Sheffield University- The Opening Ceremony – Prof. Clyde Binfield – 14th November 2016.


Professor Clyde Binfield.

Professor Clyde Binfield is a Cambridge gradu­ate and taught for many years in the History Department at the Sheffield University. He was intro­duced as a Kentish man by the Chairman but was soon cor­rec­ted by Clyde saying that he was a man from Kent, which, we were informed, is entirely dif­fer­ent.

His talk was an account of the open­ing cere­mony of the Sheffield University on the 12th of July 1905 by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra which can only be described as a very extra­vag­ant affair.

At the begin­ning of his talk he said that he had given it many years earlier, when he was still work­ing at the University and at that time it was accom­pan­ied by copi­ous slides and a video. However since his retire­ment they have gone miss­ing and he gave the talk without any visual aids at all. Did that deter from the present­a­tion? Not at all. We were all riv­eted to our seats from begin­ning to end.

As an intro­duc­tion he read out a Canadian  journalist’s account of the visit of the Prince and Princess of Wales visit in 1909 for the open­ing of the Edgar Allen Library at the University. It was not the steel­works, guns, canons, armour plate or the type foundry that caught the atten­tion, but the blank life­less faces, tooth­less mouths of women, men and chil­dren star­ing up from the streets and down from the win­dows. He described them as zom­bies: class dis­tinc­tion by bone struc­ture.

The descrip­tion of the visit of the King and Queen just four years pre­vi­ous was entirely dif­fer­ent. It was said that Sheffield was made up of a very organ­ised soci­ety. It boas­ted two papers, The Independent and The Sheffield Telegraph, both of which gave won­der­ful accounts. There was also a 48 page pro­gramme avail­able for the visit, most of which was taken up by adverts by vari­ous drapers, tail­ors, mil­liners, health shops, mer­chants, hotels, food halls, drink man­u­fac­tur­ers, funeral dir­ect­ors and depart­ment stores. It was noted that Coles, Banners and the Co-operative stores did not advert­ise because they had a Methodist inclin­a­tion, whilst John Walsh and the Oldham fur­niture store did.

Listening to the descript­ive, flowery lan­guage and unbe­liev­able claims of the advert­ise­ments was highly enter­tain­ing, but one could ima­gine that gull­ible people of the time  would have been easily taken in by them.

The pro­gramme con­tained a group pho­to­graph of six dig­nit­ar­ies, the Duke of Norfolk who was the University’s first Chancellor, Jonas who was the Master Cutler and Lord Mayor, Vice Chancellor, Hicks and Vice Chancellor Elect, Elliot. There was also Alderman Franklin and Alderman Clegg.  Franklin became the second Lord Mayor and Clegg the third.

There were two com­mit­tees to organ­ise the event, the first one con­tained 111 mem­bers and the second just 18 to sort out the final details.

The domed dais in the quad­rangle.

On the day of the open­ing, the 12th of July the King and Queen arrived  at the L.M.S. sta­tion, now known as the Midland Station and were taken by a pro­ces­sion of car­riages to the Town Hall for Luncheon at 1:35 pm. There were two lunch­eons, the Royal lunch­eon con­sist­ing of 50 dig­nit­ar­ies and the non-Royal lunch­eon con­sist­ing of 150 guests. The lunch­eons ended at 2:20 pm and all pro­cessed in car­riages up to Western Bank, to the University’s new quad­rangle in which a domed dais had been built for the occa­sion of the open­ing cere­mony.

At 2:40 pm the Duke of Norfolk as Chancellor received the King in front of 3000 people.

The King said: “I have great pleas­ure in declar­ing these beau­ti­ful build­ings open and in express­ing my fer­vent hope and desire for the long con­tin­ued prosper­ity of The University of Sheffield.”

At 3:10 pm, all moved to Western Park where more than 4000 people enjoyed a ‘ tea party’.