THE ROYAL VISIT TO SHEFFIELD - 21 October 1937

I came across this event when I was researching Victoria Cross holders that had a Sheffield connection. During this visit, James Welch VC was presented to the Royal couple. Even though James was not born in Sheffield, he worked in the city for over forty years. Anyway in the Times dated 22nd October 1937, there was a full report of the visit under the title and it was penned by The Times own special correspondent

GREAT ACCLAMATION IN SHEFFIELD

APPEARANCE ON TOWN HALL BALCONY

SHEFFIELD OCT 21   

For Sheffield, as the officially issued programme noted, this was a coronation tour of their Majesties and a great crowd gathered to ensure that in enthusiasm there should be a welcome fitting the occasion. Women and children in greater number than men provided the human lane along the six mile route within the city boundaries traversed by the royal car but urgent national and industrial needs allowed for no general stoppage today in the centre of steel production and engineering. So far as there was a holiday it was limited to the schools and the early closing of shops   

Activity at the works in Brightside, Attercliffe and Tinsley might have sent a draft of smoke across some of the roads by which the King and Queen passed on their way to a civic reception at the Town Hall. the absence of a pall at a short distance from the foundries was probably due to the stillness in which a beautiful day of sunshine moved towards a close but as Sheffield is traditionally credited with a facility for when a visiting county cricket is batting on the Bramall Lane ground there may have been manipulation of the furnaces for an hour this afternoon in a reverse direction

HOUSING PROGRESS

The Sheffield boundary was crossed by their Majesties on their journey from Barnsley about half past 3 and one procession of cars turned left from the main road through part of the trim and pleasant Shiregreen housing estate. Since the war the Sheffield Corporation has built approximately 28,000 houses. At Shiregreen, there are 4560 house on 478 acres of land and the development of the adjoining site at Parsons Cross which is now in progress will provide a further 6.000 houses on 730 acres. This building is not associated with slum clearance but has been undertaken to provide homes for workers chiefly engaged in the heavy industries concentrated on the east side of the city.

During their run through the Shiregreen estate the King and Queen stopped at a house occupied by Mr. George Sims, an unemployed ex-serviceman, and his wife and his twelve year old daughter. The house is bright and nicely kept, and after some conversation on the ground floor their Majesties went up to see the bedrooms. Whilst there the Queen asked for a window to be opened and this gave her the opportunity to acknowledge the cheering of a dense throng gathered in the wide roadway.

From Shiregreen, the King and Queen passed along roads where little more than a screen of houses shut off the chimneys and workshops of industrial Sheffield and approaching the Wicker which lies in a dip where the Don and the Sheaf rivers merge the chimneys were in view. Progress from their was slow as the acclaiming crowds closed in on the royal car

The throng was most dense outside the Town Hall where a promise that the King and Queen would appear on the balcony - the programme had brought together as many people as the police thought prudent to be massed at one point. There was loud cheering when their Majesties arrived and were received by Mrs. A. E. Longden, and Miss. Longden who has mother and daughter are Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Sheffield this year. The King proceeded to inspect the guard of honour mounted by the Hallamshire Battalion . the York and Lancaster regiment under the command of Capt. John Derby and a number of representatives of the Sheffield Joint Council of ex-Seviceman Associations

Captain M Sheppard who was in command of the parade of ex-servicemen was asked many questions by the King. and was able to tell him that including 14 British Legion branches there were now 36 associations affiliated to his council. His Majesty also talked to Sergeant Welch, Sheffield's one holder of the Victoria Cross who told the King that he had won the decoration at Oppy Wood in France and that hew was in regular employment. The King shook hands with him and wished him good luck.

IN THE TOWN HALL

Within the Town Hall where the grand staircase and the reception rooms had been tastefully decorated with plants and flowers the Lord Mayor invited their Majesties to enter the balcony to see the people. The effect of the appearance of the King and Queen who stood alone looking down on the multitude was inspiring as a demonstration of royalty and affection, Cheering was continuous for several minutes and thousands of small union-jacks made a rippling wave of colour. In the background the khaki hats of the Boy Scouts raised aloft provided another colour band. Both the King and Queen waved again and again to the crowd and gave a final gesture of thanks for the rousing cheers shouted by the ex-servicemen.

