Marlborough’s Diamond Jubilee beacon - music, food, a full moon and a big bonfire
What links Marlborough, St Helena, Treetops in Kenya, Gunjur in the Gambia and Hadrian’s Wall? They are all hosting beacons to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – but not all of them will be graced by a glimpse of the full moon.
And not all of them will be on the scale of this beacon built for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
Marlborough’s Diamond Jubilee Beacon will be above Barbury Racecourse on Jubilee holiday Monday, June 4 –under a full moon. The event will be open from 6.30 pm – the sun will set at 9.20 pm and the beacon will be lit at 10.00 pm.
Marlborough’s beacon – organised by the Marlborough Brandt Group – will include a hog roast, fish and chips, and a bar in the racecourse barn. There will be music from a trio led by Marlborough’s favourite saxophonist, Mick Allport – with dancing encouraged.
At about 9.30 pm people will stroll up the hill from the barn, along a torch-lit route, to the beacon. And while the huge bonfire burns on, people can camp close by for the night. At least one other local beacon will be visible from the hillside – the one on Martinsell Hill.
Admission will be by ticket. These cover the hog roast supper (with veggie alternative and with sausages for children) and are on sale now from the White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough High Street. There’s a family deal available.
Access to this event is only from the Marlborough-to-Broad Hinton road. There is no way through from the Barbury Castle side of the hill. And as there are horses about – it’s strictly a no firework occasion.
A coach will take people from Marlborough High Street but only by prior arrangement. This service will only be available if you book seats by close of play on Monday, May 28 by phoning Marlborough Brandt Group on 01672 861116. And it’ll bring them back again.
Why a beacon? Once used to communicate from hilltop to hilltop – especially to warn of an approaching dangers like the Spanish Armada – beacons have become a feature of celebrations, notably royal ones.
Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 was the occasion for some major beaconary – as the photo on the right shows some were so big the plate camera could not see the top and show the bonfire builders clearly as well.
Beacons were organised for Queen Elizabeth’s Silver (1977) and Golden (2002) Jubilees. This year the aim was to have 2,012 beacons lit around the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. That target has been left far behind: over 4,000 beacons are now registered with the Queen’s Pageant Master.
These include sixty beacons (one for each year of the Queen’s reign) along Hadrian’s Wall; a beacon on St Helena in the South Atlantic; and one at Treetops in Kenya where Princess Elizabeth was staying in 1952 when she heard about the death of her father, King George VI. And they’re building a beacon in Gunjur in the Gambia which has had a thirty year link with Marlborough through the Brandt Group.
The chain of beacons will be completed at 10.30 pm in London when the Queen will light the national beacon at the end of the celebratory concert.
Some beacons will be the brazier type (see left) – and this year there is a gas-fired version which is safe enough to install on church towers. Marlborough’s beacon will be a huge bonfire some eight to ten metres high, designed to burn for a long time.
Watch this space for more news about the Marlborough beacon.