Arthur, Duke Of Wellington, “the hero of Waterloo,” paid a visit to his old companion-in-arms, the Marquis of Londonderry, at Wynyard Park, Durham, in the autumn of 1827. Advantage was taken of the occasion, by men of all sides in politics, Whigs, Tories, and Radicals, to show their sense of the great military achievements of the distinguished warrior, irrespective altogether of his policy as a statesman and a Minister of the Crown.
The Duke was met at Yarm Bridge by Lord Londonderry, at the head of a grand procession of the nobility and gentry of the district. Having taken his seat in Lady Londonderry’s carriage, which was drawn by six horses, he was driven in state into Stockton, where, at the entrance into the High Street, a triumphal arch had been erected, formed of laurels and other evergreens, wreathed with flowers and surrounded by seven flags, with appropriate mottoes, all non-political. Previous to entering the town, the horses were taken from the carriage in which the duke rode, and he was drawn by a number of men, wearing blue ribbons inscribed “Wellington for ever,” to the Town Hall, amid the firing of cannon and other marks of rejoicing. Addresses from the corporate bodies of Stockton and Hartlepool were presented to his Grace by the Mayors of those towns, accompanied by the recorders and aldermen; and Colonel Gray also read an address from the inhabitants of Stockton and its neighbourhood. His Grace took leave of the Stocktonians “amidst the most deafening cheers.”
The party assembled at Wynyard to meet the duke included the Earl and Countess Bathurst, Earl Grey, the Bishop of Durham (Dr. Van Mildert), Lord Beresford, Lord Ravensworth, Sir Henry and Lady Emily Hardinge, Sir Thomas Lawrence (the celebrated portrait painter), Sir (Juthbert Sharp, Matthew Bell, M.P., the Rev. Dr. Wellesley (the duke’s brother), the Rev. Dr. Phillpotts (afterwards Bishop of Exeter), and Rowland Burdon, of Castle Eden.
It was on Friday, the 28th of September, that the duke paid a visit to Newcastle. No exertion had been spared to receive him in a manner due to his elevated rank and creditable to the character and public spirit of the town. Notwithstanding the unfavourable state of the weather, the influx of strangers from the different towns and villages in the neighbourhood was immense. At the turnpike gate at the head of Gateshead, a large body of people, together with a guard of honour consisting of Lancers from the barracks, were in waiting to receive his Grace. The horses were taken from the carriage — an open one — which contained the duke, the Marquis and Marchioness of Londonderry, and Field-Marshal Beresford; and it was drawn through Gateshead by men engaged for the purpose, across Tyne Bridge, to the front of a platform raised before the Guildhall, on the Sandhill, Newcastle, amid the booming of the Castle guns and those of the ships in the harbour, and the ringing of the bells in all the churches. The procession was headed by a band of music, playing “See the Conquering Hero Comes,” after which followed the Union Jack, succeeded by standards bearing such inscriptions as “Assaye,” “Vimiera,” “Douro,” “Talavera,” “Busaco,” “Ciudad Rodrigo — Badajos,” “Salamanca,” “Vittoria,” “The Pyrenees,” “Orthes— Toulouse,” ” Waterloo — Europe Delivered,” and “Welcome to the Immortal Wellington,” which were carried by men who had been present at the different battles. Business was entirely suspended. The windows of the houses on each side of the Sandhill were crowded with elegantly-dressed ladies, the roofs of the houses were covered with spectators, and there was not, in short, a single place, however dangerous and difficult of attainment, likely to command a view of the proceedings, that was unoccupied. The Duke of Wellington, on appearing upon the platform, was greeted with applause. The freedom of the town was then presented to his Grace by the Mayor (Archibald Reed), and the addresses of the Corporation and the town by the Recorder and Mr. Christopher Cookson. His Grace replied to both with becoming brevity. As soon as the ceremonies were concluded wine was introduced, and the Mayor, filling a glass, drank to the health of the duke, and called upon the populace to receive him in a manner worthy of the occasion. The populace answered this appeal with cheers, which, however, were principally confined to that part of the crowd that was nearest to the platform; among the multitude at a greater distance there were scarcely any plaudits. The procession then proceeded to the Town Moor, where the South Tyne Hussars, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell, and the Northumberland and Newcastle Yeomanry Cavalry, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Bell, were assembled for the purpose of being inspected. On arriving at the lines, the duke rode through the troops, but a thick fog and drizzling rain which had set in deprived the spectacle of much of its attraction. His Grace afterwards proceeded to the Mansion House, where he dined with a large party. In the evening there was a grand ball in the Assembly Rooms. The duke left the rooms about one o’clock, and was escorted on his way from the town to Ravensworth Castle, where he slept, by twelve torch-bearers on horseback, six before and six behind the carriage. Next day (Saturday) the duke inspected the coal works of the Marquis of Londonderry. His Grace and suite arrived at Pittington from Ravensworth Castle, at half-past two o’clock, where Mr. Buddie, attended by the marquis’s miners, was in attendance to receive them. At six o’clock the distinguished party sat down at Mr. Buddie’s seat, at Pensher, to a sumptuous dinner. The house and the neighbouring pitmen’s cottages were illuminated, and a dinner was provided in a building on the premises, of which 600 people partook, so that it was a day of general rejoicing in the vicinity.
