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Readers on target in Market Drayton soldiers mystery

By Toby Neal | Nostalgia | Published:

Star readers have scored a bull's eye in pinpointing the occasion which led to these soldiers appearing on the streets of Market Drayton to fire a volley in a royal salute.

This picture has now been identified as a volley in salute for Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee in June 1897.

We had published the picture a little while ago hoping somebody could identify what was going on, and a number pointed out a very important dating clue – something which is not there.

The 'something which is not there' is the fountain erected in the town centre to mark the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897.

But it couldn't be too long after this picture was taken that the fountain went up, because these folk were out on the streets to celebrate the jubilee, the exact date being Tuesday, June 22, 1897.

Richard Gough, director of the Soldiers of Shropshire Museum, got in touch to say: "I was intrigued to see the photo of soldiers in Market Drayton and am happy to help.

Celebrate

"We have a photo taken from further down the street, behind the position of the Star photo, and it’s captioned: 'Market Drayton Rifle Volunteers, 2nd Vol. Bn KSLI – Band and Company parading in High St, Market Drayton to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee in 1897'.

"The flags, uniforms, dress, shops, and so on look to be the same date as the original photo and so we can be fairly certain they are the same day.

"We have a number of uniforms on display from that era, and in fact from riflemen from that very troop, in the museum."

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The museum in Shrewsbury Castle was formerly known as the Shropshire Regimental Museum.

Val Brown emailed in: "The photo must have been prior to the fountain being built.

"Also, I have a small booklet printed in 1908 and most of the photos are taken by R G Arnold. His shop was in Stafford Street and established in 1870."

Thank you too to Geoff Turner, who emailed: "The left-hand banner appears to say 'God Bless the Queen', so a royal event seems likely.

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"The soldiers are wearing the British Home Service helmet, which was worn between 1878 and 1914. The fountain which later stood on this spot was built in 1897, so this must be before that.

This photo from the collection of the Soldiers of Shropshire Museum in Shrewsbury shows the massive parade through the town later that day.

"The shop 'Noden late Jones' is a big clue. Thomas Jones provisioner is listed in both 1891 and 1895 Kelly directories, so if this is after Thomas Jones gave up the business it should be after 1895. Also, Scales & Sons are listed in 1895 but not the 1891 directory, confirming this. Therefore, it suggests an event between 1895 and 1897, possibly the Diamond Jubilee in 1897 before the fountain was built.

"The local military at this time were the 2nd Volunteer battalion of the King's Shropshire Light Infantry, who had an armoury in Great Hales Street at the time."

For an account of the occasion, we dipped into the Newport and Market Drayton Advertiser of Saturday, June 26, 1897, which reported on the festivities of the previous Tuesday.

The passage relevant to the picture appears to be: "The Volunteers, to the number of about 60, paraded at the Armoury at 9.30, and headed by the Band of the Company (under Bandmaster F. Evans), marched to the High Street.

"The Company was under the command of Capt. A. R. F. Exham, and Lieut. Huntbach was also on parade.

"At 10 o'clock, a 'feu de joie' was fired, and a royal salute given. The men fired very steadily, and everything passed off most satisfactorily."

Later, a huge procession comprising many hundreds of people from various bodies was formed about 12.30pm and paraded through the town by way of Great Hales Street, Stafford Street, across High Street, up Shropshire Street, turning by Lymehurst and returning down Shropshire Street and through Cheshire Street to Sych Farm.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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