The unveiling of Albert's statue
in Queen Square
by Bev Parker
A brief description of the events
and the background
When Prince Albert, who was Queen Victoria's husband,
died in 1861, she began a long period of mourning from which she never full
recovered. Deeply touched by this, the people of Wolverhampton led by
Alderman Underhill started to raise money to erect a statue in his honour.
As the collection progressed, Queen Victoria was contacted and asked as to
what form the statue should take. She decided upon a statue of him mounted
on horseback and dressed in the uniform of a Field Marshall. Alderman
Underhill actually paid for the plinth himself, and the statue was completed
in 1866. It was decided to ask Queen Victoria to come in person to unveil
the statue. It seemed extremely unlikely that she would come as she had
already refused similar requests from Liverpool and Manchester. The Mayor,
two Aldermen, the Town Clerk and the local M.P. visited the Palace and were
told that the Queen had agreed to unveil the statue and would be coming to
the town on November 30th, which was in just nine days time.
Due to the short notice, work went ahead at full
speed. The streets were full of tradesman who were cleaning-up and
decorating buildings. A pavilion and a grandstand to house two thousand
spectators were erected in the Market Place. Gas-lit illuminations and a
series of triumphal arches depicting local industry were built along the
route. The Earl of Dudley donated coal for a large coal arch which was built
across Wednesfield Road. It weighed almost three tons. Albert's statue which
cost £1,150 was veiled in red, white and blue curtains.
The 30th November was a bitterly cold day. The Royal
carriages which had been kept at the Swan
Hotel arrived at Low Level Station at about 1.10pm.
The statue in 2002.
Queen Victoria arrived with other members of her
family and John Brown who was her manservant. The procession of open
carriages travelled into the town up Railway Street, along Queen Street,
Dudley Street, Snow Hill, Cleveland Street, Salop Street, Darlington Street,
and finally to High Green and Market Place. The day had been declared a
holiday and so the streets were lined with thousands of people who had come
to the town to witness the event. When the Queen entered the pavilion
she heard a speech by the Mayor, John Morris and being so pleased with her
reception she borrowed a sword from Lord Alfred Paget and promptly knighted
him. The sculptor of the statue Thomas Thorneycroft (1815-1885) drew a cord
to unveil the statue.
He had previously produced a statue of the Queen on
horseback for the Great Exhibition of 1851 and another of Albert was
unveiled in Halifax in the previous year. After the unveiling the Queen
walked round to inspect the statue accompanied by the cheers of the crowd.
The Royal Party returned by a different route going from High Green
along Cook Street, Skinner Street, School Street, Waterloo Road, Stafford
Street, Little Berry Street, Princess Street, Queen Street and Railway
Street. When the procession arrived at the Station, lunch was provided in
three dining rooms that were built for the occasion by Lovatt, a local
builder. Activities in the town continued well into the night with large
numbers of people flocking to view the illuminations and a spectacular
firework display which was held at the racecourse.
The two sides of a small medallion (about 23mm
diameter) struck to commemorate the visit, possibly by the
corporation but more probably as a commercial venture.
The following detailed description of
the events leading up to Queen Victoria's visit to the town, and the event
itself, was taken from an article by Mr. Roden, that appeared in the
Wolverhampton Journal in July and August 1904. This is a long description
and so it has been divided into the following sections:
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