The Story Behind Beverley’s Platinum Jubilee Beacon

The Story Behind Beverley's Platinum Jubilee Beacon
The Story Behind Beverley’s Platinum Jubilee Beacon

At 9.45pm last Thursday evening, the lit Beverley’s platinum jubilee beacon of fire before 200 people in Coronation Gardens and connected Beverley to the national and worldwide beacon celebrations that were happening to honour the Queen at that precise moment.

That moment was also a special one for Beverley Town Council’s  Cllr Peter Astell, whose sheer determination and community spirit ensured that Beverley didn’t miss out on having a beacon of its own to light on that special evening.

Although Beverley’s plans for the main Jubilee event the following day had been underway for at least 12 months, no one had given much thought to the beacon celebrations the night before, and former mayor, Peter, was adamant that Beverley wasn’t going to miss out, so he took it upon himself to make a call personal to the Queen’s Pageant Master.

Peter takes up the story:

“Although a lot of work had gone into organising the activities which took place in Beverley last Friday, the beacon celebrations on a Thursday evening hadn’t really been considered. 

Beverley doesn’t have a beacon site of its own. The would be an ideal location but lies outside the jurisdiction of Beverley Town Council, so the only alternative was to secure one of the special free-standing beacons that are available.

“I really hoped that we could get hold of one of these special beacons, and my idea was for it to be lit  in Coronation Gardens, which opened in 1953 to celebrate the accession of Queen Elizabeth. 

However, when I made enquiries with the sole supplier of Platinum Jubilee beacons, I was told that Beverley was too late and that no more beacons were available.

That’s when I hit on the idea of contacting the Queen’s Pageant Master who I remember talking to when I was Mayor in 2011 in the run-up to the Diamond Jubilee.

“Her Majesty’s Pageant Master is a gentleman called Bruno Peek, and he is the person who has organised the lighting of all 3000 beacons across the world for the Platinum Jubilee celebration. Mr Peek was also at Her Majesty’s side when she triggered the lighting of the principal beacon at Buckingham Palace last Thursday.

At her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, it was Mr Peek who handed the Queen the Jubilee Crystal Diamond to light the national beacon at the Mall in London.

“I put a phone call into Mr Peek a couple of weeks ago, and when I explained that Beverley was in danger of missing out on having a beacon to light for the Platinum Jubilee, he was genuinely concerned. 

“Peter,” he said, “Beverley absolutely must have a beacon, but the only problem is that there is only one left in the whole country, and it happens to be here at my house in Norfolk, and the only way that I can get it to you is for someone from Beverley to drive here in a large vehicle and pick it up. Would that be possible?”

“I immediately knew that the only person who would be able to do this would be me, and without giving the matter a second thought I said, “Yes sir, I can assure you that will be possible, and I will be the person coming to collect it.

“The drive to Norfolk was an 8-hour return trip across the bridge and through the country lanes of Lincolnshire and Norfolk, but it was so worthwhile to stand next to the Mayor last Thursday and hand her the torch that would ignite Beverley’s Platinum Jubilee flame.

“It means so much to me that Beverley was in synchrony with 3000 beacons across the Commonwealth of Nations last Thursday. Back in medieval times, we were the 10th largest town in England, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth has visited us twice, and we simply didn’t deserve to miss out.

The Vicar of St Mary’s Rev conducted a poignant and moving service on Thursday evening, and then 200 people crossed the road to Coronation Gardens for the beacon lighting and the singing of the commonwealth hymn which had been specially composed for the occasion.

I just feel happy that I was able to play my part in making it all happen.”

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