Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations in Rainham

In June 1897 the Diamond Jubilee commemoration took place outside St Paul’s Cathedral to mark the completion of 60 years of Queen Victoria’s reign. Led by the Life Guards and the Dragoon Guards and followed by bands, envoys, royal carriages and foreign royalty, Queen Victoria rode in an open carriage escorted by Indian cavalry to the ceremony in the City of London.

In Rainham on a day described by the East Kent Gazette as one of glorious summer weather, the Diamond Jubilee celebrations were much more comprehensive and bigger in scale than at the jubilee of 1887. Flags, decorations and night time illuminations dominated the village as preparations were made for the big day.

The day began with peels from the church bells which continued at intervals throughout the day and the parish council sent a congratulatory telegram to the Queen at Buckingham Palace on behalf of the people of Rainham. Later about 800 children and members of Rainham benefit societies assembled in Station Road and then marched into a packed St Margaret’s Church where Reverend Charles Cobb conducted a short service.

After the service W Hunt’s Band and the Salvation Army Band led a parade along the High Street which ended at the meadow behind the National School in Station Road where sports events then took place. At 2-30 pm dinners were served to about 200 parishioners aged 60 or more and widows with a selection of food that included roast and corned beef, ham, tongue, jellies and fruit then tea was served to children at 4-30. Mr Kennet Jordan and W. Stevens then presented each child with a jubilee mug.

An estimated 3000 spectators attended the sports events at the school, many from Medway and outlying villages as visitors crowded Rainham. Sports for young children were organised by Mrs Brice, the Infant’s School teacher, while Mr A. Champion organised the older children. After a successful afternoon the sports events were concluded with a 100 yards race for ladies over 50 years old. Seventy year old Mrs W. Kitney of Station Road, the only entry, won the race after walking the course and claimed first prize while winning competitors were presented prizes by Mrs Cobb, Miss Dodd and Miss Walter. A firework display followed this at dusk organised by Alfred Brice.

During the evening people walked around Rainham looking at the illuminations, considered to be the most impressive in the area. At Broad Walk flags were displayed and decorations and illuminations covered Mardale House, the home of Dr Penfold. At the bottom of the High Street Mr E Pierce exhibited the motto ‘Rainham Rejoices, God Bless Our Queen.’ Thomas Stanley Wakeley draped ‘The Chestnuts’ with bunting and a display of flags and an illuminated transparency. Mr Baker had what many people considered the best piece of decorative work in the parish. He exhibited a circular device with the words. ‘Our Queen Rules Over 360 Million People.’ A transparency with cross swords in gilt surmounted underneath by a crown.

At Rainham nursery at the bottom of Chapel Lane George Longley decorated the porch of his house with paper roses. Edwin Jelly decorated his house with flags, bunting and a display of potted plants. In his shop he displayed a pair of satin slippers worn by the Queen as a girl. The slippers were owned by the vicar Reverend Charles Cobb. At his outfitter’s store George Whayman displayed flags, shields and a transparency of the Queen edged with bunting and Chinese lanterns. The triumphal arch nearby contained the motto ‘1837, Hail Victoria 1897’ and ‘60 Not Out’ with cricket bats and stumps. At Manchester House Mr W. Bush displayed shields, bunting and flags and The Waterman’s Arms opposite had similar decorations. George Quinnell & Sons displayed a device with the words ‘In Every Heart One Prayer, God Save Victoria.’

At the vicarage Reverend Cobb decorated the building with jubilee flags, bunting, fairy lights and mottoes. Mr Hinckley covered the Lion Inn with flags, lines of evergreen and a transparency of the Queen with an arch across the road. Watchmaker Mr A. Tucker displayed a crown and the letters VR in fairy lights with the motto ‘Jubilee, 60 Years a Queen.’ Another arch a bit further along the road displayed the motto ‘Greatness and Goodness and ‘Our Queen God Bless Her.’

A collection of Japanese lanterns suspended from the chestnut trees outside the church transformed the spot into a fairy grove at night. Flags and fairy lights decorated the White Horse and similar decorations covered the Cricketers Inn.

Lines of flags criss-crossed Station Road in front of the National School and the Co-operative Society building. There were three triumphal arches in Station Road with mottoes. At Ramsey House Samuel Hodson displayed a pretty shield with flags grouped around it and VR in fairy lights. Towards the bottom end of Station Road William Wakeley decorated Macklands House with bunting, flags and fairy lights. Visitors packed the road as they viewed the decorations.

During the early evening a torchlight procession formed outside the church and went along the High Street led by W. Hunt’s Band to Motney Hill where a large bonfire had been constructed. After this had been ignited those present sang ‘God Save the Queen’ then returned to the National School playing field where dancing took place until 1 am.

A Diamond Jubilee Dinner rounded off the celebrations the following day when 50 gentlemen representing Rainham agricultural and commercial life attended the event at the National School in Station Road. Farmer James Mansfield presided over it with a series of toasts and speeches followed by songs from Messrs J. Longley, E. Shewell, R. Wickens and S. Hodson. This concluded a successful Royal Diamond Jubilee in Rainham.

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