Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee

Thursday, June 23rd, 1887

The great festival gathering in Hyde Park of London's School Children in celebration of the 50th year of the reign of Her Most Gracious Majesty the late Queen Victoria was a most notable day, and as far as the weather was concerned a most glorious one also. It will not be easily forgotten by old or young who were fortunate enough to be present at this event. It appeals more to the younger generation, considering about 30,000 were regaled and entertained in celebration of the above auspicious occasion. Ten enormous marquees, besides many other minor tents, were pitched on the "Guards' Ground", or the north-east portion of the Park, for the accommodation of this multitude of children, where, at a given time, accompanied by their teachers, they all' assembled and partook of a substantial repast. This concluded, a host of attractions and games of the fair and fête description were provided out in the open. Numerous ladies and gentlemen also rendered every possible assistance for their amusement, and, to add to their enjoyment, a peal of bells occasionally rang out merrily, at least a mechanical arrangement that produced the sound of bells, kindly lent and supplied by Sir Henry Irving from the Lyceum Theatre, having been previously utilised there in one of his plays. The arrival of H.M. the Queen on the ground, and the singing by the children of "The Old Hundredth" hymn, "God Bless the Prince of Wales" and "God Save the Queen" accompanied by the Guards' and other regimental bands combined, under the conductorship of Lieut. Dan Godfrey-was a most impressive item in the day's programme. To detail the various interesting scenes and incidents in èonnection with that memorable day would be to fill a moderate-sized book; but that is not my business even to attempt to do. But it will, I am sure, give satisfaction for me to state, so far as the police were concerned, nothing came under their notice that in any way marred the proceedings - not during the festivities at all events, and not until the children had all, with their "Jubilee Souvenir Cups" in their hands, gaily marched from the Park homewards- nothing whatever had up to that time occurred that would in any way tend to cause the slightest discomfort. But an incident, bad it happened earlier in the day, might have caused considerable alarm and scare among the little ones. A heap of hay, straw, paper, broken crates and boxes-refuse of packages-had been piled up within no very great distance of the tents on the Bayswater side of the Park. Whether by accident or mischievous persons thinking a bonfire would add to the attractions Of the evening was never ascertained, but certainly, a big blaze was soon in motion.

A detachment of the " K division of police, who had been on duty in that vicinity all day long, and who would have in the ordinary course of events been well on their way home towards Bow, made strenuous efforts to stop the progress of the fire, but to no avail; the inflammable stuff, however, soon burnt itself out, and as soon as it became approachable the constables set to work and raked the burning wood out with sticks or anything they could apply for that purpose, scattered the embers, and literally stamped and trod the fire out, regardless of the damage it did to their boots. I was glad when things became tolerably quiet and everything apparently safe, that the poor fellows were able to proceed on their way home, for there is no doubt they had had a long, arduous day of it.

I may here remark, fire in the marquees during the evenings and nights prior to the eventful day was our great anxiety, and with this single isolated exception we congratulated ourselves things had gone off most satisfactorily.

In closing this little narrative, I cannot resist referring to the energetic action of Sir Edward Lawson (Lord Burnham), Chairman and chief promoter of that happy event. He worked most indefatigably, and also took particular notice that other people worked too-for he was up and about the Park early and late during the whole of the preparations, the result being, to use the words of a gentleman who expressed his appreciation of that occasion, Never was a festival more manifestly joyous, natural, satisfactory and genuine.

Source: Edward Owen, Hyde Park, Select Narratives, Annual Event, etc, during twenty years' Police Service in Hyde Park, 1906