On Wednesday, the 3rd of October, his Grace paid a visit to the city of Durham, on his return from Alnwick Castle, where he had gone in the beginning of the week, on a visit to the Duke of Northumberland. A guard of the Yeomanry Cavalry, accompanied by the band belonging to that corps, a number of men carrying banners and flags, many of which bore the names of some of the duke’s most splendid victories, the carriage of the Marquis of Londonderry, and several of his lordship’s friends, and hundreds of spectators, repaired to Aykley Heads, to await the arrival of the duke and to accompany him into the town. Leaving his own travelling carriage, he entered that of the noble marquis, from which the horses were instantly taken by the populace, and his Grace was drawn into the town, amidst the warmest greetings, the firing of guns, the ringing of bells, and every demonstration of the most perfect enthusiasm. His Grace was afterwards escorted to the Castle, where most of the leading gentry of the county were invited to meet him, and where an entertainment in a style of the greatest splendour was given by the bishop in honour of the illustrious visitor. In the evening there was a ball at the Assembly Booms. Upwards of 270 ladies and gentlemen were present, being a greater number than was ever known upon any former occasion. The duke retired at an early hour, and returned to Ravensworth Castle.
Thursday was devoted to a visit to Sunderland, where his Grace got a most cordial and flattering reception. He was met by an immense number of persons at the Wheat Sheaf Inn, Monkwearmouth, on his approach from Ravensworth Castle; and by them the horses were taken from his carriage, and he was dragged in triumph across Wearmouth Bridge, through the streets to the Exchange, preceded by a band of music and several flags, the crowd increasing at every step, until there were at least from fifteen to twenty thousand persons present. The windows of the houses were graced by numerous ladies, to whom the Duke bowed with the greatest affability as the procession passed along. Innumerable flags were displayed throughout the town; and from a splendid triumphal arch, which had been erected over the High Street of Bishopwearmouth, at the expense of the ladies of the town, half-a-dozen children dressed in white showered flowers upon his Grace as he passed beneath. On arriving at the Exchange, he quitted his carriage, and accompanied by the Marquis and Marchioness of Londonderry, &c., ascended a platform erected in front, upon which Sir Cuthbert Sharp and several other gentlemen were assembled for the purpose of presenting him with an address from the freemen of the borough and the magistrates, clergy, and inhabitants of Sunderland, Bishopwearmouth, Monkwearmouth, and their vicinities. During the time of the presentation and reply, the cheering from the populace was deafening, and it continued without intermission till his Grace entered the Exchange, where a splendid dinner was provided in the newsroom, to which, at about half-past six o’clock, 204 persons sat down, there not being room for more. The Marquis of Londonderry was in the chair, and on his right were seated Earl Bathurst, the Marquis of Douro, Lord Beresford. Captain Cochrane, Sir H. Hardinge, and Lord Castlereagh. On his left were the Duke of Wellington, Lord Ravensworth, Sir Walter Scott, Dr. Wellesley, and the Hon. H. T. Liddell. Sir Cuthbert Sharp filled the vice-chair. Among the numerous toasts was one which the celebrity of its object induces us to particularise — the health of Sir Walter Scott, to whose genius the Marquis of Londonderry, who proposed it, paid a warm tribute, and who, on his rising to retain thanks, was received with the most tumultuous cheering, so much so, indeed, as to render what he said completely inaudible to the reporters. After the dinner party broke up, there was a ball in the Assembly Rooms, which were crowded to excess. At this ball, Sir Walter Scott says in his Diary, published in the last volume of his Life by Lockhart, “there was a prodigious anxiety discovered for shaking of hands. The duke had his share of it, and I came in for my share; for, though jackal to the lion, I got some part in whatever was going.” The noble party did not retire till after one o’clock, and got home far on in the morning, “sufficiently tired.”
The dinner was served in the large news room of the Exchange, over the mantel of which was painted the decoration shown on page 350. This room is about to be entirely altered, the old Exchange being on the point of conversion into a Seamen’s Mission Chapel. The alteration will involve the removal of the chimney breast shown in the above sketch, which was drawn by Mr. William Scott, of Tyne Bock. The inscription on the ribbon immediately above the fireplace reads as follows: “The inhabitants of Sunderland received the Duke of Wellington to dinner in this room, 4th October, 1827, and the above Decoration (painted for the occasion) has been ordered to remain in commemoration thereof.”