In the reception room of the Town Hall a number of presentations were made and amongst those with whom their majesties shook hands were the Master and Mistress Cutler, the Bishop of Sheffield, the Provost of Sheffield, and the Pro and Vice Chancellor of the University.

Shortly before five o'clock the King and Queen left for the Sheffield station of the LMS railway where their joined their train to London. Outside the station there was posted a number of ex-servicemen of The Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry of which the Queen is the Colonel-in-Chief"

It is a comprehensive report of the days events in Sheffield although the special correspondent does seem rather too pre-occupied with air quality in Sheffield and at times has rather a patronising tone. But he made one major blunder when he covered the visit of the King and Queen to the house of Mr. George Sims  on the Shiregreen. estate. The house in fact was rented by a Mr. George Leslie Dams not Sims.

The local Sheffield press also covered the visit but added  a lot more substance to the above report. It identified the couple as Mr. and Mrs. George Damms, of 100 Gregg House Lane, Shiregreen. Their 12 year old daughter was called Dorothy 

 

 

 

King GeorgeV1 and Queen Elizabeth outside 100 Gregg House Road, Shiregreen, Sheffield - 21st October 1937.

From The Sheffield Star and Telegraph (Headline Sheffield - Sheffield Star Publication) 

I cannot for one minute believe that their Majesties turned up on Mr. and Mrs. Dams doorstep unannounced. The newspaper reports in both the Times and The Star give the impression that the visit to 100 Gregg House Road was unscheduled and unannounced which is preposterous. You have only have to look at the photographs of the Dams family to see that they were in their "Sunday best" and were "expecting company". But the mystery is why were the Dams chosen to meet King GeorgeV1 and Queen Elizabeth as opposed to other families on the estate.

Of course curiosity got the better of me, and so on a cold December afternoon in 2008 I went to see if the house was still there. Since the decimation of Sheffield's industrial base in the 1980's, the large estates to the north of the city have experienced what the "planners" call urban blight. The myriad of strategies and initiatives directed by both local and national governments over the years have had minimal effect in lessening the problems of these estates. The last few years have seen the latest policy of demolishing perfectly good houses in the area, and so parts of Shiregreen, are disappearing fast.

    

There is no plaque or memorial commemorating the royal visit. It must have been the last time that the King and Queen visited a Sheffield council estate never-mind going  inside a house on an estate. Still the house, even though it has been extensively modernised, has not been demolished like so many others. Obviously future royal visitors to the house may have difficulty waving out of the double-glazed windows to the cheering throngs lining the street but I suppose that is the price of progress.    

On a more general note what is the problem the King's and Queens of England have with Sheffield?. King George V1's grandmother, Queen Victoria, only came to the city ONCE in her 64 year reign. When she did come to Sheffield as part of her Diamond Jubilee tour on 21st May 1897, she barely spent a couple of hours in Sheffield before departing elsewhere. Likewise, King GeorgeV1 and Queen Elizabeth did the same if the newspapers reports are correct. What was so urgent that they had to depart at 5.00 for London: surely they could have stopped over and visited some more council estates the following day! 

Footnote

Surname First name(s) Spouse District Vol Page 
Marriages Jun 1923 
Damms George L Hardisty Ecclesall B. 9c 772 Hardisty Helen Damms Ecclesall B.       9c 772  

Surname First name(s) Mother/Spouse/Age District Vol Page 
Births Dec 1925 Damms Dorothy C Hardisty Ecclesall B. 9c 745 

Surname First name(s) Mother/Spouse/Age District Vol Page 
Marriages Dec 1950 
Damms Dorothy C Pearson Sheffield 2d 265 Pearson Bob Damms Sheffield 2d 265 

DAMMS, George Leslie (Engineer, age 61). Died at Moorgate Hospital, Rotherham; Buried on March 8, 1951 in Consecrated ground; Grave Number 4467, Section E of Shiregreen Cemetery, Sheffield.

Sources

The Times dated 22nd October 1937

The Sheffield Star dated 22nd October 1937

Headline Sheffield - Sheffield Star Publication 

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