The Royal Visit to Bethnal-Green

The Royal Visit to Bethnal-Green. 1872. Source: Illustrated London News, 2 June 1872, p. 615. Click on image to enlarge it.

Extract from the ILN

The opening of the Bethnal-green Museum by the Prince and Princess of Wales on Monday last was a gratifying occasion for the poor people of that rather shabby and depressed quarter. It needs to be cheered now and then with a show of public festivity and with the display of beautiful objects, if nothing can be done for the revival of its industrial prosperity, and if no great benefits have yet resulted from its splendid new market. The museum, situated near St. John’s Church, Cambridge-road, has been established by the Committee of Privy Council on Education of the Science and Art Depart ment, as a branch of their museum at South Kensington. Its history is briefly stated in the address read to the Prince of Wales by the Marquis of Ripon at the opening on Monday. The question of separating the collections at South Kensington, has been under consideration since 1865. It has long been felt that the accidental accumulation in one spot of heterogeneous collections, more or less distinct in character, was not convenient, and that the collections might be better developed separately, each one having its special objects and features. In 1865, when Lord Granville and Mr. Bruce were Lord President and Vice-President of the Council, the former presided over a meeting to consider the question of the establishment of metropolitan district museums. The Duke of Buckingham, when he was Lord President, interested himself in the subject. After a time, and principally through the exertions of Sir Antonio Brady, the Rev. S. Hansard, Mr. Clabon, Dr. J . Millar, and others, the land at Bethnal-green was purchased through the public subscriptions of the neigh bourhood to be held in trust, on condition that a museum should be built upon it and supported by the State, the necessary arrangements having been made by the Duke of Marlborough, as Lord President. This display of public spirit determined the site of the present museum. It has been established as a branch of the South Kensington Museum, and the collections of food and animal productions, with their allied industries, architectural models and sculpture, have been transferred to it. During the first twelvemonth of its existence, however, the principal attraction of this museum will be the valuable collection of pictures which formerly belonged to the late Marquis of Hertford, and which Sir Richard Wallace has generously lent, for one year, to delight and instruct the people of East London. A critical review of these works of art will be found in another page.

Wild's drawing of the proposed museum,in c. 1865. © Victoria and Albert Museum, museum no. D.738-1905, located in the Prints & Drawings Study Room. His responsibility was the brickwork frontage.

The Prince and Princess of Wales, with the ladies and gentlemen of their suite, came from Marlborough House in a procession of five open carriages, by the route along the Mall and across Whitehall to Westminster Bridge, along the Victoria Thames Embankment to Blackfriars, thence along Queen Victoria-street to the Mansion House, by Cornhill to Bishops gate-street, and so to Shoreditch and to Bethnal-green-road. The Prince wore the uniform of a general officer; the Princess wore a dress and bonnet of light pink. They started at twenty minutes before twelve, with an escort of a hundred Life Guards. The Prince and Princess, with Viscount Sydney, the Lord Chamberlain, sat in the last carriage. Many people stood in the road to see them pass; but they drove at a trot, and there was no preparation of festal display, except a few banners in Cornhill, till they reached Bishopsgate-street. Here, from Crosby Hall onwards, they were greeted with a profusion of flags, garlands, mottoes, and painted emblems, and with hearty acclamations by an immense throng of people all the way to the museum. At St. Botolph‘s Church there was a pretty arrangement of Venetian poles, with garlands of flowers, and the inscription, “God Bless the Prince and Princess!“ In Shoreditch the Standard Theatre and many private houses or shops were tastefully decorated. At the corner of Holywell lane there was a banner stretched across the main street of Shoreditch, with the words “Welcome to the East-End" inscribed on a red ground; on the reverse side was the motto, “Sympathy, Unity, Brotherhood" on a green ground. As their Royal Highnesses turned into the Bethnal green-road, amidst the cheers of a vast multitude of men, women, and children, they read on another banner, “Welcome to Bethnal-green." For more than a mile they proceeded through a continuous crowd of enthusiastically cheering people, not only on the side pavements, but at the windows and on the housetops. They paused under the railway arch, entering Cambridge-road and the square in front of St. John’s Church, the bells of which rang a merry peal. Turning to the left, the procession went through an avenue of Venetian masts with flags, and crimson-covered stands, upon which were thousands of spectators, with a number of charity-school children, the little girls in their neat uniform of caps and frocks.

