A DAY IN GRAYS (part 2)


  by Peter Benson
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Those on the ship continued their preparations for the visitor who was to arrive just after 4 o’clock by special train at Grays Station from Fenchurch Street Station in London. Each year a dignitary would come to Grays to present prizes and certificates to boys of the Shaftesbury who had excelled in the past year. In the past those who presented the prizes on the Shaftesbury were Lords, Members of Parliament, Cardinals and in 1885 the Archbishop of Canterbury was the esteemed guest.

The Guard of Honour for the procession on that day was the local 1st Essex Artillery Volunteers 3rd Company, who lined the route the visitor was to take. The band of the regiment was posted outside the station yard to greet the special visitor. In the procession for the visitor for 1894 there were four carriages, the last of which was to carry that special visitor, a sailor himself, Queen Victoria’s Grandson, Prince George, The Duke of York, who on 6 May 1910 become King George V.

On this occasion the Royal Train stopped at, and the passengers alighted on, the south side of the station, not the north side where a train would normally stop, coming from the direction of London. The station was decorated professionally, with crimson cloth. The doorways were dressed with multi-coloured material, while the outer entrance was dressed with crimson fabric, having yellow borders. Poles were draped with the county coat-of-arms, and festoons of streamers, possessing all the colours of the rainbow. These were hung the length of the platforms.

Waiting to welcome the Duke to Grays was Captain Thomas Whitmore of Orsett Hall, a local Justice of the Peace, who provided the carriage the Duke was to ride in. The other three carriages, which carried other visitors to the ship, were supplied by various residents of Grays. Once at Grays the Royal visitor was received with a royal salute, while the band of the 1st Essex Artillery Volunteers played the National Anthem.

The first carriage in the procession contained the former Chairman of the Ship Committee, Mr. Henry Spicer and his wife, and the former Chairman of the Managers, Colonel Prendergast. The next carriage held the Vice Chairman of the London School Board, General Moberly and the Misses Moberly. In the third carriage was the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe, the Chairman of the London School Board Mr Diggle, and his wife and Mrs. Drew, wife of the Chairman of the Managers, while in the fourth and last rode H.R.H Duke of York, and his equerry Sir Charles Cust, Captain Thomas Whitmore and the Chairman of the Managers, Rev Andrew Drew.

As the Duke went through Grays the crowd greeted him not only standing in the street but also hanging out of windows, standing on balconies, on the top of shop fronts and makeshift platforms. Like the Shaftesbury, the town also was involved with the preparations. Grays was decked out in bunting and flags from the Station along the High Street, into New Road, Bridge Road, Sherfield Road and Argent Street, despite the Local Board under the Chairmanship of Edward Parker JP, of Belmont Castle failing to show any interest in the Royal visit. So it was left to the inhabitants of Grays to dress the town along the routes taken by the procession. It was said in the Grays & Tilbury Standard’s report about the Duke’s visit “Whatever feelings may have prompted the luke warmness of the Local Board, it is gratifying to be able to record that, despite depression in trade, there was an honest attempt on the part of many shopkeepers and private residents to offer a hearty and loyal welcome to him who may, ere long, occupy the throne”. Another regional paper the Essex Newsman said “The town did its best in the matter of decoration and bunting, and wreaths were plentiful along the route from the station”

As the Duke sat in his carriage on his way through Grays he would have seen the sites that the town had to offer. Grays was a very different place in 1894 from what it is today. Much of the established town was south of the railway line, the north side was in the early years of it’s development with new houses along the High Street, Clarence Road, London Road, Orsett Road and the Recreation Ground where the local football team was to play until 2010.

As the Duke turned right out of the Station into the High Street he would have noticed the large clock hanging from Arthur Boatman’s watchmakers shop and The Railway Hotel, decked out in banners. The procession, would have taken him in front of the Kings Arms Hotel, with its large bay windows facing the Market Square then turning left by the Parish Church into New Road missing the narrow High Street and seeing the shops, like John Sparks’ the harness maker, greengrocers shop in the Dutch House, and Rachel Hall’s Grocery shop opposite the centuries old weather-boarded houses and pubs like the Anchor and Hope beer house and White Hart.

