As the country prepares to mark the crowning of King Charles III, Peeps has been trawling through the archives to find out how previous coronations were celebrated in the Herald and Petersfield Post areas.

Here we contrast the celebrations held in the neighbouring towns of Alton and Petersfield for the coronation of Queen Victoria almost 185 years ago, on June 28, 1838.


The most remarkable element of the town’s celebrations was the provision of a meal of roast beef and plum pudding for almost 2,000 of its poorer residents, with tables laid along each side of the High Street from Crown Hill to Turk Street.

It must have been quite a sight – the tables stretching for a length of 960ft, the doors and windows of houses decorated with evergreen branches and bouquets of flowers, and a wreath of bay and foliage spanning the High Street towards its centre point. Trees from nearby woods were also planted to provide shade for members of the organising board.

Records state that the day started with a peel of bells at 4am, and that the town began to fill up with impoverished people arriving expectantly for their promised dinner as the clock approached noon.

But they had some hours to wait before they would be fed as the organising committee and 40 of the leading householders of the town were to eat first. At 2.30pm this privileged group sat down to dine at the Swan Inn where they toasted the health and prosperity of the young Queen before later leaving to lay cloths and food on the tables for the poor.

At half past six, the places were finally set and the Rev G Clark gave a blessing, repeated by the carvers at each of the 20 tables, after which the supper began with 1,950 individuals, out of a population of 3,090, sitting down to the meal.

The feasting appears to have continued until 9pm, when a bugle was sounded to signal the end of the dinner and the start of what was described as a “beautiful exhibition of fireworks” that continued until 11.15pm. The display closed the evening and according to eyewitnesses, everyone headed home quietly and peaceably.

The organisers of the dinner and the beneficiaries of it were praised in the press for the way they conducted themselves throughout the event.


In contrast to Alton, Petersfield’s celebrations seem to have been a much more noisy affair and the town was certainly not the place to be if you fancied a nice lie-in!

Celebrations began at 3am with the firing of artillery from the church tower. It’s not known what sort of firearms were being used but, incredibly, the shooting continued until nearly 6am.

To add to the cacophony, there was an early peel of church bells repeated at 9am with yet another round of gunfire. 

And if that was not enough, a gunshot was also employed as the signal for the start of a meal in the town when 400 people would tuck into beef.

In Petersfield, this dinner – paid for by a subscription from the town’s inhabitants – formed a significant part of the celebrations as it did in Alton, but it was enjoyed by a fraction of the number fed in the latter. 

The diners in Petersfield did, however, benefit from an awning covering their table, the supports of which were decorated with laurel, and it was said the plum puddings were particularly good and much enjoyed by the children. 

To wash down the fare, the men were given a quart of strong beer, the women a pint and the children a smaller allowance.

Shops in the town had closed at 1pm and the meal began at 2pm, breaking up after a toast to the Queen accompanied by hearty cheering. 

It’s not clear whether the diners then dispersed, but at 4pm it was time for those with the status of gentlemen in the neighbourhood to have their own celebratory dinner. Seventy-two of them attended the event in the town hall.

As in Alton, the day’s celebrations were brought to a close with a display of fireworks staged in the Square.