At the entrance to the museum was a guard of honour of the 2nd Grenadier Guards. Another guard, with the troops to keep the street in front of the railings, was supplied by 250 men of the 2nd Tower Hamlets Engineer Volunteers, under Colonel Cummin, Captain Goodwin, and Lieutenants Godfrey and Islip. Their Royal Highnesses the Duke of Edinburgh and the Duke of Cambridge, the one in a naval Captain's and the other in a Field Marshal's uniform; the Marquis of Ripon, Lord President of the Council, in his official uniform, with the Garter, and the Right Hon. W. E. Forster, Vice-President, also in oflicial dress, with Mr. Henry Cole, C.B., were at the doors awaiting the Prince and Princess. Their Royal Highnesses arrived at twenty minutes past twelve. A little girl — Miss Bradbrook, daughter of the chairman of the local committee, who is also churchwarden of the parish — handed a bouquet to the Princess when she alighted from the carriage. Another little girl — Miss Constance Henderson, daughter of the Rev. H. C. Henderson — had another bouquet ready for her Royal Highness at the dais inside the building. The Duke of Marlborough, Earl Dudley and Ward, Lord de l’Isle, Lord Henry Lennox, Sir Richard Wallace, Lady Wallace, and Captain Wallace, Sir Bruce Seton, Sir Stafford Northcote, the Right Hon. A. S. Ayrton, Chief Commissioner of Works, the Lord Mayor of London, and Sheriff Sir J . Bennett, were among the distinguished persons in the company. The Burmese Ambassadors, also a chief of some North American Indian tribe, in their peculiar costumes, figured amidst the ladies and gentlemen there assembled.

The Prince and Princess of Wales were conducted into the museum, from the west door, by a procession, in which the oflicial personages of the Science and Art Department ushered them in, with the state trumpeters sounding a note of solemn preparation before them; the Equerries, the Grooms and Ladies of the Bedchamber, the Treasurer, Comptroller, Lord Chamberlain, and other Court officers, walking in advance of their Royal Highnesses. They took their places in front of the superb chairs or thrones, belonging to the Wallace collection, which had been set upon th dais at the eadt end. “God Save the Queen“ was meanwhile played by the band of the Hon. Artillery Company, in the gallery above the dais. Little Constance Henderson, with her big bouquet, was kindly led upto the dais by Mrs. Gladstone, the Premier's wife, and delivered her charge, which was graciously received by the Princess. The Marquis of Ripon then introduced the local committee, Mr. T. F. Bradbrook, Major Munro, Mr. R. Gladding, Mr. F. Young, Mr. Crossman, the Rev. Mr. Henderson, and Mr. Treadway. An address was presented by them to the Prince, who bowed in reply. The Bishop of London now read a special prayer for the occasion. The choir in the gallery, consisting of the children of twenty schools, with sixteen mature choristers from St. John's Church, accompanied by the organ and by trumpets and kettledrums, sang the Hundredth Psalm, Dr. Stainer acting as conductor. The Marquis of Ripon then read to the Prince of Wales an address from the Lords of the Com mittee of Council on Education, setting forth the plan of this museum, and inviting him to declare it open. The Prince expressed, in reply, his gratification at being able to represent the Queen on this occasion. Both he and the Princess were delighted to encourage and promote the instruction and healthful amusement of the poor. He also paid a high compliment, enthusiastically received, to Sir Richard Wallace. The speech was loudly applauded, and when the Prince said, “I now on my part declare this museum open,” there were renewed and continued cheers. After the National Anthem, sung with a powerful accompaniment of drums and trumpets, the Royal party left the dais, to make an inspection of the picture galleries, Sir Richard Wallace receiving them at the north gallery staircase, and conducting them round his collection. In the course of this promenade their Royal Highnesses were repeatedly cheered. After half an hour's absence the Prince and Princess returned to the dais; the procession was re-formed, and the Royal party left the hall amidst frequent rounds of cheering. The band of the Hon. Artillery Company played “God Bless the Prince of Wales," and as the Prince and Princess drove off another volley of cheers and the National Anthem greeted them. They returned westward by the Cam bridge and Hackney roads, Shoreditch, Norton-Folgate, Bishops gate-strect, the City, Queen Victoria-street, and the Thames Embankment. The heartiest expressions of loyalty greeted them during the whole journey.

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"The Royal Visit to Bethnal-Green.” Illustrated London News. Vol.2 (June 1872): 615. Hathi Trust Digital Library version of a copy in the University of Michigan Library. Web. 24 August 2020.

Created 24 August 2020