Thursday, 24 May 2012

Curatorial Corner - 24th May 2012

The King and Queen come to Swindon

In this celebratory year of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee is was a real treat to find some royal material in our archive.  Tucked away in a box, the Curatorial team unearthed a file of paperwork relating to the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Swindon in April 1924.

Confirmation of the King and Queen's
visit to Swindon
Our present Queen is busy visiting  lots of different towns and cities as she prepares for the upcoming Jubilee celebrations in June.  The work that goes into each royal visit must be huge, and the paperwork from 1924 reveals that the same was also true 88 years ago.

Part of the King and Queen's visit in 1924 involved a tour around the Great Western Railway's Swindon Works.  The paperwork is a detailed timeline of the organisation required behind the visit. Letters were sent to and from different departments.  It appears that the visit was kept quiet at first, then the first dregs of information were issued to the press.  It must have been an exciting, but nerve-racking exercise for the Great Western Railway.  They had to make sure the day ran smoothly, but also that the King and Queen were equally impressed by the facilities at the Works.

One memo notes that Swindon Works had 48 Union Jack flags in their stores, as well as over 11,000 yards of bunting.  This would be used to decorate the Works, the station and the GWR Medical Fund buildings.

The paperwork also looks at how the royal party would travel from the railway station to the Works, as well as how many of the press would be allowed in.  It is clear from one letter that they wanted only the best press representatives at the Works, such as Pathe, The Daily Sketch, The Daily Mail, The Daily Mail and The Daily Express.  Special passes would also be issued accordingly.

Extract from the GWR Board of Directors
 meeting minutes
 The visit by the King and Queen was a huge success.  The King got the opportunity to drive the locomotive Windsor Castle from the Works to the Station.  A fantastic day all round.  

The correspondence doesn't end there either.  The letters and memos continue into May 1924 with praise and thanks to the various employees who took part in the event.  One of the locomotive firemen who was showcasing an engine received £1 for his work, which in today's money is approximately £30.

The Great Western Railway's connection with royalty was a really important one.  Find out more about these connections by visiting the Museum's Royal Road exhibition.  The exhibition is on now until the end of the year and is free with normal admission.  Children can take part in a Royal Road activity trail as well.  Trails can be purchased from the main ticket desk or downloaded for free from

Happy Diamond Jubilee!

King George V and Queen Mary on the footplate of Windsor Castle
during their visit to Swindon Works, 28th April 1924

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