Nostalgia with Margaret Watson: Excitement as King and Queen come to Dewsbury

Nostalgia: 1912 Royal visit''The mayor of Dewsbury, Alderman James Greenwood, receiving the Royal party of King George V and Queen Mary outside Dewsbuy Town Hall in 1912.
Nostalgia: 1912 Royal visit''The mayor of Dewsbury, Alderman James Greenwood, receiving the Royal party of King George V and Queen Mary outside Dewsbuy Town Hall in 1912.

No-one living today can imagine the excitement which would have been aroused in Dewsbury when, in 1912, it was announced the town was to have its first Royal visit.

Months were spent in preparing for the great event and when it did eventually take place, tens of thousands turned out to see King George V and Queen Mary arrive at Dewsbury Town Hall.

The square was transformed into an immense amphitheatre, with tremendous grand stands on three sides crowded with over 8,000 children.

Thousands lined the streets and packed into every available space, some even climbing on rooftops to catch a glimpse of the Royal couple.

The Royal visit was part of a four day tour of the West Riding of Yorkshire to acquaint the King with the three staple industries of the district - coal mining, engineering and textiles.

For the King had long expressed the wish to see as much of the people of this district as possible, both in their work and in their working conditions.

He also requested that the tour should be free from formalities and ceremonies of every description.

The sub-committee of the Town Council, charged with the responsibility of determining the best means of according a civic welcome, decided that the children of the town would be given the best vantage point.

This delighted the Royal couple who showed a great interest in the young people, and Queen Mary on leaving commented on how bonny they were.

The Royal party only stayed in Dewsbury a brief time before setting off on their way to Batley where they visited Stubley’s Mill, something which the mill-owners of Dewsbury would not have liked at all.

Yhere were magnificent demonstrations of loyalty all along the route the Royal party took on their way to Dewsbury with thousands lining the main roads into town, all cheering and waving flags.

Local employers had been asked to give workers a half day off work with pay, and this they did.

The town hall was bedecked with laurels, and 1,000 white Yorkshire roses were worked into an inscription above the entrance to the town hall which read “Welcome to our King and Queen”.

The Mayor, Alderman James Greenwood, welcomed them amidst thunderous cheers from the jubilant crowds.

He said: “As Mayor and Chief Magistrate I tender to your Majesty a very hearty welcome to this ancient town.

“We fully appreciate your halting here in Dewsbury, if only for a few minutes on your way through the West Riding.”

He then went on to explain that the traditions of the town went back to very early times and that St Paulinus had preached here and baptised on the banks of the Calder in the year 627.

He also added that Dewsbury was the principal centre of a very dense population, busily engaged in the manufacture of woollen cloths, carpets and blankets, and also pointed out that Dewsbury had some of the largest mills in the world.

He ended his address by expressing the hope, on behalf of the people of Dewsbury, that his Majesty would at some future date honour the town with another visit of longer duration.

Little did the people of Dewsbury realise that the King would take up the Mayor’s kind offer and return to Dewsbury a few years later.

This time the visit would be of longer duration and he would find time to visit Dewsbury mills, but the mood would be a more sombre one.

For he would come early in 1918 when our country was at war, and the list of casualties were growing by the day.

The Royal visit to Dewsbury in 1912 was well covered and reported upon by the Reporter, and many photographs were taken of the spectacular sights in Dewsbury.

Unfortunately, we do not have space to reproduce even a fraction of them today, or any other day for that matter, because they would fill an entire newspaper.

But, how lucky we are that local historian and postcard collector, Christine Leveridge, has been researching this historic event and will shortly be presenting her findings, illustrated by fascinating photographs, at the next meeting of Dewsbury Matters.

I have been assured that her presentation entitled “1912 - Royal Visit to the West Riding” - is a “gem” and should not be missed.

Lovers of local history and followers of Royal events please make sure you are there on Thursday January 23 in the Minster Church at 7.30pm.

Local events such as these should always be well supported, for people like Christine and other members of Dewsbury Matters, give extensively of their time to ensure that our heritage is preserved.

Some time ago, Christine’s lifetime collection of local postcards were stolen, but thankfully she didn’t lose heart and has continued to dedicate a great deal of her time to following her passion for collecting old postcards, which she kindly shares with others.

I often wonder how much of our local heritage would have been lost if it hadn’t been for people like Christine and fellow members of Dewsbury Matters.

There certainly wouldn’t be a nostalgia column like the one I produce week after week if it wasn’t for these dedicated people who share their collections with us.