Queen behind the curtains

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THE sad news of Brighouse soldiers killed in action in the Boer War dominated the columns of the Echo in the first week of the new century.

One of them, Pt Sam Wilkinson, who lived on Wakefield Road and was a member of the King’s Royal Rifles, died in the defence of Ladysmith. He was 25.

On February 2, 1901, the Echo reported the death of Queen Victoria and publicised that a national day of mourning would be held.

Most of our local churches held special services. On February 6 the Echo reported on the proclamation of King Edward Vll in the Borough Market and was read out by the Mayor Alderman J.W.Clay.

By 1904 the new century was bringing its first benefits to the public with the opening of the tramway extension in February from Stump Cross through to Hipperholme, down through Hove Edge and into the town centre with the terminus being outside the George Hotel.

The route was extended even further when the link to Bailiff Bridge was completed in the October.

The Echo reported a few weeks ago on the annual gathering of the Old Rastrickians’ – the old boys of the Rastrick Grammar School.

It is interesting to note that the original Rastrick Old Boys Association first met on the February 18, 1904.

It was June 1904 that the old Bethel New Connexion Chapel in Bethel Street closed for public worship prior to the building of the new and present day Central Methodists Church.

On that last day there were special church services to mark the passing of the old church which had been a place of worship and local landmark of the town centre since it opened in 1811.

The dedication service was conducted by the Reverend Joseph Foster and was just the start of a further three weeks celebration and services held at the church.

Today the church is as busy as ever with regular congregations exceeding 300.

The event that was or should have been one of the happiest occasions in the 1907 calendar was the first member of the royal family to visit the town.

Princess Louise the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria had accepted the invitation to open what was described as the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ gift to the people of Brighouse by the Mayor William Smith JP – the Brighouse Art Gallery, known today as the Smith Gallery.

It was May 22 when she travelled down from Kirklees Hall through the town centre and up Halifax Road, Brighouse.

Well wishers wanted to get just a glimpse of her but were left very disappointed with the carriage curtains being closed.

It was reported in a special Brighouse Echo supplement produced for the occasion that she spoke very few words at the opening ceremony inside the art gallery and left almost as quick as she had arrived.

The carriage curtains were still closed and what should have been a great day for Brighouse turned out to be so disappointing.

n Next week with the dark clouds over Europe gathering we will look at the devastating effect the First World War had on local people and its reporting in the Echo.