Going along New Road, a road not in existence thirty years earlier, the procession would have passed the town’s Post Office run by Charles Homersham, Turner Jessop’s photographic studio next to Thomas Parker’s dairy and the National School. The Duke would have also seen the Chapels, the two Methodist Chapels and the Congregational Chapel. Towards the Eastern end of the road was a large house on the right, The Echoes which belonged to Charles Seabrooke, the owner of the Local Brewery, which was in Bridge Road.

The procession turned right into Bridge Road by the Congregational Chapel and passed Seabrooke’s Brewery on the right and left. Bridge Road then ran into Manor Way going down towards the River Thames. The procession then went across a field to the sea wall here he would have noticed the group of houses at the back of Argent Street, Trafalgar Terrace and Victoria Terrace, built on the marshland. At the sea wall the party would have walked along the Exmouth Causeway where the swimming baths were and there the Royal party was rowed by boat to the Shaftesbury, which was also dressed for the day like the yachts and the Training Ship Exmouth, which was moored not too far away.

Once on board, the boys gave a Royal Salute, the ship’s band played the National Anthem, and the boys gave a physical exercise demonstration to the Sailor’s Hornpipe. On the school deck Captain Striven RN gave his 16th annual report followed by the Chairman, Rev Andrew Drew giving his speech, thanking the Duke for coming at the request of the managers to distribute this year’s prizes and congratulated him and his wife, Princess Mary on the birth a few weeks earlier of their son, Prince Edward, who was to become the Duke of Windsor when he abdicated as King to marry Mrs Simpson.

The Duke of York distributed around seventy prizes of books and certificates of merit to the boys. He also presented ten silver medals for good conduct, and a silver watch and chain to the best boy, Charles Marsh, who also received two other awards. During the time the Duke was on board he made reference during his speech to the young Jackson “expressing deep sympathy with the parents of the poor child”. After the prize giving and speeches of thanks the Duke and his party left for the station and the town again came out to see the procession returning to the station just before 6 o’clock. This time the procession took a slightly different route back to the station, via Argent Street.

As he went along Argent Street, a typical working class street of the time the Duke would have passed the many houses in the Street where the front doors would have opened directly onto the street. Many of the families living in Argent Street at that time would have worked on the river as Lightermen, Bargemen and in the new docks at Tilbury, which has opened some eight years before in 1886. Many would have worked in the local chalk quarries and cement works as well as the local brewery, Seabrookes or even in the local Brickworks. He would have also passed John Saveall’s tobacconists shop and the only drinking establishment in the street, The Castle Inn run by William Reynolds. Sadly during one of the journeys to and from Grays Station it was reported in the Essex Newsman that one of the crowd threw a kitten at the Duke's carriage. Was this a gift for the new Prince or someone being malicious?

Just before Sherfield House, at the end of Argent Street, the procession turned right going uphill along Sherfield Road, then a road with about fourteen or so houses. Here the Duke would have passed the Ship’s Infirmary where young Jackson’s body was, Sergeant Major William Warren’s house, who was the drill Sergeant for 1st Essex Artillery Volunteers, 3rd Company, as well as the Headquarters for the 3rd Company. Later Sergeant Major Warren, a veteran of the Kaffir, Zulu and Boer Wars entertained the men at a Smoking Concert where he took the chair, A Smoking Concert consisted of live music and discussions before a men only audience, something that was very popular in Victorian times. The procession turned left back into New Road, then up to the High Street and ended at the station when it started to rain.

All in all a memorable day for very different reasons. For the Jackson family, the loss of a son and brother shortly after the loss of their mother Margaret, John’s Snr’s wife. Then in the afternoon, for the residents of Grays, with the town and the river all dressed up looking its best, the excitement of the Royal visitor.

Research Sources:

Thurrock Museum, Barry Barnes, Grays & Tilbury Standard, Essex Newsman, Kelly’s Directory of Essex 1895, Ordnance Survey Maps of Grays 25” to 1 Mile 1863 & 1897, Census Returns of England and Wales, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881 & 1891, England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes., British History online, A History of the County of Essex vol 8, The British Medical Journal 1903, Thurrock council Burials and Cremations dept.

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