Not amused

An incident in Ipswich in July 1851 resulted in the town being banned from seeing members of the royal family visit the borough for seventy-five years.

The problem arose during a visit of Prince Albert to Ipswich in July 1851 to attend the annual meeting of the British Association and to lay the foundation stone at Ipswich School the following day. Somewhere along the route, six words shouted out in broad Suffolk by someone in the crowd, were to have a disastrous consequence. “Goo hoom, yer rotten ole Jarman.”

Albert probably did not understand but courtiers reported this to the Queen on return to Buckingham Palace and Victoria banned visits to the town. No member of the royal family came to Ipswich for the next three-quarters of a century. In 1902 the directors of the Mid Suffolk Light Railway planned a branch line that would link Debenham with Ipswich. The Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk was on the board and the Duke of Cambridge, first cousin of Queen Victoria, came by train to cut the first sod at Westerfield Junction. Because of the necessity of keeping Ipswich out of the ceremony a marquee had to be put up on the railway land for 600 guests.

The Duke’s first sod was also the last. Not a yard of track from Westerfield towards Debenham was ever laid and shortly thereafter the promoter of the whole scheme went bankrupt. Almost exactly a year later the Suffolk Victoria Nursing Institute was inaugurated as a memorial to Queen Victoria. It was opened in Lower Brook Street by Victoria’s third daughter Helena. She came not as British Royalty but as German: as Princess Christian, wife of HRH Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein.

After the death of King Edward VII in 1910, county memorials to him were planned throughout the land. The first to be completed was Suffolk’s, the Ipswich Sanatorium at Foxhall. People looked forward to a Royal opening but those in the know realised this would not be possible and invited Lord Balfour of Burleigh to perform the ceremony in June 1912. King George V in the earlier years of his reign was often a guest at shooting parties at Orwell Park but the Royal Train from London always passed through Ipswich and Derby Road stations without stopping.

In 1926 Prince Henry came to Ipswich to open an exhibition celebrating the bi-centenary of the artist’s birth ending a long royal displeasure.