You’ve no doubt heard by now that it was Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th Birthday this year, and Sherborne was one of the many towns across the country celebrating.
As part of the commemorative booklet to mark ‘Queen Elizabeth Day’ in Sherborne, Cindy was asked to write several articles, the first of which is reproduced below for your enjoyment.
Royal Visits to Sherborne.
Sherborne has been graced by various Royal presences since as long ago as 658. In 705 Sherborne became the Cathedral seat of Wessex, and King Ine appointed St Aldhelm (who was either his nephew or cousin) as the first bishop of Sherborne, who founded the abbey.
Successive Kings of Wessex made gifts of lands to the foundation, and two of them King Ethelbald (860) and King Alfred Ethelbert (865) the elder brother of King Alfred The Great are buried here in Sherborne Abbey.
There is a tradition that Alfred was educated in Sherborne, and there is documentation that Alfred visited the Abbey on Good Friday 865, when his brother Ethelbert presented a Charter to the community. But there is very little surviving knowledge of his many visits back to Sherborne.
Given that Sir Walter Raleigh was an intermittent favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, one might have expected a Royal visit from Her Majesty, but sadly there are no records of her coming to Sherborne. However the Churchwardens’ Accounts of the era do show that the Queen’s Players performed in the Church House Gallery in Half Moon Street in both 1571 and 1597.
The next Royal visit that is known is when Prince William of Orange was entertained in the New Castle by Sir John Digby in 1688. Much later George III, however, was a frequent visitor to Sherborne during his many Summer visits to his holiday home in Weymouth. Documentation shows that the Digbys again extended a invite King George and his family to be entertained at the New Castle in 1789.
Some years elapsed before the next Royal occasion on 1st June 1950, when King George VI and the then Princess Elizabeth visited Kings School for the hundredth anniversary of the granting of a Royal Charter. Their Majesties toured the School buildings and visited the school playing fields.
On 8th may 1998 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth returned to Sherborne with His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh for the completion of the new Great West window at Sherborne Abbey, its dedication being the highlight of another Royal visit.
Most recently on 1st May 2012, Sherborne received an official Royal visit by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh as part of the Diamond Jubilee Tour of the United Kingdom. They visited a children’s Tea Party, a Food Fair and a group of local artisans within the Abbey. The Queen unveiled a painting in the Abbey Porch depicting a stone be laid to commemorate her visit. Sherborne was very lucky to be chosen as the town to represent Dorset, as it was the only town in Dorset visited by the Her Majesty on this 2012 tour. The reason for this though, can perhaps be expressed by the Duke himself who was reported as saying ‘Sherborne – what a wonderful town’.
If you would like a copy of the original booklet a limited number are (at time of posting) still available for a donation from the Sherborne Tourist Information Centre.