Proposed public room, 1887

1887 was Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, and this proposal was a way of celebrating it. The Assembly Rooms where the first meeting was held were at The Bell, and the site offered by T.P. Willis became 61-63 High Street. Like many such ideas in Winslow it came to nothing (at least partly because of Anglican v Nonconformist friction), and it took until 1945 for Winslow to get a Public Hall owned by the whole community.

Buckingham Advertiser, 22 Jan 1887

Winslow and the Queen’s Jubilee.

A meeting was held at the Assembly Rooms on Monday evening last, to take into consideration the most desirable and acceptable way of commemorating the Jubilee and of showing loyalty to and appreciation of Her Majesty’s benign and eventful reign by erecting in Winslow a suitable memorial for the benefit of the town.  There was a most representative attendance, including Mr. Willis, Mr. Wigley, Mr. Monk, Mr. James King, Mr. R. W. Jones, Mr. S. Jones, Mr. Creasy, Mr. Neal, Mr. Warne, Mr. C. Colgrove, Mr. W. H. French, Mr. Parrett, Mr. F. Loffler, Mr. George, Rev. T. Gwilliams, &c., &c.

William Selby-Lowndes, Esq., had been announced to take the chair, but it was stated by Mr. Wigley that he was unfortunately suffering from a cold and sore throat, so Mr. H. Monk was selected.   Mr. Monk, after reading the letter from Mr. Lowndes, expressing regret at inability to attend, said they would all agree with him that he was called to the post at very short notice.  Still, as a Winslow man he would do the best he could.  He thought their motive was to do something in honour of the jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen.  Whatever they did should be independent of sect or party.  He would not say what it should be, but leave that to their choice.  Somebody had said the great thing would be to get money to build a public room for all parties, and this would be very useful, but he would leave the matter with them, and should be very happy to hear any gentleman’s views.

Mr. S. Jones, as one of the gentlemen who waited on Mr. Lowndes to ask him to take the chair, said for one thing they must be thoroughly unsectarian, or they had better do nothing at all;  but if they could agree to come to some fair and reasonable proposition, they would be able to carry out something for the benefit of the town (cheers).  If any gentleman would propose something really rational and common sense that would be for the general advantage of the town.  It would not matter whether it was a public room or what it was, so long as they were agreed.

Mr. Geo. Wigley, after referring to Mr. Lowndes wish to do anything for the comfort of the inhabitants of Winslow, although dreadfully afraid of anything that would cause strife, said that as for any difference of opinion on the subject, it never entered into his mind.  He thought that as in nearly every village and town in the kingdom there would be a memorial in honour of the Jubilee, Winslow should not be behind.   After saying that he quite agreed with Mr. Jones’ views, Mr. Wigley said he believed he was justified in saying that there was a gentleman amongst them who, although not born in the town, had resided there most of his days, and who always had the interest of Winslow at heart.  He believed that if a fair and genuine effort was made to build a public room, this gentleman would do his best to give them an eligible site, and give something towards building it too (loud cheers).  His name began with a W, and he was not an auctioneer but a lawyer (renewed cheers).  [= T.P. Willis] He had ventured thus far because time was on the wing, and he did not want them to be sitting there like a lot of dummies.

Mr. T. P. Willis said that the discussion as to a memorial arose at a meeting of the Society for prosecuting felons, when it was thought something ought to be done, so a few of those present waited on Mr. Lowndes and asked him to take the chair.  With regard to what Mr. Wigley had said, there was the site of the old Gas Works, and he would give a portion of it freely for a public room, and a donation or subscription towards the expense of it, although he was not going to tell them what sum now (cheers).  There was the site and the room was very much needed.  He had nothing to say against Mr. Neal’s assembly room, it was a very good room, but not large enough for Winslow.

Mr. S. Jones said he was not aware when he came into the room that such a noble offer would be made.  Mr. Willis had chaffed him many a time that he had promised £50 for a public room, and that it was still in print.  Well, he knew all about that, but it was before these times of agricultural depression.  Mr. Jones went on to speak about the necessity of better school buildings, remarking that if they could kill two birds with one stone, so much the better.   Go through any of the villages round about, and you would see that they had good school buildings;  but our Boys’ School was certainly no credit to us.   It was a shame to work the willing horse, but would their friend do something to help in this matter, for it must come some time.   He would give £20 towards it, and that was all he could afford.

