The Royal Connection

The Ashby & Nuneaton Joint Railway saw probably more than its fair share of Royal Trains pass over its metals.

Queen Vic on the ANJRQueen Victoria is known to of used the branch line in May 1897 on the way to Sheffield for her Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Its also known that just before WW.II a Royal train carrying King George VI and Queen Elizabeth entered the line. The route of the train was supposed to be a secret, but some how the news leaked out, and when the train steamed over the bridge at Measham half the town was on the railway bank to wave and cheer. The King and Queen were at lunch in the dining car, but as the train passed the queen, who wore a blue dress, is said to have waved back.

However there is one Royal Train that will always be remembered for visiting Shackerstone...

Edward VII was a regular visitor to Gopsall Hall as both Prince and King. His visits where generally for the shooting and other sport that could be had on the large estate. Gopsall was one of his "get aways" from mother's disapproving gaze. 

There is circumstantial evidence to indicate that he had "meetings" with Lilly Langtree, a popular actress of the period, at Gopsall.

In 1902 a full scale Royal visit only a few months after the coronation was arranged. The local paper now takes up the story...

The Nuneaton Observer, Friday, Dec 12, 1902

King & Queen at Gopsall.

The little picturesque village of Shackerstone presented a modest yet pretty appearance on Tuesday, when their Majesties the King and Queen, accompanied by Princess Victoria, honoured the Earl and Countess Howe with their presence. Streamers of national colours were stretched from tree to tree from one side of the road to the other, and some of the trees were entwined with bunting. The station was a picture, decorated with royal colours, the windows being out- lined with laurel leaves, and the pillars en- twined with ivy and holly. Inside, where the booking office is situated, was an abundance of winter fir trees, small evergreens, and bunting. An iron porch prettily painted red and white had been fixed from the station door to the edge of the platform, and a similar awning at the other entrance, in order that the Royal guests could be under cover from the train to the conveyance which would take them to the Hall, a distance of about a mile-and-a-half away. The lighting arrangements at the side of the station where the train stopped formed a great contrast to the usual dimly-lighted oil lamps. A number of little electric lights had been fixed he globes being shaded by golden cords and the top of the pendant, being in the shape of a crown. There, of course, being no electric lighting station near the spot-although there is electric light at Gopsall Hall-the light was supplied by accumulators brought down for the occasion. The adornment on the whole was certainly very effective, reflecting great credit on Mr. Cooke (the station-master) and his staff, assisted by the gardeners of Gopsall Hall. One of the permanent improvements at the station is that the platform has been flagged with Victoria stone which has replaced the old granite chippings on a substratum of earth.

As usual, every precaution was taken by the officials


in addition to whom only a knot of pressmen, including an "Observer" representative, were allowed and who assembled some time before the arrival of their Majesties. Royal Welcoming Party. George Cooke standing in verandah entrance.The officials present included Mr. H. Thompson. assistant superintendent of the L. and N.W. Railway, who was in charge of the local arrangements; Mr. A. Burchell, joint inspector; and Mr. G. Cooke, joint stationmaster. On the arrival of the pilot engine these were reinforced by Mr Dingley, district locomotive superintendent of the line, and Mr. Arthur Hasling, of the signalling department of the Midland Railway. Mr. W. B. Farr, of the engineering department (who supervised the erection of the awnings), was also present. Besides the railway officials, Mr. B. Holmes (chief-constable of Leicestershire) was on the platform. At 5.47, thirteen minutes before the train was due, the pilot engine came through and passed into the darkness. Lord Howe arrived a few minutes later. He was not accompanied by Countess Howe as has been stated by some newspapers, as her ladyship was not well enough to leave the Hall, in the night air.

