Chichester City Treat Committee (ChiCity/CAL1)
On Tuesday 21st June 1887, the nation celebrated Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Events were held up and down the country to mark the occasion, and Chichester was no exception. The archives of Chichester City Council – held at the Record Office – feature a beautifully illustrated and detailed minute book which records the official Jubilee treat which was to be held for the City’s schoolchildren.
The minute book shows that the schoolchildren – numbering 1,829 in total and arranged in school groups, each with its own, unique rallying flag – were to be photographed in groups in the cattle market, before proceeding to Priory Park, where they were treated to tea, games, races, and a Punch and Judy show, to be run at the same time as a marionette show. As a souvenir of the day, each child was also given a mounted copy of their own photograph, as well as a commemorative mug.
Given the number of children involved, the day’s schedule was tightly controlled. They were to meet at 1.30pm at the cattle market (with each school being sent instructions as to the route they were to take in order to get to the cattle market), to be photographed by Mr W N Malby, before proceeding, at 2.30pm, to the Priory Park – via the East Street, the North Street and then Guildhall Street. Once at Priory Park, the children were to meet by their rallying flag before being dismissed to their entertainments, before gathering again at 4.15pm for their tea, to be held at 4.30pm. To assist with identification, each child was to wear an amulet on their left arm, featuring their school’s rallying flag.
This little minute book is simply a delight to read, and this is why I have chosen it as document of the month. It is full of incidental detail, including lists of the names of ladies who assisted with cutting up the plum cake and bread rolls for the children’s tea, or the names of those who arranged and marshalled the children’s races. It also includes printed ephemera, such as the tender issued to businesses and individuals for the supply of the children’s tea, the poster which shows how the children’s treat fitted into the rest of the City’s celebrations, and the arms which were to appear on the children’s commemorative mugs.
A number of pages are also dedicated to the sorry tale of the Punch and Judy and marionette shows, which failed to meet expectations (it had been hoped to secure a troop of performing dogs, but such was the demand that the Committee had to make do with a marionette show instead). Both shows had been booked from ‘Col. Meurice’s Amusement Supply Association’ but, according to the minutes, ‘one performer only was, however, sent down together with an assistant for the Punch and a small boy as musician for the marionettes. The two performances could not therefore go simultaneously. The Punch and Judy show was a very poor performance, and the marionettes were not as good as they ought to have been’. The council refused to pay Col. Meurice’s bill, resulting in ‘a very illiterate letter…from “Col” Meurice, threatening to place the matter in the hands of his solicitors’. In the court case which followed, which the City Council lost, it emerged that ‘the chief performer and the assistant were both dead. The small boy who played the music was the only survivor of the party’. A sorry end to a very sad tale.
All this aside, the day must have been a memorable one for all concerned, given that the City was bedecked with bunting and decorations, as well as being illuminated with electricity; in addition, the city gates were decorated in grand style and, following the children’s Treat, a torchlight procession and a grand display of fireworks were held, accompanied by music from the Royal Sussex Regiment band. The Treat Committee’s minute book shows the organisation required to put together a part of the City’s celebrations, and just how much of an occasion the Golden Jubilee was.