Mr. Neal supported Mr. Jones’ proposition, and referred to the danger of children being run over by passing traps.

The Chairman said he quite agreed with Mr. Jones and Mr. Neal, let them build a good school, and a good public room over, and it would be a credit to Winslow.

Mr. Wigley said he was sorry not to fall in with Mr. Neal and Mr. Jones.  But they must not attempt too much.  The day would come when they would have to group the schools, and make one noble building, and they would regret it if they now built a Boys’ School solely.

Mr. Willis said there was a great deal in what had been said about the schools, and nothing would have pleased him better than to give the ground, but the Education Department would make them group these schools some day, it would have to come shortly, and he was not at all certain that the Department would let them have part for a public room.

Mr. Warne said they would not.

Mr. George quite agreed that the school was not the best thing, because the expense of that could be spread over a number of years, say 20, but he thought whatever was done should be something that could be done at once.  The Queen’s Jubilee ought to be a lasting memorial, and no debt should be left on it after the jubilee year.  He thought nothing was more needed in Winslow than a recreation ground.

Mr. Hillyer asked if Mr. Willis would sell them the field known as the Flower Show Ground.  It would be as a recreation ground, and if at any time the school was rebuilt, it could come right up to the ground and they would have school playground and recreation ground in one.  Would Mr. Willis sell that and give them a donation?

Mr. Willis, in reply, said the property belonged to his late uncle, who left it to Mrs. Willis, and if an offer was made, he did not think she would part with it.

Mr. Wigley said he thought they could erect a room to hold 400 people, and if the sides and back were hidden, they could put a good substantial front that would be a credit to Winslow, quite for £500.  He had good reason to think so because he had worked the matter out.  A recreation ground would be very good, but it was largely a question of £. s. d., and one would cost more than the other.

Mr. Hathaway thought they must study £. s. d. very much.  A recreation ground was very much required, but as suitable ground was very scarce, and Mr. Willis had promised to give them the site for a room, they could not do better than accept his offer.

Mr. Robert Williatt Jones said he was very happy to support Mr. Hathaway’s proposition.  If they had a population of 10,000, they might go in for a recreation ground, but their population was not 2,000.   A public room had long been required but the question had been where to get a site.  He himself had been round trying to get a site at one time, but could not for love nor money.

Mr. S. Jones said it was a shame not to have a place where the boys and girls could play in, but this ought to be 7 or 8 acres of land.  He knew Mr. Willis had lately given £300 an acre, and was it likely that he would sell for less than he gave, or could they ask him and Mrs. Willis to spoil their property?  He called it a very noble offer – the site for a public room.

Mr. George said they were not obliged to have 7 or 8 acres, 5 acres would make a nice little recreation ground.   He knew, though perhaps it was not for him to mention it, of a piece that could be obtained for about £150 an acre.  Even four acres would be better than nothing.

Mr. W. H. French said he had not come to the meeting prepared to support the idea of a public room, that being a matter for the well-to-do classes.  But it had been well remarked that the wishes of the majority of the inhabitants should be acceded to in their ultimate decision.  The poor were in the majority, and the Queen’s Jubilee Memorial should be such as would benefit the poor (applause).  If it took the form of a public room, the property should be vested in the permanent keeping of a Board of ratepayers elected by the free vote of the householders of Winslow (cheers).  Mr. Willis’ liberal offer of a site for a pubic room had put the entire matter in a new light, and, without losing sight of the interest of the poor in the celebration, he wished to move a resolution of thanks to Mr. Willis for his proposed gift.  The public room he (the speaker) would advise to be of only one storey in height, spacious and lofty.   He moved – “That Mr. Willis’ generous offer of a site for a public building has the hearty thanks of this meeting, and that it be taken into further consideration upon this day fortnight (January 31), at the same time and place as the present meeting.”