After some time of anxious waiting, a message was received that the Royal train had passed through Nuneaton. During the time of waiting between the pilot and the Royal train, all eyes were turned towards the direction from which the train would come. The officials were busy here and there seeing that no detail had been overlooked, and a man with a red light was stationed at the far part of the platform so that the train could be brought to a standstill at the required point. When the train stopped the King could be seen at the end of one of the saloons (from which place he acknowledged the salutes of those on the platform) and the Queen and Princess Victoria near by at the end of the adjoining saloon. Here a little incident occurred. Sir Frederick Harrison who travelled in the Royal train tried to open the door at which the King stood, but by some means it would not unfasten in spite of


Inside could be seen his Majesty also trying to open the door.The exit at which the Queen stood was opened and she called to the King to leave by that door. Before the baize-covered platform or ramp could be brought Her Majesty made as if to step down on to the platform. Earl Howe who stood here said "One moment, madam," but she replied "No, I would rather get down," and taking the hand of Lord Howe she stepped down on to the platform followed by the Princess and his Majesty. Hearty greetings were exchanged between Lord Howe and his distinguished guests, and in the booking hall the Queen and Princess could be heard talking of the incident. It is thought that it was on account of the carriages being new-this was the first time this train was used-that the doors would not open so readily as was wished.

King Edward wore a dark overcoat with an astrachan collar, and Queen Alexandra had on a black cloak, the collar of which was of sable, while in her toque were some purple flowers. In attendance on their Majesties were Colonel the Hon. H. C. Legge, Captain Fritz Ponsonby, and Lady Emily Kingscote, who were amongst the list of guests. In addition there travelled in the train (drawn by one of Webb's four-cylinder compound engines, bearing the name "Warrior") the following railway officials : Sir Frederick Harrison, Mr. Robert Turnbull (superintendent of the line), Mr. H. A. Walker (district superintendent), Mr. C. A. Park (carriage superintendent), and Mr. George Whale (local superintendent). Chief Inspector Spencer, head of the police of the Royal Household, also was on the train.

At the entrance to the station were placed a number of police belonging to the county and also to the Midland and London and North-Western Railway Companies. Walking through the red-carpeted station, and passing through the line of police, the Royal guests entered a pair-horse brougham, which followed a single-horse conveyance of the same description, in which Earl Howe rode. As the party left the station the villagers who had assembled at the station gates, in spite of the biting cold, gave


and the carriage proceeded to the Hall, by the road which skirts the Ashby-de-la-Zouch and Nuneaton Canal, over the bridge, and through the- quiet little village. Taking the road by the Church, from which the cells were ringing merrily, the conveyances turned sharply to the left and were soon at the en- trance to the park, the drive being through the beautiful avenue of fir trees nearly a mile in length. Soon after their arrival at the Hall their Majesties dined with the rest of the house party which consisted of the Duchess of Devonshire; Sir Francis Lascelles, who has seen diplomatic service since 1871; the Marquis de Soveral (Portugese Minister), who was at Sandringham during the visit of the King of Portugal; Lady Sarah Wilson (Countess Howe's sister); the Duke of Roxburge; Admiral the Hon. Hedworth Lambton ; Captain Gordon Wilson: Lord Herbert Vane-Tempest; the Earl and Countess de Grey; Lady Maud Warrender; Sir George Warrender; Mrs Arthur Sassoon; Mr. Arthur Sassoon; Lady Juliet Lowther; Lady Norreys; the Duchess of Manchester; Mrs. Sneyd; and Mr. C. W. Perkins (organist at the Birmingham Town Hall). Mr. F. Cassano's band played during dinner, and has been engaged for the whole of the visit.

The arrangements on Tuesday were understood to be that the Premier and the Duke of Devonshire would not arrive till late in the week, while Lord Rosebery, at the time of writing, had not definitely decided as to the day on which he would be at Gopsall. The Viscount Curzon (Lord Howe's son) would also be present during the week. With these exceptions all the guests had arrived by four o'clock, the last arrivals being the Portugese Minister and the Earl and Countess de Gray. Some of the quests were present at the Hall on Monday and before the Royal visit there were one or two golfing parties. On Tuesday afternoon we saw a party on Lord Howe's private links in front of the Hall. Amongst them were the Earl, Sir Francis Lascelles, Mr and Mrs Sassoon and others. Every accomodation for the King was provided at the hall. The private telegraph wires being placed at


The Kings telegrphists coming down for the purpose. Lord Howe also very kindly intimated that a limited number of Press messages could be sent from the Hall by those who wished.


