Merrily pealed the bells of the Old Church when it was announced that Her Majesty would come to inaugurate the Statue. On Wednesday afternoon, the 21st, the Town Clerk telegraphed to the Mayor; that the day for the ceremony was the 30th, leaving only an interval of eight days for making the necessary preparations. The work, however, was entered upon, with enthusiasm, and the rapidity with which it was executed is astonishing. Everyone engaged in it with an earnest goodwill, and with a determination to do everything in their power to exhibit their loyalty and personal affection to the Queen. The sentiment pervaded every class, high and low, rich and poor, one and all, and we may add that more especially were the poorer and working classes delighted when it became know that Her Majesty wished to take such a route as should not restrict Her visit to appearing in the principal and the better streets of the town. In a few hours after the announcement of the intended visit, the busy hum of preparation commenced, and rapidly increased. Every man who could handle a pick, saw a board, or drive a nail, found employment, and never perhaps was a greater exemplification of the maxim that "Willing hearts and willing hands make light work," afforded. Night and day was the labour proceeded with, and gas fitters and professional decorators almost of themselves thronged the streets. All business, except such as was connected with the ceremony, was suspended. Looking to the whole of the arrangements, to their extent, to the very short time in which they were devised and completed, we may truly say that wonders were effected. Many hundreds of houses underwent most extensive transformations, their fronts being encased with galleries, trimmed with cloth of the brightest colours, while festoons and wreaths were also displayed with profusion. Indeed, it seemed as if some great magician or rather a band of great magicians had united their efforts to bring about a wonderful transformation.
There was not, unfortunately, any point of view from which a coup d'aeil of the whole of the spectacle could be obtained; but viewed from one or two positions, it appeared as if lines of flags and decorations rayed forth to almost every extremity of the town, as from a centre, or more properly speaking, converged towards the High Green, for that was the nucleus of adornment, with, a profusion that like the innermost leaves of a rose, hid the appearance of anything else. The arrangements and preparations for the visit were conducted by committees of the Town Council (whose names have already been published), aided by various local gentlemen, including Mr. Bidlake, Architect, whose services in connection with the decorations carried out at the public expense were of great value.
What might be called the minor in point of individual size, but so fat as regards multitude and effect, the major decorations, showed an expenditure of wealth, skill, taste, and labour on the part both of the Borough authorities and its private citizens, which spoke with startling emphasis of the general appreciation of the Royal Visit. Only the following streets of the route were decorated at the public expense: in Railway Street, Cleveland Street, Salop Street, Darlington Street, and Waterloo Road. The main features of these decorations consisted in the erection of long slender whitened poles along each side of the streets, and from the top of each of which floated a banneret, surmounted by a gilded spearhead. Attached to the upper part of the poles along the whole length of the streets there ran festoons of evergreens and paper flowers of varied hues. The appearance was pleasing, and was heightened by the abundance of flags and banners across the streets and pendant from windows. This abundance of flags and banners formed the chief and most ample adornment of the other streets upon the route, the decorations of which had been left to the enterprise of their inhabitants. More than six miles of festoons were made consuming upwards of forty loads of evergreens, kindly given by the noblemen and gentlemen of the neighbourhood; these festoons were made by Mr. Richard Lowe, under whose superintendence upwards of one hundred and thirty men and women were employed for the purpose.
Multitudinous flags and banners waved gaily with the passing breeze. The general decoration of Cock Street (since named Victoria Street), was marked by a harmoniousness of design which none other presented; and the effect was heightened by the abundance of striking designs for transparencies and illuminations along the fronts of the houses.
Three places, however, deserve special notice: High Green, Dudley Street, and Queen Street. In the first, the very centre of the day's proceedings, great taste had been shown. The shops were decorated with banners and devices, and the Queen could not fail to read, "God bless the Queen," " Albert the Good," " The Silent Father of Our Kings to be." The Swan Hotel bore the Royal Arms, and a fine display of banner trophies, and the Wolverhampton Bank, though out of view, was very handsomely decorated. In Dudley Street the ornamentations were most profuse. "God Save the Queen," in front of the premises of Mr. G. L. Underhill, inscribed in white letters on a crimson ground, was most effective, and was visible as the procession advanced up Queen Street, a brilliant star of great size being placed above. Along the street enormous banners, festoons, masses of evergreens and flowers, and other decorations, made the street a perfect fairy bower. The most striking features in Queen Street were the County Court and the Post Office. The former is well adapted for decoration. High above floated the Union Jack, beneath it and encircling a monstrous V was a trophy of varied flags, whilst "Albert," in large letters and semi-mourning, was stretched beneath. Spiral festoons of evergreens and flowers were twined round the columns, and others gracefully pendant stretched across the front. Below the balcony, "Welcome," with the word "Victoria " on each side, was inscribed in letters of two feet six inches, in bright blue and yellow margin, on white ground, and V's and monograms filled up the other spaces. The Post Office was in similar style, on a less scale, but perhaps more satisfactory as a complete piece of decoration. The whole street looked very elegant, and amongst the hundred devices for the illumination were some splendid stars in prismatic glass.
