If you’ve walked by the College Green in Bristol recently, you may have noticed the statue of Queen Victoria has been covered with scaffolding. The reason being in honour of the June Jubilee celebrations, Queen Victoria’s statue has been restored and cleaned back to her former glory.
Queen Victoria was 78 when she celebrated her 60 year reign and is the only other British monarch to have celebrated a Diamond Jubilee celebration. Although elderly in appearance with limited mobility, she attended and presided over large and varied national events. Francis Greenacre, author, lecturer and former historian provides an insight as to what the celebrations were like in Bristol during Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.
In 1897 Bristol’s parades, parties, concerts, decorations, illuminations, fireworks and enormous bonfires surpassed even the fifty-year Golden Jubilee celebrations ten years earlier. This time, for example, the “illumination of the Clifton Suspension Bridge with 3,000 lamps was especially admired”. In 1887 the statue of ‘Victoria, Queen and Empress’ had been commissioned and, today, Queen Victoria still looks imperiously from College Green towards the centre of the city. But in 1897 a vastly more costly commemoration was agreed – the building of a substantial convalescent home.
The fine kidney-coloured brick building, now offices, is on Redland Hill at the top of Whiteladies Road. The Queen herself made her first formal visit to Bristol for 70 years in 1899 in order to open this home, the Queen Victoria Jubilee Convalescent Home. The decorations along the circular route from the train station to the Downs and back far surpassed any celebrations in Bristol’s history. One extraordinary event suggests the scale of the city’s reception. When the Queen’s carriage reached the top of Belgrave Road beside the Downs, the procession paused a few minutes to hear ’26,000 children from elementary and endowed schools and the Ashley Down orphanages’ sing the National Anthem. Her Majesty, it is recorded, “manifested feelings of deep emotion”. No wonder!