1902 Royal TimetableNotwithstanding the bitterly cold weather, a good many people found their way to Euston Station in the hope of seeing something of their Majesties upon their arrival from Buckingham Palace, says the London "Daily Telegraph." But the gates of the North-Western terminus, fully half an hour previous to the departure of the Royal special were closed to the public, and none were admitted, seemingly, to the station's precincts save a few who came with an official permit. Those so privileged were unusually favoured on this occasion, for the reason that Tuesday's Royal journey was the first upon which the new saloons built by the London and North-Western Company for the convenience of their Majesties have been brought into use, and they proved, upon inspection, to be not only exceedingly commodious in design and equipment, but quite exceptional in respect to the beauty and dainty elegance of their decorations and appointments. Lord Stalbridge, chairman of the company was present, together with Sir Frederick Harrison (the general manager), to receive the Royal party. Precisely at a quarter to four, when the train was due to start, the Royal brougham containing their Majesties and Princess Victoria drove up to the station, and a moment later the King and Queen and her Royal Highness crossed the carpeted platform and entered .the Royal saloons. As the train moved out of the station the King and Queen, who were seated in his Majesty's saloon, made gracious acknowledgement of the cheers of the assemblage on the platform.


The Royal saloons used on Tuesday, and which have been constructed at the company's works in Wolverton under the supervision of Mr. C. A. Park, the carriage superintendent, consist of two suites. That as- signed to the King is made up of a smoking- room, a "day compartment.' a bed-room, with dressing-room attached, and a saloon. Mahogany, inlaid with rosewood and satinwood, is the feature in his Majesty's "smoke" room; the chairs are upholstered in (Teen leather, and the curtains, carpet, and general fittings harmonise in this colour-scheme. The adjoining compartment is in white enamel, decorated in the Colonial style, and the furniture is in satinwood, with inlays of ivory, green, though of a lighter tone, being the predominating tint here as well. Some- what similar are the bed and dressing rooms, and a special feature in all the sections is the method adopted for heating or cooling. Electric heaters have been introduced, so that any temperature desired can be " laid on," while for warm weather electric waving fans have been provided. Modern comforts supplied in the Royal saloon even include the provision of electric cigar-lighters. Queen Alexandra's bedroom is draped in delicate pink, the pretty effect of which w enhanced by spick-and-span silver-plated fittings. Adjoining is her Majesty's dressing room, similar in design, but with inlaid satinwood furniture; while next to it is in- other dressing-room, similar in design, no less ornate, for the use of Princess Victoria. The Queen's saloon is identical in general arrangements with that set aside for the King, and in it, on Tuesday, was placed for her Majesty's acceptance,


of pink roses and lilies of the valley, tied with ribbons of palest pink silk. This was taken to Gopsall Hall. • Attached to the saloons are balconies which are so equipped with windows that they can be made to serve the purpose of " observation cars." At the end of each electric plugs connecting with heaters for the provision of tea, coffee, etc. Great interest was naturally shown on Tuesday in these magnificently-decorated saloons, which probably carry luxury in railway travelling beyond anything of the kind seen before in this or any other country.


During his recent journeys to and from Sandringham, London, and Windsor it would have been said that but for the guards of honour, the few police who kept the way, and the actual suite, his Majesty was perfectly unattended and unprotected. It is quite true that the King travels and moves with less precautions than any of his brother monarchs, but as a matter of fact he is not quite so unprotected as may seem. Wherever he goes he is surrounded by detectives in plain clothes who act as scouts, outposts, and sentries. It is their business to investigate in advance, to mingle in the crowd, to hear what may be said, to keep a look-out for suspicious characters, and arrange that they should summarily be moved on by the regular police. It is their business also to remain unknown and unobserved. As we state above, there was a strong force of County and railway police present at Shackerstone.


