As we celebrate H.M. Queen Elizabeth II’s remarkable Platinum Jubilee, I’d like to tell you how Benskins Brewery in Watford marked another, long past Royal Jubilee. From Monday, May 6 until Sunday May 12, 1935, nationwide celebrations took place to mark the Silver Jubilee of the accession to the throne of H.M. King George V and H.M. Queen Mary.

‘The Pennant’, Benskins’ impressive quarterly magazine, the content of which was contributed by its shareholders, directors, staff, tenants and employees, recorded the company’s celebrations that began at its offices in the High Street, now Watford Museum. The building was lavishly decorated with garlands and flags, and on each of the seven nights it was floodlit. Although Benskins did not win the Chamber of Trade’s cup for its decorations, it was highly commended as providing a valuable contribution towards the town’s commemorations.

Crowds lined the streets to watch the Jubilee processions in Watford and Bushey, in which decorated floats competed for prizes and cups. Benskins’ ‘Farmer Giles’ float comprised six employees dressed as rustic farmers in smocks, recalling Benskins’ brewery employees’ (except cask washers) standard work attire in Victorian times. The company won first prize and a cup for the best trade motor vehicle in the Bushey Show.

In beautiful but windy weather on Saturday, May 11, Benskins’ pensioners, employees and families attended a grand afternoon of sports, tea and entertainment at Watford Football Club. There were two Punch and Judy performances by entertainer Mr Hartigan; a running race for girls and boys; a potato race and sack race for boys; and an egg and spoon and balloon race for girls. For the latter, cricket bats were intended to propel the balloons but, as the wind increased, the balloons had to be secured to footballs. During the races two renowned clowns, Poluski and Howard, playfully distracted the children but it was all too much for two young girls in the running race who ran off in the opposite direction!

Watford Observer:

Tea and hats in the marquee, 'The Pennant'

Young male employees competed in a football dribbling race, in which they moved around three posts in turn, passing a narrow opening and a bend, then dribbling the football through the goal. The inter-departmental tug-of-war, whose teams’ weights were equally balanced, proved highly competitive but after four rounds the victors were the motor company employees, beating the builders by two pulls to nil.

Watford Observer:

Tug-of-war finalists, 'The Pennant'

The eight-foot-long tape-cutting race for ladies involved narrow tapes of one-inch width and nail scissors. It was reported that onlookers were enthralled as the ladies, many wearing cloche hats, painstakingly cut their way through the tapes. The race was won by Mrs. H. Rogers, with Mrs. M. Beach and Mrs. J. Carpenter coming second and third respectively.

Watford Observer:

Ladies' tape-cutting race, 'The Pennant'

After the races, a lavish afternoon tea followed in an enormous marquee on the football pitch attended by nearly 600 participants. And still ladies kept their hats on!

Following tea and the presentation of Jubilee mugs to the children by Benskins’ Chairman, Col. W.H. Briggs, he gave a speech, initially directed at them. He credited their fathers or, in many cases, their grandfathers who had worked at the company and contributed to its success. He also indicated that the company had introduced a pension scheme to help their families. Col. Briggs then averted his attention to the parents, advising them to bring up their children well and proposing Benskins as a suitable future employer for them. After thanking the committees for their hard work in making the afternoon such a success, he asked everyone to join him in singing ‘God Save the King’.

Watford Observer:

Youngsters with their Silver Jubilee balloons, 'The Pennant'

As they left the marquee, each child was given a silver Jubilee balloon. They were then guided to chairs on the pitch where they sat and watched Mr. Hartigan performing once again; this time as a conjuror. At 7pm, Col. Briggs gave out safety first awards and his wife Doris (neé Benskin), who had been presented with a bouquet of red, white and blue flowers by five-year-old Moira McGregor, handed out prizes for the sports events.

Watford Observer:

The conjuror's audience on the football pitch, 'The Pennant'

Memories of Benskins’ fun-filled Jubilee celebrations must have remained with the participants, both young and old, for many years afterwards.

So, here’s wishing you a very happy and memorable Royal Jubilee; one without any of the ladies’ tape-cutting or football dribbling races that proved so popular in Watford in 1935. The Platinum Jubilee marks a truly unique occasion indeed in our nation’s long and proud history.

Lesley Dunlop is the daughter of the late Ted Parrish, a well-known local historian and documentary filmmaker. He wrote 96 nostalgic articles for the ‘Evening Post-Echo’ in 1982-83 which have since been published in ‘Echoes of Old Watford, Bushey & Oxhey’, available at and Bushey Museum. Lesley is currently working on ‘Two Lives, Two World Wars’, a companion volume that explores her father’s and grandfather’s lives and war experiences, in which Watford, Bushey and Oxhey’s history will take to the stage once again.