Royal Visit to Ashton May 20, 1938

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth concluded their four days’ visit to Lancashire today with a tour from Knowlsey to Ashton-under-Lyne, and embracing: Wigan, Bolton, Radcliffe, Bury, Heywood, Rochdale and Oldham.

The King and Queen will set out this morning from Knowsley Hall, where they have been staying for the last two nights as the guest of Lord Derby, on the last stage of their tour of Industrial Lancashire. Today’s itinerary takes a zigzag course across the south-eastern part of the county, ending at Ashton-under-Lyne, where the King and Queen will entrain for London.

10:45am – Leave Knowsley hall and progress to Ashton-in-Makerfield.
11:10 am – Due Ashton-in-Makerfield, progress to Wigan.
11:33 am – Arrive Wigan Town Hall for presentations.
11:45 am – Leave Wigan for Bolton.
12:29 pm – Arrive Bolton Town Hall for presentations.
12:41 pm – Leave Bolton for Bury.
1:27 pm – Arrive Derby hall, Bury for presentations and lunch.
2:42 pm – Leave Bury via for Rochdale.
3:14 pm – Arrive Rochdale Town hall for presentations.
3:26 pm – Leave Rochdale for Oldham.
3:59 pm – Arrive Oldham Town Hall for presentations.
4:11 pm – Leave Oldham for Ashton-under-Lyne.
4:24 pm – Due Ashton Town Hall for presentations.
4:45 pm – Due Ashton Railway Station.

How Ashton Welcomed the King1

Lord Derby arrived in Ashton a few minutes ahead of the King and Queen. As the wireless message regarding his approach was received, his car was seen turning from Oldham road into Katherine Street, and a few minutes later he was being introduced to the Mayor and Mayoress and others on the platform. With the Town Clerk, he went over the list of people to be presented.


It was a thrilling moment when news was received that Their Majesties were in Ashton. Looking from the Town Hall, their car could be seen turning into Katherine Street. Flags were waved, and the cheering swelled into a deafening crescendo, as the car pulled up opposite the Town Hall entrance. The King and Queen were received by Lord Derby, the County Lieutenant, who presented the Mayor and Mayoress to them.

The Queen, smiling as she acknowledged the cheers of the dense crowd, was a radiant figure in a blue swagger two-piece with a hat to match. She wore a red rose on her left shoulder. The King, who looked well and fit, raised his hat in acknowledgement of the cheers.

The King broke off his conversation with the Mayor as the Regimental Band of the 9th Battalion, The Manchester Regiment played the national Anthem, and afterwards, with Lord Stanley, the hon. Colonel of the 9th Battalion, and Col. Barratt, the commanding officer, he inspected the guard of honour mounted by the Battalion, which had previously given the Royal Salute, under the command of Captain Hall. During the inspection, the Queen talked animatedly with the Mayor.

After the inspection, The King walked back to the platform and, with the Queen, ascended the dais on which two chairs had been placed for them. In front of the chairs was a blue carpet bearing the inscription “In commemoration of the crowning of King George VI, of Great Britain and Ireland, the Dominions beyond the seas, as King-Emperor of India, May 11, 1937. God save the King.”

The Presentations

After the presentations already named had been made, the following presentations were made by the Mayor to the King. Those to be presented sat on the right of the King and Queen, and as each was presented, after shaking hands with the King and Queen, they moved to the opposite side of the dais: –

The Deputy-Mayor, (Counsellor E. Meeks)
Borough Member, (Mr. F. B. Simpson and Mrs. Simpson)
Alderman R. S. Oldham, (Freeman of the Borough)
Alderman Col. J. Broadbent, (ex-Member for the Borough)
Alderman C. M. Bowden, (President, Portland House Social Centre)
Miss Margaret Bridge, (Matron, District Infirmary Ashton)
Miss A. Howard, (Matron, Ashton and District Sick Nursing Association)
Mr. Francis Dunn, (ex-Servicemen’s Association)
Alderman W. Wood, (National Gas and Oil Engine Co.)
Counsellor J. F. Davis
Alderman E. Broadbent, (President, National Chamber of Trade and hon. secretary Ashton Chamber of Trade)
Mr. J. Wolstencroft Jnr., (Secretary, Ashton and District Trades and Labour Council)
Mr. E. N. O’Hara, (Borough Treasurer)
Sir Charles H. Booth, (Magistrate’s Clerk)
Counsellor Mrs. M. E. Williamson, (President, Ashton Boy’s Club)
Rev. H. Whewell, (Rector and Rural Dean of Ashton)
Rev. G. A. Mitchell, (President, Ashton and District Free Church Council)
Father Bryan Hickey, (Roman Catholic Churches)
Mr. G. W. Fielding, (Secretary, Ashton and District Cotton Employers’ Association)
Mr. S. Howard, (Chairman, Limehurst Rural District Council) and Mrs. Howard
Mr. A. Brown, (Clerk, Limehurst Rural District Council) and Mrs. Brown

