The Blackburn Royal Visit of 1913

On 10 July 1913 the King and Queen visited Blackburn, this was the first visit by a reigning monarch to the town.  The following report from the ‘Northern Daily Telegraph’ newspaper describes the visit and comments on the decorations at the Orange Hall.


To-day the King and Queen take Blackburn in their tour of North-East Lancashire, and Blackburnians and friends from adjacent townships and villages are gathered to pay honour and homage to their Sovereign and his Queen.  It is Blackburn with a difference, for within the past few days a transformation has taken place in the route to be traversed by their Majesties.  The streets are glowing with red, white and blue, these national colours being displayed in an infinite variety of forms, from the Union Jack, bold and striking in its symbolism as it floats proudly in the breeze, to strings of tiny pennons stretched from masthead to masthead, and the hundred-and-one floral and fancy designs into which the tri-colours are woven.  And to these outward and visible signs the people of the borough unite a cordiality of feeling which is expressed in various sentiments forming part of the decorative scheme.  “God Bless our King and Queen,” says one; another offers in more personal and friendly phrase “A hearty Welcome”, and portraits of their Majesties, with appropriate mottoes in their honour, are displayed elsewhere.  And all this manifestation of loyalty is emphasised by the presence in the streets of thousands and thousands of men, women and children, bent on obtaining a glimpse of King George and Queen Mary on this their first visit to the town and demonstrating by the warmth and unanimity of their greeting that Lancashire loyalty to the crown is nowhere more potent and sincere than in Blackburn.Their Majesties’ stay is a brief one – necessarily, since they have so much to compass in the course of the day – but the town has done its best to make it pleasant by the manner of the welcome accorded to them, and memorable as adding to the insight which their Majesties are obtaining of how industrial Lancashire earns its bread and butter and maintains its high commercial reputation in the markets of the world.  It is appropriate that it should be reserved for Blackburn to demonstrate the art of cotton weaving, since its long and honourable association with that branch of the textile trade gives it a foremost qualification to show how it is done; and though its technicalities are not to be easily mastered, their Majesties will have seen and been informed of sufficient of the processes to be impressed by the complexity as well as the magnitude of Blackburn’s business in cotton cloths, plain and fancy.  In the personal aspect also, the Royal visit is of great interest, as affording an opportunity for the presentation to their Majesties of townspeople who, in a local sense, have “done the State some service” by their public labours, their beneficence to deserving causes, and their devotion to social efforts for the moral good of their fellow men.  On previous occasions when Royalty has visited the town, it has been in the person of Prince and Princess.  This is the first time that the reigning Sovereign has so honoured it, and this red-letter day in its history is celebrated in a loyal and happy spirit proper to the occasion.

A Long Wait at the Barriers.

From quite early in the forenoon Blackburn gave indications of being in the grip of the “Royal fever”.  The symptoms increased in definiteness as the day grew, and by noon the whole town seemed given over to the great business of the day.  It was all a-flutter with flags and flowers; vendors of mementoes of the Royal visit and buttonholes of red, white and blue rosettes and flowers did a good trade, and every other man, woman and child was adorned in some way with the colours of the nation.  The weather, which had been uncertain all the morning, did not resolve our doubts either way.  While it was not sunny, as everybody had so desired, neither did it rain, as so many had feared, but continued as it had begun – dull and cool.  Not “King’s weather” nor “Queen’s weather”, but still something to be grateful for in that it did not damp the ardour of the waiting loyalists, who were packed at the barriers for three solid hours before being rewarded by the sight of majesty.

The Decorations in Blackburn.

While the majority of the decorations were completed by last evening, many shop-keepers and householders  - and more especially those competing in the contest arranged by the Royal Visit Committee – deferred the finishing touches until this morning, the rules requiring that they should be ready for inspection by half-past nine.  By desire of the King, the Corporation made no outlay upon general decorations, but the Committee’s desire that private enterprise in this direction should make a good show met with a generous response.  As an incentive, they offered prizes of £3, £2, and £1, in each of the eight sections along the route of the Royal Procession, and in addition, premiums of £10 and £5 for the best decorations on the whole of the route.  Illuminations were excluded from the contest, but the Corporation gave free gas and electricity for approved devices from eight o’clock to twelve o’clock tonight.
It is a long time since Blackburn looked so gay.  The decorations, although not on a lavish scale, were nevertheless very neat and attractive, and gave the streets a charming appearance.  The business premises and public buildings in the centre of the town were prettily trimmed, chiefly with streamers, festoons, Royal emblems, plants and flowers.  Jubilee-street presented a striking appearance, the Gas works, Electricity Works, Price’s Theatre, Heatley’s Chambers, and the Merchant Hotel all being very picturesquely decked.  King William-street and Darwen-street were also gay with colour.  The Market Hall had a frieze and festoons and the Royal emblems.  Mr I Haworth’s premises on the opposite side of the road were also neatly adorned, the windows being draped with purple and white muslin, and on the roof of the premises a number of plants were placed.  The Exchange Hall was decorated chiefly with plants and evergreens.  Over the two doorways, one of which was draped with blue muslin and the other with green, were trophies surmounted by flags, large palms and evergreens.  Streamers hung from three poles in from of the building to the roof, and baskets of flowers were suspended from a ledge just over the entrances.  A Frellis arch-way surmounted by a crown, and adorned with festoons was to be seen in Library-street.  The Y. M. C. A. buildings in Limbrick were very attractive.  The windows were draped in green and white muslin, and just above those of the upper rooms were the words “600 Lancashire lads all say God Bless You and Yours”.  The sills of the lower windows were decorated with plants and flowers, and on either side of the doorway baskets of flowers were suspended.  The walls were also adorned with trophies.
The Reform Club in Victoria-street looked exceedingly well.  A frieze had been placed in front of the balcony, upon which, there was an artistic display of plants and flowers.  The centre-piece consisted of a large palm, surrounded with ferns, geraniums, and a motto, “God Save the King” were also displayed at the Palace Theatre, the Conservative Club, the Orange Hall, and the White Bull Hotel had also been carried out in a very pleasing manner.  Most of the houses in the thoroughfare along which their Majesties passed were neatly bedecked with flowers, plants, trophies, festoons, streamers and flags.
At Roe Lee there was a great show of colour, and a stand had been erected to accommodate the employees of Messrs Duckworth and Eddleston, both of Blackburn and Great Harwood, and also the children of the Wilpshire Orphanage.  Streamers flew from poles erected on either side of the road near the mill, and a number of mottoes were displayed, these including “God bless you”, “May you live long”, “To uphold the honour of our country”, “May patriotism and brotherhood flourish”.

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