‘Royal Melton Mile’ idea floated to mark Queen’s Platinum Jubilee
A prominent tourism champion is floating the idea of commemorating Melton’s remarkable royal connections with a special new attraction to mark next year’s 70th anniversary of The Queen’s reign.
Amazingly, 16 kings and two queens have visited the area since the 12th century and there have been many other royal visitors to heritage sites such as the livestock market, library and army veterinary camp.
And Matthew O’Callaghan, who organises a number of prominent local food events and shows in the town, believes the town should celebrate Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee by highlighting its own rich historical links with the monarchy.
Many of the visiting royals came through the town via the Great North Road, which linked Edinburgh and London, when it was diverted through the town and along King Street.
Mr O’Callaghan has had initial discussions with local tourism leaders around the concept of getting footprint-shaped plaques installed along King Street to commemorate the visits of the various monarchs, as part of a ‘Royal Mile’ walk which would cover a mile in length and pass by historical landmarks, particularly those with a royal connection.
He said there is also a case for making an application, at a later date, to change the name of the town to Royal Melton Mowbray, to enhance the tourism appeal still further.
Alternatively, he suggests, there could be a campaign to rename the district as the Royal Borough of Melton - this would be the first borough to be nominated for the honour in a century.
Mr O’Callaghan, who is chair of the Melton Mowbray Food Partnership and organiser of town events such as the East Midlands Food Festival, the Artisan Cheese Awards and the British Pie Awards, told the Melton Times: “Melton needs a project for the Platinum Jubilee that stands out against all the other offerings from towns around us and the East Midlands.
“‘Royal Melton’ builds on our heritage, would attract significant visitors from a wide area and provide a legacy for future tourism.
“Who knows, it might even suggest in the appropriate places the nomination of the title of ‘Royal’ to the name of the borough or the town.”
Events are being organised around the country to mark next year’s Platinum Jubilee and two bank holidays have been created to mark the historical milestone to cover the celebration period of Thursday to Sunday, June 2-5.
Mr O’Callaghan believes launching an attraction such as a ‘Royal Melton Mile’ during that period would help kick-start tourism for the borough after a pandemic year in which lockdowns have prevented the usual influx of people visiting the town and villages.
For 300 years, from the late 1100s onwards, the Great North Road was diverted through Melton Mowbray and contributed significantly to the town’s early prosperity.
The road crossed the river to the south of the town, ran in front of St Mary’s Church, through the Market Place and north, exiting Melton along King Street, which, it is believed by some, was named after its royal visitors.
Mr O’Callaghan suggests changing the street name to reflect its heritage to ‘King Street – Former Great North Road 1194-1487’.
During those three centuries from the late 1100s, 11 out of the 15 Kings of England visited Melton Mowbray, most choosing to stay overnight with the Lord of the Manor of Melton.
The first King was Richard I, the Lionheart, in 1194, who was accompanied by King William of Scotland, pleading unsuccessfully for the restoration of the counties of Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmoreland and Lancashire to the Kingdom of Scotland.
Richard I was followed by Kings John, Henry III, Edwards I, II and III, Henry IV and VI, Richard III and finally Henry VII in 1487.
The four kings not recorded formally as having visited Melton Mowbray are Richard II, Henry V, Edward IV and finally Edward V, who reigned for only two months before being murdered aged 12 in the Tower of London.
There is another royal connection in the Anne of Cleves pub, on Burton Street.
The plaque here informs that this former priory was given by Henry VIII to Thomas Cromwell after the Reformation.
When Cromwell was executed for his bad advice in persuading the King to marry Anne of Cleves, she received the building in her divorce settlement.
There is no record of the Queen ever having visited her pub.
It is not known if there were any other royal visits after Henry VI until some 300 years later when Melton became famous throughout Europe as the capital of fox hunting.
Prince Regent, later George IV, visited Melton for the hunting season, encouraged no doubt by his friend, Beau Brummell, who was a member of the Old Club on Burton Street.
For the last 200 years, with the exception of George V, every other monarch or future monarch since has visited the town - George IV, William IV, Victoria, Edward VII, George VI, Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and, finally, Prince William.
Other Royals and aristocrats also visited Melton during the hunting season, including the Empress Elizabeth of Austria, the Maharani of Jaipur, Lord Cardigan (he led ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’) and the Irish Peer, the Marquis of Waterford (famous for his ‘Painting the Town Red’ escapade in Melton Mowbray in 1837).
Several members of the current royal family have visited the town in the last 25 years, including The Queen in June 1996 (the army vet camp).
Prince Charles and Camilla visited Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe in January 2011, while Princess Anne has been a regular visitor, latterly conducting the official opening of the new cattle market building three years ago.
The only English towns to be granted a royal prefix in their name are Royal Wootton Bassett, Royal Leamington Spa and Royal Tunbridge Wells.
Mr O’Callaghan is hoping his ideas will be supported by local councillors, business leaders, civic groups and tourism representatives, if funding can be sourced.
What do you think? Do you believe there is a case to use Melton’s royal connections to boost tourism in this way and, perhaps, eventually change the town or the borough’s name? Email [email protected] with your views.