Royal Visit to Ashton May 20, 1938

“GOD SAVE THE KING!” – Just after Their Majesties arrived at the Town Hall, the band of the 9th Battalion the Manchester Regiment played the National Anthem and everybody stood to attention. In the foreground will be seen the ladies-in-waiting to the Queen, Lord Stanley, Mr. A. Lascelles (the King’s private secretary), Colonel W. M. Barratt (1/9th Batt.), the Chief Constable (Mr. H. Dutton), Mrs. D. W. Bromley, the Town Clerk (Mr. D. W. Bromley), Lord Derby, the Mayoress (Mrs. J. Q. Massey), the Mayor of Ashton (Alderman J. Q. Massey), and Queen Elizabeth, King George VI, and Captain Hordern (Chief Constable of Lancashire).

After the presentations, the King and Queen walked over to the disabled ex-Servicemen, and spoke to a number of them.


“Oh! My brother2 was in the Royal Scots”, said the Queen to one of the disabled ex-Servicemen, Mr. Slater of Oaken Clough, Limehurst, after he answered her query as to the regiment he served in during the war.

Edwin Slater with King George VI and Queen Elizabeth
Ashton May 20, 1938

ROYAL SCOTS – In the foreground can be seen Mrs. and Mr. D. Bromley, (The Town Clerk), the Mayoress (Mrs. J. Q. Massey), the Mayor of Ashton (Alderman J. Q. Massey), and King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, and Mr. Edwin Slater M.M., (ex-Serviceman Royal Scots Regiment).


To ex-Private John Spicks, 80 Stockport Road, Ashton, who was blinded as a result of his war service whilst serving with the Shropshire Light Infantry, the Queen offered a few words of encouragement. When Mr. Spinks showed her an invitation he received to an entertainment in Buckingham Palace in 1916, the Queen emanated, “That was a long time ago.”

The Queen displayed an interest in the motor carriage in which sat Mr. Percy Sampson 13 Minerva Road, Ashton, and asked him how fast it could travel. In reply to the Queen’s questions Mr. Sampson told her that he was “knocked out” at Bethune in 1917 by an aeroplane bomb.

Royal Visit to Ashton May 20, 1938
With Disabled Ex-Servicemen

WITH THE DISABLED EX-SERVICEMEN – The King and Queen spent a few minutes talking with the disabled ex-Servicemen, who were given a place of honour on the right of the dais.

“What speed do you travel in your motor carriage?”, was one of the questions Queen Elizabeth asked of Mr. Livensy of 91 Timperley Road, Ashton, who served in the war in the King’s Liverpool Regiment, lost both his legs, had fifteen wounds and also sustained a broken jaw.

The Queen smiled when he replied, “Thirty miles per hour, when no one is looking!”


In the course of the short talk which she had with him, the Queen told the Mayor that she thought Lancashire people were “wonderful” and that both she and the King had been impressed by the welcome they had received.

When the Mayor offered a compliment by remarking that the Scotch were also wonderful people the Queen replied, “Yes, they make a good combination.”

Told by the Mayor that the trade of the town was not as good as he would like to see it the Queen said she hoped it would soon improve.

The Queen said she was feeling rather tired after the tour and when the mayor said that she would, no doubt be glad to be able to return to the Princesses she said, “Yes, they are longing to see me.”

The King told the Mayor that he would take back with him happy memories of his visit to Ashton and expressed the hope that prosperity would return to the town.


It was intended that the Mayoress should present a bouquet of red roses to the Queen. Lord Derby, however, said that a rule had been made that no bouquets should be accepted throughout the tour. He promised that if the bouquet were placed in his car he would see that it was forwarded to Buckingham Palace.

