One of Barnstaple’s most historic buildings is Queen Anne’s Walk.
The site itself has an interesting history probably being where a ‘Merchant’s Walk’ referred to as long ago as 1678 once existed.
Around 1708 the statue of Queen Anne was erected by Robert Rolle of Stevenstone, near Torrington.
Five years later the whole structure was rebuilt by the Corporation of Barnstaple at a cost of £150.
Again in 1798 the building was extensively repaired by the corporation but by 1859 the Walk was said to be ‘in decay’ – so much so that ‘competent opinion had declared that it could not survive the storms of another winter’.
In that year the mayor, Richard Bremridge, was approached by a group of entrepreneurs who wanted to erect some ‘public baths and wash houses’ next to the Walk.
They also agreed to refurbish the Queen Anne’s Walk buildings at a cost of some £200. As part of the work the statue, which weighed two tons, was raised two feet six inches to make it more prominent.
The official inauguration on Saturday, October 15 saw the mayor inviting ‘any Gentleman of the town and neighbourhood’ to accompany him in procession from the Guildhall to the Quay.
Unsurprisingly many took up his offer and at 4pm around 100 people led by a brass band and the mayor marched to the refurbished building to sit down at a long table ‘which ranged throughout the building’.
Here toasts were drunk, the first being to Queen Victoria – a toast marked with ‘a royal salute from the borough ordnance’.
Another was to the borough engineer Mr Gould who had supervised the rebuilding. The builder Mr Williams was also thanked – he saying ‘he should have been but too happy if the work could have been effected within the prescribed time – but it was morally impossible’ – which suggests just how deteriorated the old structure must have been.
The party then returned to the Guildhall where the National Anthem was sung and three cheers given for the mayor.
I should add the workmen got a ‘cask of ale’ whilst six bottles of wine were sent to the station house ‘for the use of the police, beadles etc’.
So ended this restoration of Queen Anne’s Walk.