Yeovil Celebrates the 1897 Jubilee

The 1897 Jubilee

How Yeovil celebrated Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee


The Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria was celebrated on 22 June 1897 and commemorated her 60-year reign. The Jubilee was celebrated across the country but below extracts from the diary of Louisa Harris shows how the event was celebrated in Yeovil.

Yeovil's newly-built Victoria Road was named in 1897 in honour of the Queen's Jubilee.

From the diary of Louisa Harris ....

"16 May 1897: The thoughts of the nation are at the present time almost entirely engrossed with the coming celebration of the longest reign in British history. How it will come off in Yeovil we cannot yet declare. There is a committee formed for organising the day's programme and I dare say it will take the form of something similar to what we had at the jubilee of 1887. As a permanent memorial the Mayor, Mr S Watts has purchased a triangular space of land in Ram Park and presented it to the Town for pleasure gardens, these to be laid out by public subscription. A band stand is to be placed in them, this the gift of Mr JB Petter, Ironfounder of this town."

"18 June 1897: Active preparations are going forward for the celebration of the Diamond Jubilee on the 22nd - here as well as in London and elsewhere. I can see from my window the bonfire they are building on the top of Summerhouse Hill, to be lit simultaneously with beacon fires on key hills throughout the country. The coming celebration is the topic of the day. Trust the weather will be fine. Today it is very stormy, high wind and rain prevailing."

"20 June 1897: Sunday - In common with other towns there have been held in Yeovil this day thanksgiving services for the Queen's long and prosperous reign. In the morning the volunteers attended service at one of the churches and afterward met in the Borough and went through some military manoeuvre and the band played the National Anthem. Weather very fine but windy."

 "23 June 1897: The greatest historical celebration of the Diamond Jubilee passed yesterday under the most favourable auspices. The weather in London and everywhere else was real Queen's weather. The day was one of universal holiday and rejoicing throughout the realm, and loyalty prevailed to the utmost. Warm proofs were given of the devotion of the people to their Sovereign, and of the Sovereign's love for her people. In London the celebration was on a magnificent scale and was a grand triumph from beginning to end. It is said that it was the most magnificent pageant that, not England alone but the world has ever seen. It was seven miles long, and represented the civil and military glory and power of the entire Empire. Besides the Queen and royal family, numerous foreign royalties rode in the procession, and the representatives of foreign powers. The city was superbly decorated and there was much gaiety and festivity. Today's programme closed with a state ball and resplendent illuminations. These, they say, surpassed anything of the kind ever seen before, even at Paris. A striking feature in the jubilee celebration was the simultaneous lighting of the beacon fires at 10pm on the heights throughout the country.

In Yeovil the day was marked by every demonstration of loyalty. To begin with the decorations were on a superb scale for a town the size of Yeovil. Flags floated from St John's tower, the top of the Town Hall, and many other commanding positions; lines of streamers closed the streets wherever this was possible, and fluttering in the breeze they produced an effect that was exceedingly pretty. Almost every house displayed bunting, fairy lamps, or decorations of some kind, while others were most lavishly adorned. The Town Hall was a perfect triumph in the matter of decorative skill, the front being completely hidden by the plentiful display of evergreen, flowers, banners, fairy lamps, etc. Yet it was not overdone. The Conservative Club and many of the business houses were superbly embellished. The Railway Station, Banks and other public buildings were all more or less adorned. Never before, Jubilee Day 1887 excepted, had Yeovil looked so gay. Shortly after midnight the Volunteers Band played the National Anthem in different parts of the town, and people who were abroad listening to the strains joined in singing it. At half past 10am there was a thanksgiving service in St John's churchyard. At 1.30pm there was a public Luncheon in Wyndham Field. From 6am the bells of St John's rang out, at intervals in merry peals, and the volunteers fired volleys at stated times. At 2.30pm a procession of all the Sunday schools accompanied by the Volunteer, Town and Salvation Army bands marched to Ram Park, and there an interesting ceremony took place, viz. the handing over of the deeds, to the Corporation, of the Land presented to the Town by Sidney Watts, Esq. as a Jubilee gift, to be laid out as Pleasure gardens; and the planting of the first shrub by a member of Mr Watts family he being absent in London, taking part in his official capacity of provincial Mayor, in the ceremonials there. After the ceremony the procession again formed, and being joined by the Civic Body, the Fire Brigade, Friendly Societies etc., proceeded to Wyndham field, where tea was provided for the children and a meat tea for a large number of old people. Emmie [Louisa's sister] presided at our one at the latter and Maud [another sister] assisted her. Afterwards there were various amusements for their entertainment. In Newton park sports and other amusements were held, a band being in attendance, and thither I went in the evening accompanied by Emmie and Maud. We left the park about 9pm and went round the town and viewed the illuminations, which were good, the innumerable fairy lamps that were so strikingly incaidence [sic] in the decorating of the town, together with the Chinese lanterns, and gas jets, making a brilliant show. Most effective were the appropriate designs into which fairy lamps and gas jets were arranged. We returned home about 10pm and viewed the beacon fire on Summer House Hill from my bedroom window."

"16 [sic] June 1897: The Diamond Jubilee was celebrated at Preston Plucknett this day, and in the evening Emmie and I went over, and spent a very pleasant time. Many of the inhabitants had decorated their houses, the bells rang out in merry peals and in a field adjoining a farmhouse various sports were held, a band being present, as were also a round-a-bout, shooting galleries etc, etc. In passing through the farmyard in our way to the field, we had a fine opportunity of viewing the farmhouse, which was formerly a monastic building [it wasn't]. I had long waited such a chance as you can only see it partly from the road. The ancient windows and fine arched doorway are striking features. The weather was just glorious."






Queen Victoria photographed at the time of her Diamond Jubilee in 1897.


This photograph is, allegedly, crowds attending the official opening of Sidney Gardens on 23 June 1898. However the photograph was taken by Yeovil Photographer Jarratt Beckett and published in his 1897 book  "Somerset viewed through a Camera" so must have been taken on the occasion of Jubilee Day.


From my collection

A medal "To commemorate the 60th Year of her Majesty's Reign". On the reverse it states "Presented by the Directors of the Western Gazette and Pullman's News Newspapers Co Ltd. 1897" The medal is 1½" (35mm) in diameter and was presented to the schoolchildren of Yeovil. 


Courtesy of Bill and Audrey Robertson

The Town Hall photographed in 1897 when it was decorated to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The photograph is by John Bell of Yeovil. 


Yeovil Town Band photographed in 1897.


From my collection

A postcard of the Yeovil Salvation Army Band dating to around 1908.