A red carpet royal visit

Published: 1 Apr 2012 17:000 comments

by David Cliffe - former librarian at Reading Central Library

DURING my retirement, to keep myself amused and to keep my hand in, I've been continuing to catalogue pictures in the vast and rich collection in Reading Central Library - voluntary and unpaid, of course.

Station's special visitor: A picture from Reading Central Library shows The Prince Of Wales tipping his hat, Leonard Goodhart Sutton, The Mayor Of Reading, turned away and standing next to The Prince and the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire, Mr J. H. Benyon, standing between the Mayor and policeman

I've catalogued a large collection of old match-box labels, and scanned many negatives of photographs of Reading street scenes where redevelopment was taking place around 1980.

Now I've returned to the backlog of older photographs of Reading, and I've made a start on the box of pictures of royal visits. The first folder to come to hand contained the pictures of the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1926 - the visit during which the new Caversham Bridge was officially opened, which had to be delayed on account of the General Strike.

I published one of these pictures last year, because it had a good view of the electricity generating station. The photograph was taken to show His Royal Highness in the Thames Conservancy launch, 'Denola', in transit between Caversham Bridge and Reading Bridge.

Here we have another picture, taken to show the Prince, but perhaps what appears behind him is more interesting.

This picture intrigued me because it showed the station indicator.

The Prince arrived from London, in his own special carriage, attached to an ordinary timetabled train.

As can be seen, at the station the red carpet has been rolled out.

The Mayor of Reading, Leonard Goodhart Sutton, with silver whiskers, stands to the right of the Prince, looking away from us, and the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire, Mr. J. H. Benyon, stands between the Mayor and a policeman.

The timetable, behind the Prince and his entourage, appears to be made up of rectangles of enamelled metal, fitted into a series of frames.

The frame to the left shows 'Trains Leaving this Station - Weekdays', and that to the right shows the same thing on Saturdays.

Presumably there would have been a third one for Sundays.

And presumably there would have been some means of locking the rectangles into their frames, to prevent mischief-makers from confusing the passengers.

The next row of rectangles presumably indicates the destinations of the trains, and under each of them are two columns - one of them the times of a.m. departures, and the other for p.m. departures - we obviously didn't use the 24-hour clock in those days.

It's quite a clear photograph, but I just wish I could read a bit more of that timetable.

On leaving the station, His Royal Highness had a full day planned out for him - inspecting the guard of honour; Sutton's seed trial grounds; Huntley and Palmer's factory; unveiling the tablet at Caversham Bridge; then by launch to Reading Bridge; car to the Town Hall for lunch and speeches; then the Co-op bakery in Grovelands Road; Simonds' brewery; Huntley, Boorne and Stevens' tinplate works; the Royal Berkshire Hospital; the University; Reading School; and then to Palmer Park for an organised programme of children's games and sports, before returning to the station for the 5.25pm train back to London.

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