The first of the series of triumphal arches was erected at the entrance of the drive across the Great Western Railway Station, and was composed of coal, with designs in colliers' tools, characteristic of the trade of the neighbourhood. Some of the blocks were of immense size weighing nearly three tons and excited the wonder how such masses could be raised from their deep beds and placed in such an imposing, if not attractive position entire. Near the arch was a pyramid composed of the same material, the whole mass weighing about eighty tons, and which was forwarded to the Decorative Committee by Mr. Smith, agent to Earl Dudley.
On either side were four Italian bannerets, the side arches being surmounted by trophies of flags. The reverse of the arch bore the same appearance with the exception that the motto was "Long Live the Queen." Proceeding up Railway Street, Queen Street, and Dudley Street to Snow Hill, down Cleveland Street and Salop Street, the next arch was at the bottom of Darlington Street, and was one of architectural design, in the Italian style, with three spans, those crossing the footpaths being supported on each side by double columns, with gilded capitals. Over the central arch was the motto, "Long Live the Queen," while beneath were the Royal and Borough Arms surrounded by the Royal Standard, having the Standards of England and Denmark right and left with a cluster of flags.
The next arch was the Trades Trophy, in School Street; it consisted of three arches, the centre and larger one spanning the road, and two smaller arches over the footpaths. As indicated by its name, the arch was covered with the various hardware articles manufactured in the town. The bases of the columns were made of iron tubing, from the works of Mr. Brotherton; above these were a number of edge tools from Messrs. Perks; higher still were a number of domestic hardware goods arranged in neat order, the top consisting of japanned goods, from the Old Hall Works and Messrs. Loveridge's. The corners and edges of the trophy were composed of stout three inch cable, from the works of Messrs. Ironmonger. Over the centre arch were the words "Welcome to the Queen," and over the side arch the word, "Manufacture." The whole were surmounted with evergreens, flowers, flags, and banners. In the Waterloo Road was an arch of mingled architectural and floral design, of graceful structure; the centre space was crowned with the Borough Arms, having on each side the arms of the Earls of Lichfield, Dartmouth, Bradford, and Dudley, Lord Wrottesley, and the arms of the Giffards, all noble families associated with the neighbourhood. Over each side arch were the initials "V.R.," with flags and bannerets at the top.
At an early hour on Friday morning the streets were crowded beyond the extent to which the population of Wolverhampton could have filled them. Throughout the early morning and forenoon, trains from every part of the "Black Country," from the whole of the Potteries district, from Birmingham, Worcester, Stafford, and other still more distant places, were pouring thousands of visitors into the town. Hosts of the working classes took possession of the thoroughfares. With them came hundreds who sought such vantage ground as the stands and platforms provided. With these again came scores of carriages of all varieties of structure and description from the rural districts, bringing country squires, clergymen, and rustics to take past in the rare demonstration which made Friday a red-letter day. All classes known to the Midland Counties: the agricultural, the artizan, the trading, and the intellectual, were represented in the crowd, a good tempered, but often unruly crowd enough; and every element was visible that could contribute to a portraiture in little of the complex community of the district, which Her Majesty was about to honour with Her first public appearance since the sad bereavement that has made Her shrink too long from the demonstrative admiration of Her loyal subjects.
There was but little in the state of the atmosphere to lead the populace to plume itself on a day of what has long been called "Queen's Weather." The morning was cold and sharp; the air misty, and now and again drops of moisture, dripping on the pavements, seemed to threaten a wet day. Closed shops, the absence of ordinary business, the universal holiday which had been proclaimed and accepted, left only one subject of conversation. The Queen and her two fair Daughters, whom the inhabitants of these Midland districts had scarcely seen before, formed the common topic of discourse. The general excitement was augmented by the continuous arrivals of volunteer troops. Each company had its own special admirers, who cheered it in its progress through the streets; and each seemed to have its own particular band, that played its own particular tunes, till the town resounded with the cheerful but discordant music.
It was late before the police, assisted by the volunteers, proceeded to clear the barriers and to make plain the route along which the Royal Procession was to pass; and when they did so their task was comparatively easy. Owing to the great extent of streets over which the route extended, there was at one point or another, on the pavements, on the platforms, at shop windows, and house windows, on carts and in doorways, ample room for all who wished to see comfortably what there might be to see; and for the better part of an hour before the Royal Standard on the tower of the Collegiate Church signalled the arrival of the Royal train, the people were in their places and waiting the coming of the Procession.