Nostalgia: Ottery’s memorial to the ‘Diamond’ Queens

A monument to mark a Queen’s 60th year on the throne is getting a makeover, to celebrate another Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Ottery Town Council are investing several thousand pounds in restoring the commemorative column, and creating two new plaques ahead of the summer celebrations.

In 1897 the town erected a memorial to Queen Victoria, with Bill Wright, writing in The Golden Jubilee Book of Ottery St Mary, saying: “It is a copy of a gatepost at Kensington Palace, which is most appropriate, because that is where she was born.”

He said to make room for the monument the town’s stocks, which were stood on the site on Silver Street, had to be removed and re-erected in the nearby churchyard.

There were inscriptions placed on either side, one in English, and the other Latin.

On the south side it has a message stating the monument was erected by the townsfolk of Ottery ‘to hand on to those who come after the happy memory of a great, a wise and virtuous Queen’.

The tablet on the other reads: “Reginum conjugem feminam quomodo dileximus.”

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Mr Wright says this could be roughly translated as ‘for she’s a jolly good fellow’.

Two names are also inscribed on the plaque, one of which is the architect of the monument W Cave.

He was a member of the famous Sidbury family, who owned land and property in Ottery as well as the village in which their manor house still sits.

The other is the name of F Luxton, the builder of the jubilee memorial.

He founded the Ottery business in Tip Hill in 1855, which is still in operation today, under the ownership of his great-grandson.

But it has fallen into disrepair, and when Ottery Town Council set up a jubilee committee to plan celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, they decided they wanted to fix it up.

But plans hit an early problem, as nobody knew who owned the monument, and after extensive research it became apparent despite being grade two listed, it had never been registered as a property.

The council applied to bring it under their jurisdiction, and have since put in for planning permission to clean and re-point the brick monument, and restore its cornice to former glories.

After learning of Luxton’s link to the monument the committee contacted the firm, who said they would be happy to help in creating two new stone plaques.

Again one will be in Latin and one in English, to commemorate this Queen’s 60 years on the throne.

Other monuments to Queen Victoria were created in the Ottery parish though, including a clock at Fairmile and a gate at Alfington.

The friends of Escot erected the clock at the post office at Fairmile, which is inscribed ‘To commemorate sixty years of blessing. 1837-Victoria R I-1897’.

It has been the responsibility of the occupants of Fairmile Cottage, as it sits on the property’s wall, who have to wind it up on a weekly basis.

The Lych Gate was erected by the vicar, Reverend G Reade, who also helped design it, along with his parishioners and other villagers in Alfington.

Pictures courtesy of Ottery Town Council and The Golden Jubilee Book of Ottery St Mary, which is published by the Ottery St Mary Heritage Society, and is available from the Tourist Information Centre