After their conversations with the ex-Servicemen the King and Queen walked slowly back to the platform and stood for a moment acknowledging the cheering. Then they re-entered their car to a renewed burst of tumultuous cheering and drove away in the direction of Charlestown Station.

Queen’s Appreciation of Bouquet

In the handwriting of Lady Katherine Seymour, one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting, the Mayor has received the following letter:

Buckingham Palace

“Dear Mr. Mayor,

The Queen commands me to write and convey to you her Majesty’s warmest thanks for the beautiful bouquet which you so kindly presented to the Queen at Ashton-under-Lyne yesterday afternoon.

The Queen was deeply touched by your charming thought of presenting the red roses of Lancashire to Her Majesty and the lovely flowers remind her most happily of Their Majesties’ memorable tour of Lancashire this week.

The Queen hopes so much that you were not unduly tired after receiving Their Majesties, as she fully realizes what efforts you must make to overcome your great infirmity.

The Queen does indeed appreciate your lovely bouquet of red roses.”

“Deeply Moved”

Lord Derby has sent on to the mayor a copy of the following letter which he has received from the King:

“The Queen and I are deeply moved by the loyal and enthusiastic reception so characteristic of the County Palatine that has been given to us during the past four days.

Will you please convey our heartfelt thanks to the people of Lancashire who, in sunshine and in rain, came in their thousands to bid us welcome with a warmth of affection that we shall never forget.

I appreciate that the arrangements for our visit could not have been as perfect as they were without a great deal of forethought and organization on the part of those entrusted with them. I send my hearty congratulations on their success to you and to all those who co-operated with you.”

The King’s Thanks

The Chief Constable of Ashton has received the following letter from the Chief Constable of Lancashire (Capt. Hordern):

“Dear Mr. Diston, Lord Derby has asked me to let you know that he has received the following telegram from the private Secretary to H. M. the King: –

“The King will be grateful if you will convey to all Chief Constables concerned, and to the members of their respective forces, His Majesty’s high appreciation of the services they have rendered while he was in Lancashire. Throughout the visit all the arrangements were, His Majesty considers, admirably planned and admirably executed.”


The King and Queen ended their tour of Industrial Lancashire yesterday in perfect weather. They saw the mining and cotton towns of the county’s least attractive district bathed in sunshine, with a cloudless sky overhead, a kindly heat-haze shrouding the scarred and blackened landscape and an unwonted wealth of brilliant colour disguising the somber drabness of the streets and public buildings.

The day’s drive started at Knowsley Hall, where the King and Queen had been staying for the last two nights as the guests of Lord Derby. The procession was due to leave the park at 10:45, and as the zero hour drew near the pressmen who were to accompany the royal party were given an insight into the exceedingly thorough and complex precautions taken by the Lancashire County Police to ensure that the carefully planned programme should be carried through with the smoothness and precision of clockwork.

A police plane zoomed overhead, and on the radio of the control car in the park we heard its officer exchanging calls with stations at various points on the route. The advance pilot car, a big grey sports model with a large yellow circle on its tonneau cover, set off at 10:35, and the wireless operator warned the ‘plane the “X 50” – the royal landaulet – was ready to follow in a few minutes.  And so all through the journey the procession kept constantly in touch with patrols on the route ahead with the all-seeing occupants of the circling ‘plane ready for any emergency and assured of an unobstructed passage.


The royal car drove off, with hood down, some ten minutes late, and it is a tribute to the organization behind the nicely calculated time-table that it maintained this margin, within three or four minutes, all the way to Bury. Lines of chambermaids and scarlet-liveried footmen cheered the royal guests as they left the hall, and knots of labourers clustered behind the park railings at intervals to give them a farewell wave. Soon the procession had turned into the East Lancashire Road, and on our speedometer showed forty, fifty and sixty miles an hour.

But this rapid progress was possible only on short stretches, for at frequent intervals were stationed policemen holding red flags, to indicate a section where spectators could congregate to see the King and Queen pass slowly by. For two or three miles on either side of Ashton-in-Makerfield our speed was reduced to a crawl by the throngs of flag-waving school children and miners, who encroached on the roadway in almost uncontrolled but orderly enthusiasm. Even the window-frames of a half-built house were decorated with welcoming banners.


