Well over a hundred years ago, the good folk of Wigston marked Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897, by erecting a fountain on the Bank. It wasn't a decorative fountain, but a very useful horse trough and drinking fountain, a boon to thirsty horses and citizens alike. Four kings came and went during the next fifty years, before another monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, came to the throne and stayed the course to reach a Diamond Jubilee in 2012. At the beginning of 2012, Duncan Lucas had the brilliant idea to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of our present Queen and to link it to the Diamond Jubilee of her predecessor, by placing a commemorative plaque at the end of Bell Street. He asked Wigston Civic Society to take the lead on this project. The Society decided to set the plaque on a granite boulder across the end of Bell Street, very near to the site of the original fountain on the Bank, and we gained the support and encouragement of Councillor Bill Boulter and of the Residents' Forum of Oadby and Wigston Borough Council, for this project.
The first problem was to find a suitable photograph of the fountain, which was demolished long ago. Many people, including Duncan Lucas, Neville Chadwick, Tricia Berry and Mike Forryan of the Greater Wigston Historical Society, as well as May Hilton and Elizabeth Ward, searched through their albums and archives, but it was Elizabeth Ward, who had access to her father's photographic collection, now held at the Record Office in Long Street, who found a good picture of the local scene and allowed us to use it. Once the Society had decided on the wording, the firm of Bowers & Freeman of South Wigston, was chosen to make an engraving from the photo. The inscription reads:
1897 DIAMOND JUBILEE 2012
(with the names of the two Queens) Victoria & Elizabeth II (on either side of the picture)
where the fountain erected in 1897 for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria once, stood and where many historic events have been celebrated.
Duncan Lucas and Cohn Towell, Secretary of the Civic Society, visited Bardon Hill quarry near Coalville, to select an appropriate piece of granite. This was kindly donated by the quarry and brought to Wigston, where it was stored in Mr Pearce's farmyard. Once issues about a licence and insurance, necessary to install the stone on the footpath, had been resolved with Leicestershire County Council, it was intended to unveil the plaque in 2013, to coincide with the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's Coronation.
However the Civic Society discovered that the County and Borough Councils were devising a scheme to improve Bell Street, with funds from the European Union, and it was eventually agreed to incorporate the granite boulder with its plaque in this delightful pocket park. This has been a cooperative venture between many local people and organisations, who have given most generously of their time, labour and support. Much appreciation and thanks are due to the following people:
Duncan Lucas for his original idea of a commemorative plaque, linking the two Jubilees, and for his support throughout;
Elizabeth and David Ward for permission to use their photograph;
John Bowers, of Bowers & Freeman, South Wigston, for his patience during the design of the plaque;
Bardon Hill Quarry for their kind donation of the stone;
Ray and Gill Pearce, for allowing the stone to rest in their farmyard for much longer than expected;
Jamie Carr, at Oadby & Wigston Borough Council, for his help in including the plaque in the Bell Street renovations, and for his research into dates for the timeline on the plinth;
Wendy Crawford at Leicestershire County Council, for her support in designing the plaque and the plinth into the mini-park;
Greater Wigston Historical Society for their help with dates and photos;
Roy Barham of Barham Stone, for his advice and assistance in dressing the stone, fixing the plaque and carving the inscription on the plinth;
Councillor Bill Boulter, for his and the Borough Council's ongoing support through the Residents' Forum, which funded the plaque itself, the licence fee, and transport of the stone.
Wigston Civic Society is most grateful for the funds and grants provided by Oadby & Wigston Borough Council, Leicestershire County Council and the European Union, which enabled the renovation of Bell Street for the benefit of us all, and for providing this attractive setting for our Jubilee commemoration;
Finally, I would like to give my thanks to the committee of Wigston Civic Society, in particular to the Secretary, Colin Towel!, who negotiated a way through the myriad of tasks involved and persisted in seeing the project through from start to finish, and thanks are due to the committee as a whole, who have given much thought and effort to this project in the past three years.
It now gives me great pleasure to unveil this plaque to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.