Other animals were NOT so lucky…
Summer 1914: Shrewsbury.
A heatwaves sweeps the country in the last week of June and first week of July as the Royal Agricultural Show comes to Shrewsbury and welcomes King George V.
But while he was tipping his hat to the excited dense crowds who had packed in to see him – others were breathing a sigh of relief that rain overnight and in the morning had cooled the searing ground and stifling air.
Tuesday 30th June ( Three days earlier): The opening day of the show, which tours the country, saw a higher than usual attendance with 2,166 people piling through the gates.
Crowds came from across the country and locals advertised spare rooms and beds in the papers all over the UK – the fact the King was going was no doubt a big draw.
According to the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser:
‘Splendid weather ushered in the first day of the Royal Show and the heat was intense’ – ‘The county people attended in great force, and the weather and a multitude of attractions offered made the scene quite unusually gay for the first day of the “Royal“.’
There were more animals than usual too, but the quality was said to be much higher than previous years.
But as the day wore on the heat started to take its toll and the Ambulance Brigade was called into action to help fainting ladies. The animals however, didn’t fare so well.
A number of prize animals, including pigs and “fat, thick-fleeced” sheep overheated and died.
But one champion Tamworth pig got lucky as his owner, seeing the carnage around him, took action quickly. He gave the pig a cold bath and then put him under a tap.
The organisers must have been praying the heat would let up for the King’s visit on Friday.
Luckily on Thursday the rain fell and continued though the morning, cooling the ground and the air. The King, a patron of the show and exhibitor, arrived at Shrewsbury Train Station at 12:45, just as the rain stopped.
Shrewsbury was wonderfully decorated to mark the occasion and “a thousand flags draped over the ancient town”.
After he was greeted by officials, he stepped aboard an open carriage, drawn by four smart grey horses, with postilions and scarlet-coated outriders. The was a mighty shout and joyous peel of bells from the Castle, over which the Royal Standard was floating.
They drove through the town, past Charles Darwin’s statue and the old Shrewsbury School (now the library), down Pride Hill to Irelands Mansion and to the square where the carriage stopped.
A ceremony was performed on a platform in front of the statue of Clive of India. The Sword of the Borough was handed to the King who in response gave the Mayor a letter which read:
After the formalities the royal entourage continued along the High Street, down Wyle Cop and over the very narrow English Bridge. It passed the Abbey and headed to the show ground at the old racecourse in Monkmoor.
The King was greeted by a cheering crowd, a thousand strong, at the entrance, with 25,000 more already having passed through the turnstiles. He spent four hours at the show, watching the show jumping and touring the grounds, before heading back to the station and catching his train at 4.45pm.
It was a memorable occasion for the town and its townfolk, and thank fully a great end to a tough and blisteringly hot week that could have gone badly wrong.
Footage of the Kings visit still exists at the BFI (click on the link).