Mr. Hathaway said they might make the room into a library or Mechanics’ Institute, and thus benefit the poor, and it if was only one storey high the expenses need not be so great, while the building would be equally as substantial.

Mr. Willis said that was a question of £. s. d. and bricks and mortar.  Winslow was not a rich place and people had been very hard pressed lately.   He was glad there were so many present to ventilate the question.

Mr. Warne remarked that a great deal had been said about the commemoration of the jubilee, but nothing at all about the celebration.   One of the speakers had spoken about roasting an ox on the Market Square, and something had been said about the poor.  He should be very sorry if nothing was to be done for the benefit of the poor and the young folks, so that in future days they should have something by which to remember the celebration (cheers).

The Chairman said he quite agreed with respect to a jollification for the poor at Winslow, and he thought that every poor woman, girl, and boy should have something to remember it by.  There were plenty of good men about, and they might make sure they would be bled.

Mr. Thomas Saving briefly supported Mr. French’s resolution, which was carried nem. dis., and the meeting terminated with an expression of thanks to the Chairman.

Buckingham Advertiser, 12 March 1887

W I N S  L O W

The following address has been circulated in this town: - To the Inhabitants of Winslow: - Fellow Townsmen, - The desire to commemorate one of the most remarkable and happy events of the present century, the Jubilee of our Sovereign, is finding practical demonstration in almost every city, town, and village, of this great country, and as [sic] evoked the same spirit of loyalty and enthusiasm in the little town of Winslow.

However clumsily ? and forgetful of conventionalities ? the preparatory efforts to substantially celebrate the event in Winslow, were brought about, it was conceived in a perfectly right-minded and generous spirit.

After holding two largely attended and enthusiastic meetings, of which the Press gave copious accounts, and after a partial canvass of the town for subscriptions, during which £325 was promised, - the Committee think it only due to themselves, as well as to those who generously promised the aid, to publish a plain statement of the facts, and their reasons for abandoning the project.

No compact for the carrying out at the first meeting of any particular scheme was in existence, the main promoters being singularly at issue as to the most desirable object, two advocating New Schools, two a Recreation Ground, one a Cottage Hospital, and one Almshouses.

At the meeting following these parties happily blended their views in one, that as Mr. Willis had offered a site for a Public Room, it should take that form.

The Committee submit –

That the absence of a Mayor, the Lord of the manor of the town appeared to be the rightly selected gentleman to take the chair.

That Mr. Selby-Lowndes gave his willing consent to do so.

That the announcement of the meeting was widely circulated, and that everyone had the opportunity of attending and expressing their views.

That if the movement was a loyal and desirable one, and also conducive to the general welfare of the town, the reason given that some were not consulted is a flimsy and unworthy one.

That the object, if carried out, would have been for the benefit of not only the present but of the future generations of Winslow.

That in reference to a Public Room, it can scarcely be denied that a good room for general purposes does not exist in Winslow, and that although the Baptists have their Centenary Hall and the Congregationalists their commodious School Rooms, Episcopalians have no room excepting the vestry of the church.

The assertion that it was got up by Disenters [sic] cannot be a fact, as the proposed Committee consisted of 8 Churchmen and only 3 Disenters.

That the deputation who waited on the wealthy inhabitants of Winslow found that they all with one accord began to make excuse, submitting that the churchyard fence and the debt on the church were of paramount importance.

Having thus explained our intentions and finding that our efforts, have been thwarted, we have finally decided to relinquish the work, but the loss of the opportunity to confer on Winslow some lasting benefit, privilege and pleasure, and the onus attaching to the failure, we lay at the door of those who have frustrated our designs.

We however add that we have decided not to relinquish a portion of our scheme, that of remembering the poor on the Jubilee Day, and of celebrating it by a general holiday.

Henry Monk, Thos. Price Willis, R. Williat Jones, Silvanus Jones, John Hathaway, G. D. E. Wigley, William Neal, W. S. Neal, A. G. Stevens, William Warne, Committee.

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Copyright 1 October, 2019