Coronation Day in Kendal

Coronation Day, Kendal

‘Coronation Day. Kendal, though somewhat tardy in its movements on public occasions, will not, we are glad to find, let the Coronation Day pass over unnoticed.’

No, not that of the new king, Charles III (tho’ I’m sure many Kendal folk will be marking that occasion in some way). But that of his 3x great grandmother, Queen Victoria, in June 1838.

Why look at THAT coronation, of all of them? And why Kendal, of all Cumbrian towns?

Well, why not?

Party politics

What caught my attention in the reports on the 1838 Coronation Day celebrations in Kendal was that the main fruit on offer seems to have been a very large case of sour grapes!

For the mayor of Kendal in 1938, Thompson Bindloss, was a Liberal, as was the ruling party of the council, the Kendal Corporation. But prior to the 1936 elections that put them in office, the Corporation had been run by Conservatives.

And when the corporation set out to organise celebrations for the coronation, the latter brought politics to the parties.

‘Arise from apathy’

In the June 2 1838 edition of the Tory-supporting Westmorland Gazette, there is a letter, signed ‘A Conservative’

Sir,—I was much pleased to see your observations respecting the approaching ceremonial for the coronation in your last week’s Gazette, and I trust that the Conservatives of Kendal, and its vicinity will rouse up from their apathy, and bestir themselves without delay.

The author felt that if the Corporation of Kendal was organising dinner on the 28th June, ‘most likely their invitations (if any) will be restricted to their own immediate supporters.’

 ‘Why then should we not also make a display? … Nothing warms the heart more than good dinner, which, with proper modicum of the juice of the grape, will exhilarate and unite men in social fellowship— The feast of reason and the flow of soul.” 

‘Ladies are generally Conservatives’

Clearly, his idea for a Conservative dinner was ‘men only,’ as he continues:

And then out of compliment to the ladies, whose sex is so eminently adorned by the illustrious individual now on the throne, and who (God bless them) are generally Conservatives, why not allow them to enjoy themselves also, and have a ball for them? There is no reason why, on this interesting occasion, they should be mere spectators of the enjoyments of others, or bear the voice of merriment without participation ; and nothing would, in my opinion delight them more than such an opportunity of shewing their loyalty to our youthful monarch.

The Corporation’s plans

June 9, 1838.

THE Coronation Committee have the pleasure to announce that arrangements are in progress for the formation of a SPLENDID PROCESSION to Commemorate the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, in Kendal, on tbe 28th instant…

The procession was to comprise: Cavalry Band, The Kendal Troop of the Westmorland Yeomanry Cavalry; The Staff, the Recruiting District and Men; The Supervisor and Officers of Excise; Flag; The Chief Constable and Governor of the Prison; The Police Officers in their Uniform, with Staves; Vicar and Clergy, two and two; Two flags; Two Mace Bearers; Sword Bearer; The Mayor and Magistrates; Aldermen and Councillors on Horseback; The Town Clerk; Auditors and Assessors and the Treasurer; A Band; Churchwardens and Overseers, Two and Two; Gentlemen, Three a-breast, on Horseback or on Foot; Trades and Societies in Order; Schools in Order.  

The Gazette published the announcement, but had a go, elsewhere in the edition, at the Coronation Committee

Who constituted them Committee ? Why, themselves : the Liberal opponents of self-election schemes, are, this instance, a self-elected body ! No gentleman in town, unconnected with the Reformed Town Council, was ever once consulted on the matter, and yet they are to guide and rule the whole affair.  

The Kendal Mercury, meanwhile, was far more charitable, 

‘These are stirring preparations”

It wrote that four triumphal arches were to be erected for the procession: one at the Cross Bank, in Highgate; one at the town hall corner; one opposite Col Maude’s house in Stricklandgate; the fourth in Stramongate, opposite the house of Mr Tatham the surgeon. The children in the procession would get refreshments afterwards.

And there was to be a ball in the evening, in the Whitehall Assembly Rooms – tickets ladies 5 shillings, gentlemen 6 shillings. 

‘Democrats’ and other ‘destructive names’

The Gazette was sniffy again in its June 30 edition. When it hoped the ‘throne of England’ would never be ‘tyrannized over by any set of miscreants calling themselves democrats, radicals, repealers, or any other destructive name’, ‘whose avowed object is to overturn the constitution, or by those who, under pretence of amending it, are striving to strip the foundations of her Throne’.

Advice to the working classes

Specifically, the Gazette urged the working classes of England, ‘looking up with pride to their aristocracy, the noblest, the bravest and most generous in the world, may be content with their own situation, and by being so, prevent his neighbour from falling into error and himself into disgrace and punishment’.

Coronation Day in Kendal

The Mercury devoted columns of print to Coronation Day at Kendal. Which ‘came off with all possible eclat’. The crowds were the largest ever seen; the music was stirring; the arches (five, in the end) were spendid; 338 poor elderly folk were given half a crown each; the workhouse children were given a splendid tea. 

The procession was more than a mile long, and 140 gentlemen enjoyed the ‘abundant and excellent’ dinner in the town hall.

The Gazette’s report starts by saying the town had never seen such brilliant scenes, nor devoted loyalty… before spending the next few pars saying this was only because the Conservatives had cooperated – which they had done purely to show that they were friends of the Queen.

The Gazette begrudgingly said the coronation committee had ‘to do them justice, managed the whole arrangements exceedingly well’. In fact ‘they could not have been exceeded by a committee composed exclusively of Conservatives’.