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Newmarket marked reign of Queen Victoria with large-scale celebrations

In this week's Remember This?, History Hound Richard MacLeod returns to the mid-1800s to look at the local impact of national and international events

This is the second in a two-part series on Newmarket from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s looking at the local impact of national and international events. You can read the first part here.

In Newmarket, the celebration of Dominion Day 1887 was combined with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Victoria. The festivities began at 4 a.m. with the booming of cannons, followed later by a monster procession. 

Twenty extra-large flags were displayed, and hundreds of smaller flags decorated local buildings. The front of A.R. Watson’s store was adorned with masses of flags, flowers and evergreens and displayed a large crown over the words ‘The Jubilee, God Save the Queen, Rule Britannia’.

On the arrival of the train, a procession formed. Several bands playing patriotic songs were followed by 400 school children, the Fire Brigade, the Oddfellows in regalia, the Bicycle Club and Lacrosse Club and many carriages with well-groomed horses stepping right along.

In the Jubilee procession of 1887, a historic coach occupied a prominent position. It had been built in London, England for the Queen’s coronation in 1837, and was purchased by Captain Irving, a Newmarket resident for £200 and brought to Canada in 1839. It was considered the best vehicle of its kind in the country.  

On this occasion, Harrison Irving, grandson of Capt. Irving, and Mr. Ridout, a teller in the Federal Bank, both dressed in the livery costume of 1837, drove around town with  Mayor Cane and Reeve Jackson having the honour of riding in the coach.

Entertainment throughout the day consisted of water sports on the mill pond, games and speeches at the Fairgrounds and, of course, lots of fireworks at night.  

Life in Newmarket in the latter part of the 19th century did not lack in interest or excitement. Ten years after the celebration of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, we were afforded the opportunity to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. 

Realizing that a Diamond Jubilee had never occurred before and might never occur again (Queen Elizabeth, of course, proved this wrong), the people entered heartily into the spirit of the occasion and there were once again great local crowds.

Celebrations in Newmarket in the past had been generally followed a pattern, however this time the starting off point was the new Alexander Muir School grounds where 1,500 people assembled to watch the combined pupils of the High, Model, Separate and Primary schools, headed by the band, march out of the building, each student carrying a flag and a maple leaf. 

They assembled around a newly erected flag staff and sang the national anthem.  Speeches and songs made up the program. During the address by the mayor, little Gracie Cane, in a costume appropriate for the occasion, pulled up the handsome new flag.  

After that part of the program, the pupils, led by the band and with the entire crowd following, marched to the Fairgrounds where more songs, speeches and sports highlighted the afternoon. 

Three songs had been specially composed for the Jubilee celebration: A Jubilee Greeting by John D. Graham, Victoria, Our Queen Beloved and Canada, the Gem of the Crown, by Torrington.

To commemorate the Queen’s Jubilee, an ornament had been placed over the front entrance of the school, a unique design with the British coat of arms accompanied by a beaver and two maple leaves, the names William Rannie, Principal, Thomas Gardner and C.A. Thompson and the date June 22, 1897.  It was made in Newmarket of cast iron with a bronzed finish by Misters Thompson and Gardner who had donated it to the town.

Gloom was cast over the village in May 1880 when word was received of the death of the Hon. George Brown from a wound from an assassin’s gun. At the time he was Canada’s most prominent journalist and messages of sympathy were at once sent from Newmarket officials and from the Children of Peace in Sharon.

Sir John A. Macdonald also was to pass in June 1891. Party politics were forgotten, and the citizens sincerely mourned the great statesman. On the day of the funeral, school children were given a half holiday, all stores, the post office and other public buildings were closed and a memorial service was held in the town hall that had been heavily draped in black.

The bell began to toll at 1 p.m. and was followed by the local church bells until 2 p.m. when the band marched along Main Street to the Hall playing Handel’s Funeral March.  It was a large and respectful gathering.  Mayor Erastus Jackson occupied the chair. 

And thus the century ended with an air of anticipation for the new century ahead here in Newmarket.

Sources: The History of Newmarket by Ethel Trewhella; Accounts from the Newmarket Era preserved in the Provincial Archives; Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee 1897 Article by Carolyn Harris. brings you this weekly feature about our town's history in partnership with Richard MacLeod, the History Hound, a local historian for more than 40 years. He conducts heritage lectures and walking tours of local interest, as well as leads local oral history interviews. You can contact the History Hound at



About the Author: Richard MacLeod

Newmarket resident Richard MacLeod — the History Hound — has been a local historian for more than 40 years
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