The streets of Southampton buzzed as thousands of people congregated in scenes on an unprecedented scale while Police were brought in to maintain respectful order – a new king was officially proclaimed across the land.

Southampton, and the country as a whole, were mourning the death of King Edward VII in May 1910. But, as tradition dictates, King George V acceded to the throne

This was the signal for the town's inhabitants to leave their homes, offices and factories to come out in vast numbers to hail the new monarch and to flock to hear the official announcement of another royal era being ushered in.

The first notice was read from the balcony of the old Audit House, then afterwards repeated from the Customs House and then for a third time from the top of the Bargate.

On each occasion the numbers of people were so huge that the crowds brought everyday life to a standstill as they spilt out into the road to make streets impassable.

Under the headline: “A Memorable Scene in Southampton’’ the Hampshire Independent, a forerunner of today’s Daily Echo, went into great detail in column after column of reports.

Heritage. Marching to the Customs House to read out the proclamation of King George V, May 1910..

Heritage. Marching to the Customs House to read out the proclamation of King George V, May 1910.

“With the dignity and impressiveness becoming the occasion King George V was proclaimed ‘our only lawful and rightful Liege Lord’ at Southampton,’’ said the newspaper at the time.

“The ceremony took place at the Audit House, and was witnessed by thousands of people, notwithstanding that only brief notice of the historic event had been given.’’ It was just before noon that Sotonians began to gather outside the building and numbers grew so rapidly that extra police had to be drafted in.

“Still people poured into the area and wisely the police diverted all vehicles. It was a very quiet gathering. There was no buzz of expectancy or impatient movement; there was no boisterousness or chatter; everyone seem to feel the great sorrow which now envelopes the Empire.

“Nearly all the women wore black attire, most of the men had black ties and even little children showed some symbol of mourning. The whole multitude was obviously labouring under a deep depression.’’ At this point the local police band marched into view and took up position beneath the purple-clothed balcony of the Audit House. At 12.15pm the bells of Holy Rood rang out and every window, roof and vantage point was filled with spectators as the mayor, together with the town clerk wearing his ceremonial wig, appeared to read the proclamation.


The Bargate, circa 1910.

The Bargate, circa 1910.

When the mayor had concluded the crowd spontaneously gave three ringing cheers for King George V and then police trumpeters blew a fanfare and the band played the National Anthem.

“The impressive strain of this noble hymn was taken up by the people with great fervour, and there was a touch of pathos in the spectacle of children, some barely able to toddle, singing in their shrill treble voices side by side with white haired veterans, whose eyes were moist with tears,’’ said the Hampshire Independent.

“This was the final incident in a memorable scene, which will never be effaced from the memories of those who witnessed it.’’ The crowds, together with the party of civic dignitaries, then moved to streets in and around the Eastern Docks where the proclamation was read again at the customs house.

“A large crowd had assembled on the southern side of Queen’s Park, which was momentarily swelled as the dock gates poured out their legion of workers, while the boughs of every tree in the vicinity carried its load of enterprising and greatly daring small boys intent of securing a bird’s eye view.’’ After the ceremony the procession reformed and walked along Oxford Street, Bernard Street and High Street to the Bargate.

Southampton High Street. Circa 1910.

Southampton High Street. Circa 1910.

“At this point the crowds had commenced to assemble long before 1pm, and both Above Bar and Below Bar, and even half-way down Bargate Street itself, the throng was virtually impassable,’’ said the newspaper story.

“Spectators clustered thickly beneath the very folds of the Royal Standard now proudly flying mast-high from the summit of the venerable weatherbeaten structure that in its time has seen many monarchs come and go.

“Though subdued the proceedings were singularly impressive, and it was only slowly and reluctantly that the great gathering gradually dispersed.’’

Daily Echo:

The words contained in the Mayor’s proclamation to the town’s citizens were:

“Whereas it has pleased Almighty God to call to his mercy our late Sovereign Lord, King Edward the Seventh of Blessed and Glorious memory, by whose decease the Imperial Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland is solely and rightfully come to the High and Mighty Prince George Frederick Ernest Albert.

“We, therefore, Lords Spiritual and Temporal of this Realm, being here assisted with those of his late Majesty’s Privy Council, with numbers of other Principal Gentlemen of quality, with the Lord Mayor, Alderman and Citizens of London, do now hereby with one voice and consent of tongue and heart publish and proclaim that the High and Mighty Prince George Frederick Ernest Albert is now, by the death of our late Sovereign of happy memory become our only lawful and rightful Liege Lord, George the Fifth, by the grace of God, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and its Dominions beyond the sea, Defender of Faith, Emperor of India.

“To whom we do acknowledge all faith and constant obedience with all hearty and humble affection, beseeching God, by whom Kings and Queens do reign, to bless the Royal Prince George with long and happy years to reign over us.

“God save the King.’’