the Villages (1987), p.43.

Pictures of the Bristol and Exeter Pub decorations can be seen in Bridgwater Images of England by the Blake Museum (1998), p.120.

Elizabeth II 2 June 1953 – Coronation