The Royal Wedding Celebrations in Sudbury, 1863

The Royal Wedding Celebrations in Sudbury, 1863

Rev. J. W. H. Molyneux Image from the ‘Friends’ of St. Peter’s’ archive

Monday March 9th, 1863
Two shillings each is distributed to 500 of the poor in Sudbury. The money has been raised by public subscription for the Royal Wedding celebrations.
The Rector, Rev. J. W. H. Molyneux, reminds the bell ringers that if they are so misled as to make a forcible entry into the belfry of St. Peter’s tomorrow to ring for the wedding of the Prince of Wales in Lent, they will not be allowed to ring or chime again either in St. Peter’s or St. Gregory’s Church. The Rector has the lock changed on the turret door and takes possession of the keys to St. Peter’s. He also warns the Mayor that he has heard rumours that the ringers are going to break into the Church with a view to ringing the bells tomorrow. He adds that the windows and furniture of the churches have been threatened together with the windows of his own house in Stour Street, and that he has been told that he will be prevented from attending St. Peter’s at his usual hour, 7.15 a.m., on the wedding morning.
The Mayor replies that he has taken precautionary measures by swearing in a large number of special constables.

(Image from the Sudbury Photo Archive)
N.E. view of the Church of St. Peter’s, Sudbury, Wm Ruffell

Tuesday March 10th, 1863
5 a.m.: The Volunteers arrive at Old Market Place and prepare cannons for firing
6 a.m.: A royal salute of 21 guns echoes around Old Market Place. Six volunteers fire volleys in various parts of the town. The entire population is soon up and stirring. Everyone is busy finishing their decorations and putting up flags.
7 a.m. To the great surprise of the inhabitants, the bells of St. Peter’s begin to ring out merry peals. Everyone knows that the Rector has forbidden any ‘joy bells’ as the Royal Wedding is taking place during Lent. There is much speculation as to how the ringers have gained entry to the belfry.
9.30 a.m. The Rector writes a strongly-worded letter to the editor of ‘The Suffolk and Essex Free Press’ confirming that the ringers will no longer be allowed to ring or chime in St. Peter’s and St. Gregory’s Churches. He also writes to the Mayor telling him to remove the persons who have taken possession of the tower, but the correspondence is ignored until the day after the celebrations.

The Corn Exchange, Sudbury. (Image from the Sudbury Photo Archive)

10 a.m.: A public breakfast takes place at the Corn Exchange with the Mayor, (Samuel Higgs), in the chair and 100 ladies and gentlemen present.

The Market Hill, Sudbury, c.1860. (Image from the Sudbury Photo Archive)

11.30 a.m.: School children begin to assemble on the Market Hill and are marshalled to their places in the procession where they are lined-up in ‘fours’. The Baptist Chapel Sunday School numbers 270, with 60 small flags, and large banners. The girls carry small banners. One very little child has a banner with the Prince of Wales on it. The Trinity Chapel Schools number 340 and carry 200 printed flags as well as some large banners.

Friars Street Schools are 420 strong, with numerous banners and 17 silk flags. The North Street Schools number about 200; their banners are very artistic. All Saints Schools muster 250 and carry banners. The Workhouse children carry tricolours and number 100. The Grammar School Boys are not very numerous, but they wear their caps and carry a banner.
Next come the 61 Yeomanry Cavalry from Long Melford, and then 45 of the Volunteer Rifles in their green uniforms, with the officers wearing scarlet ribbons. They are followed by 100 Odd Fellows with the leading men carrying drawn swords. The Odd Fellows are in full regalia, blue sashes with white edging, the officers wear scarlet and orange. They have two large banners.
The members of the Corporation wear white silk sashes edged with scarlet and white favours.
The large space on the Market Hill and every window giving a view of the spot is crowded with people as the National Anthem is sung. (This has been especially adapted by the Mayor for the occasion.) Three cheers are given for the Queen, the Prince and Princess. The ringers in St. Peter’s tower who have been ringing and chiming all morning are also given three cheers.

The procession, under the direction of Sergeant-Major Pratt, (of 17 Friars Street), leads off in the following order:
Police Constables
Long Melford Squadron of Yeomanry Cavalry
11th Suffolk Rifle Volunteers
Mayor and Corporation
Magistrates and Inhabitants of the Borough
The Grammar School
All Saints’ Schools
North Street Schools
Friars Street Independent Schools
Baptist Chapel Schools
Trinity Chapel Schools
The Children of the Sudbury Union
The United Lodge of Odd Fellows
The United Courts of Foresters
Officers and Past Officers of the Lodges of Odd Fellows

The procession, (numbering 2,000 people), makes its way down Friars Street to Ballingdon and then returns by Sepulchre Street, (Gainsborough Street), up North Street, through Borhame-Gate Street and back to Mr. Stedman’s grounds at Belle Vue.

Belle Vue, Sudbury. (Image from the Sudbury Photo Archive)

There are arches of evergreens decorated with flags. The Yeomanry and Volunteers march past, forming and reforming, file firing, and firing in line etc.; the Volunteers then throw out skirmishers, advance, retreat and charge the spectators at the sound of a bugle. This takes an hour and a half.
A ring has been formed on Belle Vue meadow and a variety of rustic sports take place such as wheeling barrows blind-folded, football, wrestling, hurdle races, running races and scrambling for nuts and oranges. Many prefer to dance on the meadow.
4.00 a.m. The children are collected together, and they march back to their school-rooms, where a feast of tea, buns and cakes awaits them. The Mayor visits all the schools whilst the children are having tea. Another visitor, Mr. Brock, generously presents each of the 1,500 children with a large orange.
After the children have been dismissed, the teachers, (160 of them), have tea in their respective school-rooms.
4.30 p.m. The sports at Belle Vue Meadow finish. A dinner takes place at the Rose and Crown for 80 people. A free dinner is given to 120 Odd Fellows at the Christopher Inn by the landlord, Mr. Double. There is a large party at the Horn Inn. The Foresters dine at the Dragon Inn. A baron of beef has been roasted at the Four Swans for another large party.

This photograph was taken on Tuesday March 10th 1863 in North Street, Sudbury. The decorated arch in the foreground stretches from the ‘Four Swans’ Hotel across to the Mayor’s house. (Samuel Higgs). The ‘Green Dragon’ is on the right.
(Image from the Sudbury Photo Archive)

7.00 p.m.: The illuminations burn well, and the streets of Sudbury are crowded with spectators. Fireworks, crackers and squibs are in great demand.
9.30 p.m.: A large bonfire is lit on the Market Hill and a torch-lit procession, headed by the Rifle Band, marches around the town. Some fire-balloons are set off. The weather stays calm and clear and everyone says how well the day has gone off. The festivities are concluded without a single accident. At least 3,000 visitors have been in the town for the celebrations.
Wednesday March 11th, 1863
Samuel Higgs, Mayor of Sudbury, replies to the Rector’s letter:
I was too much occupied yesterday to be able to acknowledge receipt of your note … I am bound to acknowledge that the preservation of the peace of the Borough was largely indebted to the loyalty of the bells.
Yours obediently,
S. Higgs