Tuesday, July 18, 2023

A Royal Visit To Halifax, 1863


In August 1863, the Prince of Wales - the future King Edward VII - visited Halifax to perform the opening ceremony of the newly built Town Hall. It had been hoped that his mother, Queen Victoria, would perform the opening ceremony but she was still in deep mourning following the death of her husband two years earlier. The visit was featured in an article in the Illustrated London News published on the 15th August 1863, from which the following illustrations are taken.


The first illustration shows the Prince leaving Halifax Station. The entrance in those days was on a level with Eureka's car park. It made a spectacular scene with Beacon Hill in the background.


The reason for the Prince of Wales visit to Halifax in 1863 was to officially open the new Town Hall. 22 year old Prince Edward performed the opening ceremony. The joy of the day was muted by both the rain, and by the absence of his new pregnant wife, Alexandra.


"The Prince went out on the balcony in front of the Town Hall and in a loud, clear, ringing voice proclaimed the hall opened. The sun burst forth transiently as the Prince came out and the declaration was received with tremendous cheering"


The fourth illustration of the 1863 visit by the Prince of Wales to Halifax shows the gathering of over 16,000 Sunday School children at the Piece Hall. The scene is almost reminiscent of this summers programme of concerts - could that be George Ezra on the stage?The accompanying article describes the Piece Hall thus: "The Piece Hall itself is a very appropriate place for such a gathering .... a somewhat rude, but on the whole effective, imitation of a Venetian piazza". The cheek of it!!!


They certainly made a bit of a fuss: ornamental pedestals, caps and plumes, flags of the nations, not to mention bronze flower-girls with baskets on their heads. Through all the bling you can make out Princess Street with the Town Hall at the end.


"To the address, His Royal Highness replied expressing his satisfaction at the successful skill and industry which characterised the inhabitants of the town of Halifax and his gratification at their having crowned their prosperity by the erection of such a building as the Town Hall"

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