Thursday 3 November 2022

Watford Charter Centenary Celebration

Centenary Celebration of the granting of Watford's Borough Charter

2022 marks 100 years since the town of Watford was awarded its borough status by Royal Charter.

On Friday 30th October at the West Watford Community Centre, an exhibition and afternoon tea was held in celebration of the granting of Watford's Borough Charter on 18th October 1922.
The person behind the idea was West Watford History Group's secretary Sue Ettridge and the event was brilliantly put together by her. Sue also gave a short speech to the invited guests and special thanks were given to all the volunteers who helped it all go smoothly and for the amazing celebratory cake made by one the Centre's Trustees. Photos can be found in the website gallery, but below is one of Sue in front of one of her Charter Day exhibits delivering her short but informative speech.

Centenary Charter Tea and Exhibition held at West Watford Community Centre

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Below is a full report concerning Charter Day posted in the Watford Observer. Credit goes to them for the photos used.

Watford’s Charter was granted in recognition of the town’s increasing importance as a centre for industry, business and as a home for a growing community, who, like today, were the heart of the town’s success and popularity.

The following extracts are taken from the Watford Observer:

Charter Day, October 18th, 1922: “Long before noon, crowds began to gather in High Street and to line the pavements. Those taking part in the procession began to assemble soon after 10 o’clock at the borough boundary at Haydon Road. Here a platform had been erected; it was covered with red baize, carried a score or more of chairs and at its back floated the Union Jack, flanked on either side by coloured bunting.”

The report goes on to then list all those who officiated from “the Charter Mayor, the Earl of Clarendon” through the mace bearer (Sgt-Major C Maxted) to Judge Dawson Crawford, a number of ladies and members of the Urban District Council and other public bodies”.

“The uniforms and robes which were worn, and the municipal maces and swords carried, contributed to a brilliant spectacle”, the report adds.

“There was little time to wait before the arrival of the Charter; in fact, some ten minutes before the hour fixed, cheering announced the arrival of the motor car in which were seated Mr Dennis Herbert (chairman of the Incorporation Committee), and Mr T.R. Clark (chairman of the Urban District Council) and Mr G Blake (vice chairman). Mr Dennis Herbert was in Court dress and as soon as the car had pulled up, he rose from his seat and addressed the Charter Mayor, those on the platform standing meanwhile.

“He said: ‘The people of Watford lately besought of his Majesty that their town might be raised to the position and dignity of a Borough as befitting its size and importance. Their request was put forward in a petition, signed by a majority... of the inhabitants. His Majesty was graciously pleased to comply with that request and has granted a Charter of Incorporation, in which your Lordship is designated as First or Charter Mayor, Mr Councillor R.A. Thorpe as your deputy and Mr William Hudson as First or Charter Town Clerk. I, therefore, as chairman of the Incorporation Committee, in company with the chairman and vice-chairman of the Urban District Council, have the honour to have received this morning from his Majesty’s Secretary of State, and to hand now to you the original Charter given by warrant under the King’s sign manual.’”

Receiving the Charter The Earl of Clarendon

The Mayor then received the Charter, said a few words of thanks and handed it to the chairman of the council for safekeeping.

He then read out a telegram to be sent to the King, George V, thanking him for granting the charter. “The telegram was at once despatched and a reply was received in time to be read by the Mayor at the subsequent meeting in the Palace Theatre,” the report notes.

Then it was time for the procession, and looking at the list of those involved, it must have gone on for some time. Police horses were first, followed by the local fire brigades, detachments of the Herts Territorial Regiment (with band and guns), the British Legion, Watford Company of Church Lads’ Brigade, Girl Guides, Boy Scouts, Watford Grammar School and other Watford schoolchildren... the list goes on and on including, yes, the good old Watford Observer, sandwiched between the chairman and members of the Watford and West Herts Medical Society and various magistrates.

Among the more unusual vehicles was, it seems, “a full size model of Stephenson’s Rocket”.

After that, and other train exhibits, came the trade cars from “such prominent firms as the Cobra and Delectaland”. Other highlights listed included “a car on which a shoemaker was at work”.

The report concluded: “The procession, which was of great length, travelled along High Street, St Albans Road, Station Road, Woodford Road, Queen’s Road and High Street, to the Market Place.”

Once it got there, so many people had gathered “that it was found impossible to clear an open space for the proclamation of the Charter” so the officials addressed everyone from the balcony of the Essex Arms hotel.

After various speeches, the Lord’s Prayer and much cheering, a banquet was held at Buck’s Restaurant. After that, came a public meeting at the Palace Theatre with many more speeches covering not only why Incorporation was a good idea but also containing much speculation on the future.

Lord Clarendon, when he rose to address the meeting, was received with loud and prolonged cheers and a quick chorus of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” with three cheers first for His Lordship and then three more for Lady Clarendon. The Charter Mayor began with the King’s reply to their telegram, which he concluded: “the King trusts that the Borough of Watford may long prosper and flourish.” Lord Clarendon said he hoped so too and “they could all assure [the King] they would one and all do their best to merit the high honour he had conferred upon them.”

The afternoon featured many speeches and much rejoicing but even when “God Save the King” was sung, that wasn’t the end of Charter Day. Still to come was a firework display in Cassiobury Park. It was so popular three people were crushed leaving the Park and 16 suffered “fainting fits” but it seems the worst injury in the evening was “a burn of the eye from a firework spark”. A great time was clearly had by most, if not all.

With thanks to Lynda Bullock and Stephen Danzig for the photos

and the Watford Observer for report and photos

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