The Ashby & Nuneaton Joint Railway saw probably more than its fair share
of Royal Trains pass over its metals.
Queen 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
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
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 ARRIVAL AT SHACKERSTONE.
[BY OUR OWN REPORTER.]
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
AT THE STATION
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. 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
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
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
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
HIS MAJESTYS DISPOSAL
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
THE DEPARTURE FROM LONDON.
Notwithstanding 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 CARRIAGES.
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
A BEAUTIFUL BOUQUET
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.
TO GUARD THE KING.
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.
THE SCENE AT NUNEATON.
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
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
George Warrender, Mrs. Sassoon, the Duchess of Devonshire, Lady Emily
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.
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
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