As we approached the centre of Wigan the banks of school children lining the route grew broader and denser, their agitated flags became a dancing haze of colour, and church bells pealed above their vociferous greetings. In the Market Square the caravan drew up, and the King and Queen were received by Lord Derby, who had driven on ahead. Twenty thousand people sang “God Save the King” at widely differing speeds, and drowned its irregular conclusion in a hearty cheer. The King inspected a guard of honour provided by the Fifth battalion the Manchester Regiment, and then the Queen and he chatted with a number of crippled but proudly be-medalled ex-servicemen.

The Mayor presented a number of civic notables, and in less than ten minutes the cars moved off again on the Bolton road. Here, in depressed mining villages, surrounded by ugly slag-heaps and starkly motionless winding gear, the crowds were thinner and less exuberant in their welcome. There were gloomy faces in the groups of clog-shod colliers, as well as among the vendors of flags and favours whose hopes of further sales were ended by our arrival. And it was here, on a deserted stretch of road near Deane, that the first mishap of the day occurred.

The second royal household car, containing Lord Stanley, Mr. A. Lascelles (the King’s private Secretary), and a detective, suddenly drew into the side of the road, and for a moment the rest of the procession halted, while the police pilot car and the royal landaulet passed rapidly out of sight. Immediately the occupants of the car which had stalled jumped into one of the others, and the procession had reformed itself before the leaders entered Bolton. The defect – a fault in the petrol feed – was quickly remedied, and the car resumed its proper place when the party reached Bolton Town Hall.

At the boundary of Bolton mounted policemen met the party and trotted alongside the cars. When the royal car had passed one of the horses began to prance, but the officer quickly brought his steed to order.

In Bolton, the lines of cheering people were still more exuberant, and still less subject to official restraint. Constables were stationed more than a hundred yards apart in most of the streets, but the children resisted the temptation to push their flags through the press-car windows as we crawled at a snail’s pace through the narrow space allowed us.


As before, the King and Queen were received by Lord Derby and proceeded to inspect the guard of honour and ex-servicemen. One of the latter, Mr. J. Taylor, told the King that the local association for limbless veterans had ceased to exist. “It is twenty years since the war“, he added, “and none of us are getting any younger. We should like free passes on the corporation trams and buses, as they have in other towns.” “Well”, answered the King, “you must write me a letter about it” – which Mr. Taylor promised to do.

The presentations were made under a gorgeous canopy of blue and yellow, flanked by masses of flowers, and there were hundreds of people watching and taking photographs from the rooftops opposite, besides the thousands that thronged the square and filled the windows.  Before they left Bolton the King and Queen were greeted by a large board, bearing the words “You’re Gradely Welcome,” which was attached to a girder hanging from a crane beside the framework of a new building.

And so it went on, through Farnworth, Ringley, Stand and Radcliffe with everywhere flags, crowds, cheers, and hordes of children. Near Ringley Station the same royal car developed the same unfortunate trouble as at Deane, but otherwise the royal progress was without untoward incident.

By this time one had gained some sympathetic inkling of the trials and hardships suffered by a King on these occasions, when he must try to appreciate that for nearly every person in these endless crowds his passage is an exciting event, joyfully anticipated and long remembered, whereas to us who saw them from the moving cars their uniform appearance ad interminable cheers became so tedious that we almost jumped with relief and delighted surprise when we entered Bury – and found the school children waving coloured handkerchiefs instead of Union Jacks.


Less than three hours after he had shaken hands with the King and Queen at Bury yesterday, Herbert Fearing (52), a disabled ex-serviceman, of Buller Street, Bury, collapsed and died at his home while describing his experiences to his wife.

He served with the 15th Lancashire Fusiliers at the Gallipoli landing and was badly wounded.


  1. This is an excerpt from an article that was originally published in the Saturday May 27, 1938 edition of the Ashton Reporter. It has been gently edited and slightly reformatted for accuracy and clarity. [back]
  2. The Queen’s brother, the Hon. Michael Claude Hamilton Bowes-Lyon, (“Mickie”), was a 2nd Lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion Royal Scots Regiment at the outbreak of world war one. Eventually, he was promoted to Captain with the 16th Royal Scots and while serving with them was a German Prisoner of War from April 28, 1917 to Nov 29, 1918. [back]
  3. This is an excerpt from an article that was originally published in the Saturday May 21, 1938 edition of the Manchester Guardian. [back]