At Nuneaton flags were floating from some of the buildings. The Royal train was due to reach Nuneaton at 5.48 p.m., and some little time before that hour all traffic ceased A staff of police, under Superintendent Evans and Sergeant Spencer, were on duty at the station, and a large crowd of townspeople assembled near the Bond Street entrance, a few persons being allowed on the down main line platform. There was also a crowd at the top of Wheat Street. Punctually to the advertised time the Royal express reached Nuneaton, but did not come to a standstill although slowing down very considerably some distance on the Rugby side of the station. An excellent glimpse of the King and many of the occupants of the half-dozen saloons was obtained.


His Majesty was greeted by fine weather on Wednesday, his first day's stay at Gopsall mere had been a hard frost during the night and the roads were dry and hard, while the fish-pond and lake in the grounds had been frozen over with n new coating of ice. The Howe flag had been pulled down from the Hall, and a big Royal Standard flung its colours to the breeze.

The King was early astir, and by half-past ten he, with Earl Howe and the majority of the gentlemen of the house party, started for ft day's shooting. The King, with Lord Howe, was driven in an open carriage down the main drive and through Bilston, and a I start was made in Sharp's Covert. The party worked through to the Racecourse Covert, I and then, shortly after one o'clock, adjournen for lunch, which was served in a tent on the ground. The shooting party was corn- i prised of the King. Lord Howe, Mr. Sassoon the Marquis de Several, the Earl de Gray, Colonel Legge, Captain Wllson, the Duke of Roxburghe, Captain Ponsohby, Admiral the Hon. H. Lambton, and Lord Herbert Vane-Tempest.

Four of the party were golfing in the morning, these being Sir George and Lady Maud . Warrender, Sir Frederic Lascelles, and Mrs Sassoon. A foursome was played, in which, the ladies opposed the gentlemen. At luncheon the shooting party was joined by her Majesty the Queen, Princess Victoria, Lady Howe, the Duchess of Manchester, Lady Maud Warrender, Sir George Warrender, Mrs. Sassoon, the Duchess of Devonshire, Lady Emily Kingscote, Sir Francis Lascelles, the Countess de Gray, Lady .Tulipt Lowther, Lady Norreys, Lady Sarah Wilson and Mrs. Sneyd. Lady Howe had recovered from her indisposition of Tuesday, and she was able to walk to the tent, where lunch was provided. The Queen and Princess and the rest of the ladies also walked there.

After luncheon the party resumed shooting in the Racecourse Covert, and continued till dusk, leaving off at about half-past three. Sport was exceedingly good, pheasants and hares being very numerous, and a large bag was obtained. There was an army of about, sixty beaters, who were dressed in overalls and coats of Holland, trimmed with red, with caps of holland and red peaks, and who carried red and white flags. This army with the keeper and loaders, as they streamed out over the covert, made the most picturesque sight.

Shackerstone Station c.1900 & "The Platform Hump"The abiding memory of the visit was of the commotion at the station. This is also the only place with a physical reminder of the visit. "The Platform Hump" is still evident. This a raised central section of Platform 1 just in front of the station verandah as can be seen in the picture.

It would also appear that Shackerstone can claim to have been the first outing of the new Royal LNWR train.

Judy Boam, who now runs the tea room at Shackerstone Station, has an interesting connection with this story. Her grandfather was a railwayman he stood at the boarded crossing at the north end of the station and waved the Royal Train to a stop with a special silk flag.

Also see Shackerstone Station & Gopsall Hall



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Shackerstone Station, Shackerstone, Leicestershire. CV13 6NW. United Kingdom.
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