Nostalgia by Peter Hawkes

Princess Victoria had become Queen on 20th June 1837 on the death of her uncle King William IV. For the first four years of her reign she never left London except to go to Windsor Castle.

She then married Prince Albert on February 10 1840 and they had their first child Princess Victoria that November. Whilst five months pregnant with Prince Albert Edward (later King Edward VII), Victoria announced that she would make her first provincial tour as Queen.

Local historian Neil Rees describes how on July 17 1841 it was reported that: “Her Majesty is… about to pay a series of visits to several noble families, whose residences are within a moderate distance from town; but we are assured her Majesty has been advised not to make an extended tour, from the consequent fatigue, in the necessarily delicate state of her Majesty’s health.”

A week later it was announced: “It is expected that Her Majesty and Prince Albert will leave Windsor on Monday for Woburn Abbey, to honour the Duke and Duchess of Bedford with a visit.”

The route to Woburn Abbey took the carriages via Gerrards Cross, Chalfont, Amersham, Chesham, Chesham Bois, Berkhamsted and Dunstable.

With advanced knowledge of the visit, William Lowndes Esq (1807-1864) of the Bury in Chesham, chaired a committee to plan the visit.

So on Monday 26th July 1841 the Chesham band led a procession through Chesham, for all the Sunday School children and their teachers from all the different churches.

At 11am the children assembled in Lowndes Park for amusements, and then lunch was provided for 850 children and 150 teachers, whilst they waited for the Queen.

Meanwhile Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and two carriages of staff, escorted by a party of the 11th (Prince Albert’s Own) Hussars, had left Windsor Castle at 1.20pm.

About 2.45 pm the Queen arrived at Amersham, where she received a great welcome. “The principal streets were decorated with triumphal arches, colours on all sides, and bands of music playing, and the assembled thousands anxiously waiting the approach of the royal traveller.

Her Majesty was escorted by the townspeople, through the little market town of Amersham, to the top of the hill, on which the rectory house stands.”

The Queen then went to Chesham Bois Common, where she was received by the future first Lord Chesham - the Hon Charles Compton Cavendish M.P. (1793-1863) - and his tenants, with 150 men on horseback who followed the Queen’s carriage to Chesham.

Writing in 1870, the event was recalled by William Lowndes’ brother, Rev Charles Lowndes (1808-1890): “As soon as the cavalcade appeared on the hill above the valley of Chesham, the cannon posted on the opposite hill commenced firing a double royal salute of half-minute guns.

“At the entrance of the town, her Majesty was received by the Chesham troop of Bucks Hussars, under the command of Captain Fuller; by whom, with a large body of horsemen, she was conducted to Great Berkhampstead. On entering Chesham, her Majesty’s carriage slackened speed to a steady walk at which pace it proceeded through the whole length of the town, and through the four triumphal arches which had been erected at various parts.

“One of the most imposing and affecting parts of the whole pageant consisted of the Sunday School children, to the number of 850, who had been collected in a long row of waggons in the Broadway, and from whom there issued a shout of little voices and a clapping of hands quite overwhelming.”

From Chesham the Queen was escorted to Berkhamsted, and from there her convoy went to Dunstable, and arrived at Woburn Abbey at 6 p.m. It was reported that: “Nothing could exceed the enthusiasm which prevailed throughout the whole neighbourhood, and her Majesty and the Prince appeared highly gratified. In the evening, after the gentlemen returned from Berkhamsted, the principal inhabitants and the Officers of the Yeomanry, about 60 in number, dined together in the Town Hall, Mr. Lowndes being in the chair, and under his admirable management the day was closed in the most harmonious and agreeable manner.”

Meanwhile in Latimer the Hon. C.C. Cavendish threw a party for his tenants, when “every one of his numerous tenants was present on this most interesting occasion; and his hospitality, in the evening of this memorable day, to the party assembled under the large elm tree, in the village of Latimer, will long be remembered.”

One lasting legacy was the new tradition it started in Chesham. The inter-church Sunday School children’s party in Lowndes Park was so successful that it became an annual Sunday School procession and fete, often held at the Bury or in the Park.

You can find this and other tales in the book Chesham Stories – Illustrated at