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.
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’.