The Twickenham Museum
Timeline : 1900 - 2000

The Relief of Mafeking
Twickenham celebrates early

Robert Baden-Powell in a photograph taken at Mafeking

News of the Relief of Mafeking brought out the crowds in Richmond, Hounslow, Isleworth, Hampton, Hampton Wick, Teddington and Brentford on the 18th May. The crowds in London "mafficked" on getting the official news on Friday 18th May, and continued to celebrate until the following Wednesday.

But Twickenham started to "maffick" a day earlier, on the 17th May. Twickenham's early start was the result of a rumour that turned out to be true. Twickenham's "mafficking" like that of other nearby towns received a very full coverage in the local press. What follows is the account in the Thames Valley Times, a week later on Friday the 23rd May 1900.

"So the people of Twickenham were right after all in celebrating the relief of Mafeking on Thursday last. In common with many other towns in the country, they were a little laughed at as having been the supposed victims of a false alarm. But they were not, and neither for that matter was the gentleman in the House of Commons from whom the rumour emanated. This fact must have been gratifying to all those ardent enthusiasts who hung out flags, blew bugles, followed in the wake of bands, and gave children a holiday on Thursday. But a curious thing happened after this. Somewhat late on Friday night, news, as is now well known came through Reuter's agency - to whom all honour is due for having given the first intimation - that Mafeking was really relieved. Now as late as quarter to eleven there was no sign that this was known in Twickenham, and yet at that time Richmond was in a fever of excitement. But it was not very long after that when the joyous tidings reached "Sleepy Hollow", as it used to be called, and immediately the scene was changed and matters took the turn which was described in our Saturday's issue. This continued all the night, ceasing only when the strength of the celebrators gave out, and all their stock of fireworks was exhausted.

A humourous newspaper billboard

But early on Saturday morning the scenes of enthusiasm were renewed with fresh vigour. Decorations speedily appeared on most of the shops, and flags flew from church spires and in strings across the thoroughfares. The fixing of a board with the device, "Twickenham says, 'Well done Baden-Powell'", in red letters outside Mr Stapleton's premises, was the signal for a great outburst of cheering. Twickenham's youthful army - who, by the way, are no long known as "Woodford's Brigade", but as the "York street Imperials" - were early on the scene and though they must have been tired by the marching they went through on the previous evening, they went as merrily as ever to the tune of fifes, one side drum that had seen service in the Crimean War, and another that was lent them by the Fortescue House band, who were also guickly on the scene, playing national and patriotic airs under their skilled bandmaster. Towards the evening the fun grew fast and furious and the people of Twickenham showed that in addition to being able to set a good example to other towns in the matter of raising money, they could also be well to the fore in celebrating any victory of the army. The various sporting bodies of the town came well up to the scratch, and by their united efforts succeeded in making the scene in the town during the evening a very lively one indeed. It may be that the decorations were not so numerous as might have been expected, but we think this is to be fully accounted for by the fact that all available flags, lanterns, etc were bought up by the crowd who carried them around in a joyous style. As the shades of evening fell a procession, headed by the aforementioned "Imperials" was formed, and paraded the various parts of the parish in turn, always halting by the Town Hall, where, joined by hundreds of other people, they sang, bareheaded, "God save the Queen", "Rule Brittania" and other appropriate airs. This was repeated for hours, and en route the singing was still pursued in. Several "gentlemen in Khaki" took part, and one young fellow had a mixed costume, which comprised a red tunic and fireman's helmet, whilst a minstrel also marched gaily along with the rest. During the parade a collection was made for the "Imperials", who, needless to say, were highly gratified with the result. During the evening too, another idea was mooted, and quickly found favour. This was to have a firework display on the Green on Monday evening and subscriptions were solicited. Several of the sporting gentlemen, publicans, and tradesmen contributed handsomely. Bills were printed and posted throughout the town, and the arrangements were made in a commendably short but very complete manner. A quiet interval ensued with the advent of Sunday, but on Monday evening the old scenes broke out again with, if possible, renewed vigour.


The Firework Display

Early on Monday morning a large supply of fireworks came down, and were fixed upon a space railed off on the Green for that purpose. A small army of helpers also obtained a large supply of flags, Vauxhall lamps, and Chinese lanterns, and these were utilised in beautifying the open space. The Vauxhall lamps were strung from tree to tree, the flags were placed on standards at regular intervals, and the Chinese lanterns were where they would best give light to the band that was to supply music during the evening. Nine o'clock was the time fixed for festivities, but long before that hour, the event having been well advertised, large crowds began to gather in the vicinity, and when the band of Fortescue House marched up they brought a large contingent with them. By the time night had set in the Green was one mass of people. When the Vauxhall lamps were lighted they had a very pretty effect indeed and as hundreds of lamps were carried by people present, the scene was a very animated one. Hawkers were present in goodly numbers, and these gentry supplied willing purchasers with the harmless confetti, which was sprinkled around in unstinting lavishness. Prior to the commencement of the fireworks, the band played,and the various songs were heartily joined in by the spectators. Just about nine o'clock a light was seen moving on the top of Holy Trinity Church and many were the conjectures as to what was going to happen in the tower of the sacred edifice. This problem was soon solved for after the maroon, fired as a signal that the pyrotechnic display was to commence, had boomed out, the first rocket shot out from the church tower and spread its glittering balls of fire over the multitude, who loudly cheered as the lights faded away, to be quickly followed by other rockets, Roman candles, and many other representatives of the firework art that were set fire to. Then a pretty effect was obtained by the lighting of coloured fire upon the church, throwing the splendid architecture into charming relief and glinting on the fine old ivy which climbs up its walls. All this time various processions were parading round the Green among which were costumed cyclists with their machines profusely decorated, and the newly formed drum and fife band of the A Company of the Volunteers, who played "Cock of the North" and other tunes in a manner which plainly showed that when they get fairly into working order they will make an excellent band. Following these came likenesses of Baden Powell and Lord Roberts on banners, and again lanterns with a bodyguard of"Imperials" in the rear. Three fire balloons were let off: two of which sailed away over the houses, but the third perished before it had gone many yards. But what everybody was wanting was the set piece, and at last the match was applied to it, and in a second an excellent likeness of the Mafeking Hero appeared before the gaze of the madly enthusiastic crowd, who cheered again and again as the features of their favourite, with the familiar sun hat, was outlined in fireworks on the framework, with the letters "B.P." on either side. As the last lights of the fine work died out, "God Save the Queen" was sung, everybody uncovering. But the business was not yet over for suddenly a tongue of flame shot out from a pile of stuff which stood a little way off, and in an instant a tall bonfire was licked in fire, which shot up to a height of some twenty feet, illuminating the surrounding trees and houses, and making the scene almost as bright as day. This was the signal for further cheering, which continued for a very long time, until indeed, almost eleven o'clock, when rain began to fall, and to somewhat damp the ardour of those present. Then with a last long shout, and a vigorous singing of the National Anthem, the celebrations so far at least as the public demonstration of them was concerned, ended. The fun in the streets, however, was kept up for some long time, and it was well into Tuesday morning ere the last notes of the of the revellers died away, and Twickenham resumed its wanted aspect of calm".


In all this excitement only two cases from Twickenham of "drunk and disorderly" and "drunk in charge of a horse" ended up in the Police Court at Brentford. One involved Michael Lloyd of Holly Road, Twickenham, who was fined 7s 6d. The other involved William Powney of Kew Green. He was fined 10s and costs.

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