Preparations for the opening of the Town Hall began months in advance. Queen Victoria was due to arrive in Leeds on Monday 6th September 1858. She was on her way from Osborne House on the Isle of Wight to Balmoral, and after stopping for lunch at Peterborough, the royal train was expected at Leeds at 6.15pm on Monday evening.
The Queen was to be met by the Mayor, Mr. Peter Fairbairn, and the town clerk, Mr.John Ikin, in their new robes of office. Also present on the platform were the Earl and Countess Fitzwilliam, (the Lord Lieutenant of the West Riding), Lord Derby, Lieut. General Sir Harry Smith, J W Childers Esq. (the High Sheriff of Yorkshire), the Bishop of Ripon, the vicar of Leeds Dr. Hook, M T Baines M P, and other local Members of Parliament. The mayors of Bradford and Rochdale and other towns were also present, as were the borough magistrates. A guard of honour was provided by a detachment of the 22nd Infantry Brigade under the command of Colonel Harding, and nearby was a party of artillerymen with four guns ready to fire a salute on the arrival of the royal party. Admission to the station platform and to wooden stands was by ticket.
The train arrived on time. (Notice of its arrival at Ardsley had been telegraphed through to Leeds), and as it pulled into the station, a military band played the National anthem and the artillery fired their salute. The Queen was accompanied by Prince Albert, and the Princesses Helena and Alice and as they alighted from the train they were applauded by the party on the platform. A bouquet was presented to the Queen by the Mayoress, and the Mayor's daughters presented bouquets to the Princesses. The Queen and her party then entered the royal carriage, and went in procession to the residence of the Mayor, Woodsley House where a suite of rooms had been put at her disposal.
'The Times' described the scene as the Queen left the station. 'Once her carriage was fairly seen outside the railway station, and there arose such a cheer, as has seldom been heard before. It was a cheer, not only of the thousands to whom she was visible, but the cheers of all along the line of route; it was caught up and passed from street to street, and into places far removed from where the Queen would pass - one long sustained outburst of loyal enthusiasm.'
A large crowd had gathered along the route, and more people were waiting for the arrival of the Queen at Woodsley House. They were entertained by 'Smith's Model Band'. The Queen dined with Lord Derby, Earl Fitzwilliam, Sir Harry Smith, Lady Churchill, her Lady-in–Waiting, and the Mayor of Leeds.
Tight security was in force; no-one was allowed near Woodsley House, which was guarded by the military encamped outside the walls of the gardens. But many people stayed on the streets to see the illuminations which had been put up all through the town. Engravings made at the time, which appeared in the Illustrated London News, the News of the World and the Illustrated Times show the magnificent decorations on houses, shops and factories. There were triumphal arches, flags, banners, festoons, wreaths, and loyal inscriptions.
On the following day, Tuesday, the Queen left Woodsley House for Woodhouse Moor, where she listened to hymns sung by 26,000 Sunday School children. Their teachers attempted to control them using placards with instructions such as 'Prepare to Cheer', 'Sing', 'Silence', and 'Dismiss'. The Times reports: 'As the cortège came in sight, the signals 'Prepare to Cheer' rose up on every side, but they were needless; the difficulty was to keep the children quiet, for all the children strained their throats, and waved their hats and handkerchiefs with such vehemence as threatened to make them still more ragged than many were already.'
The procession then went along Woodhouse Lane, down Upperhead Row, and along Briggate. It was here that Mr. T D Appleby spread flowers in front of his shop to scent the air. Then along Wellington Street where the Queen admired the decorations on the Mayor's factory. Then along West Street, Queen Street, Park Place, King Street, and East Parade where a huge triumphal arch had been erected, to the Town Hall.
A huge crowd had assembled in front of the Town Hall – every available standing place was occupied, and people watched from windows and galleries. The crowds were held back by the police, the local force being assisted by a body of the A division of the Metropolitan police. At one point the pressure of the crowd was so great that it broke the wooden barrier holding people back. Everyone wanted to catch a glimpse of the Queen. According to the Leeds Intelligencer: 'Her Majesty was richly but simply attired....her dress was a rich mauve silk with brocaded flounces. Her mantle was of white lace, ornamented very elaborately, apparently with needlework. Her bonnet also was of white lace. with a few simple flowers inside, and a short white veil, also of lace. Her hair was plainly parted in what we believe is the 'Victoria' fashion. The dress was of sufficient amplitude, but nothing to the mountains which some ladies indulge in. The Princesses were dressed exactly alike - green and white silk dresses, with violet coloured mantles, and light bonnets trimmed with green. The Prince Consort wore an ordinary morning dress, with his blue ribbon of the Garter.'
The Queen was escorted into the Town Hall by the Mayor. She stopped in the vestibule where the architect, Cuthbert Brodrick was presented to her. The royal procession then entered the great hall, to the sound of the organ playing the National Anthem, and thunderous applause from the assembled gathering. The proceedings began with prayers led by the Bishop of Ripon, the National Anthem was sung, and the town clerk, Mr. Ikin, read out an address from the Leeds Corporation, to which the Queen replied. An address was also presented to Prince Albert, who also replied. Then the Queen taking the sword of General Grey asked the Mayor to kneel, and touching him with the sword on each shoulder said 'Rise Sir Peter Fairbairn.' The mayor of Leeds was now a knight of the realm.
The Earl of Derby advancing to the right of Her Majesty then said :'I am commanded by the Queen to declare in Her Majesty's name that this hall is now opened.' There was loud cheering and applause and the Hallelujah Chorus was sung. A red flag was hoisted and a royal salute fired to announce the opening to the people of Leeds.
The Queen was then shown round the Town Hall, and was taken to the Mayor's apartments for lunch. After another visit to the great hall, she left for Wellington Street station to continue her journey to Scotland.
|Click images to enlarge|
Arriving at the Station
Sunday School children on Woodhouse Moor
The Mayor's factory
Arrival at the Town Hall
Reception by the Mayor
Interior of the Town hall
Presentation of the address
Knighting the Mayor of Leeds
Ticket for the opening of the Town Hall