Crowds turned out in force in Bolton to see King Charles III as he made a rare visit by a reigning monarch to the Greater Manchester town. The King and Queen Consort Camilla were greeted by hundreds of enthusiastic well-wishers on a cold but sunny winter day as they visited to mark the 150th anniversary of Bolton’s town hall.
After chatting briefly with school pupils and watching dancers perform King and Queen Consort headed inside the town hall to meet local dignitaries and community groups before viewing LS Lowry’s famous painting, Going to the Match.
The royal visit, the first to Bolton by the person sitting on the throne since the King’s mother Queen Elizabeth II came in 1988 to mark the town’s 150th birthday celebrations, passed off under stunning blue skies but with temperatures remaining stubbornly low.
King Charles III in Bolton
The King and Queen Consort arrived outside Bolton Town Hall just before 12.55pm on Friday (20 January) and after getting out of the car were met by a delegation of school pupils and folk dancers from local group Polonez in their traditional outfits.
They were introduced to civic figures including the Mayor Coun Akhtar Zaman, leading councillors and local MPs before making their way up the town hall steps which were lined with representatives from schools, the Scouting movement and the armed forces.
Outside the town hall large crowds were in place to see the King and Queen Consort by 11.30am. People stood several deep at the railings in the square, waving Union Jack flags which had been passed out. There was also a large Ukrainian flag prominently hung over the railings. Loud cheers went up as the royal motorcade arrived and again just over half an hour later when the King and Queen Consort emerged from the town hall to descend the steps and take their leave.
The royal visitors entered the civic building, which was opened by the Prince of Wales (the title held by the King before he ascended to the throne following his mother’s death last year), via the Hall of Memories. They paused to look at Lowry’s famous depiction of people going to watch the football which was inspired by Bolton Wanderers’ old Burnden Park ground.
A reception was held in the municipal headquarters for the monarch and Queen Consort to meet representatives from local community groups, before the King was handed the town hall key and a plaque to commemorate the visit was unveiled.
The royal delegation then left for the final leg of their tour of Greater Manchester on Friday, visiting a community centre in Wythenshawe.
What did Bolton think of the King coming to visit?
Bolton residents who turned out to see the King visit spoke of their pride that their town had been chosen for a royal trip and of their pleasant surprise at just how many had turned out to see the monarch.
Allison Czerwinka and Louise Barrett, who work in the fostering team at Bolton Council, watched the royal visit with Louise’s mother-in-law Dorothy Barrett.
Allison said: “It’s exciting, we’ve not had anything like this in Bolton before. It’s a big crowd of people and a very proud community. It’s a proud day for Bolton and Boltonians.
“The town hall is an iconic building we can all relate to in Bolton and one we’re proud to celebrate. Town centres are struggling now but the town hall still stands tall and shows the strength of our community.”
Louise added: “We were waiting for two hours but got some fab photos and video footage. It’s really good to see all the uniforms out, it feels like yesteryear. It’s lovely to see all the police out,the Scouting, Cubs, schools, and Cadets.”
Mother and daughter Lovina Brown and Cindy Williams also came to Bolton town centre to see the King.
Lovina said: “It’s nice to come and be part of the experience with everyone else here in Bolton. The royals are just there in our lives, they’re people we know but don’t really know. It’s exciting to experience the atmosphere.”
Hekmat Fasaye, who has been living in Bolton for 24 years and is originally from Iran, said: “This is a lovely day. It’s history. I love this history in England and everyone is so exciting, it’s a really nice, good time. I can’t believe it.”
The Scouting movement was well represented at the royal visit, with members of some Bolton groups on the steps to greet the royal visitors.
Adele Gillibrand, a Scout leader in Little Lever, said: “I’m really pleased and proud that our Scouts were invited to be part of this event and to meet the King and Camilla. I was one of the first leaders to renew my promise to the King, just after the Queen died.
“It’s surprising the number of people who have turned up, it’s really nice. I’m proud of how many people are supporting the event.
“The King seemed very casual despite all the attention. It was nice to see him greeting all the people on the steps. It’s nice that he has come here and having visited the town hall with our Cubs group we can imagine what he is seeing in there. I’m proud of the town.”
Group Scout Leader John Clare said:”It’s nice to see him here. It’s been too long since a monarch visited Bolton. I hope it’s not another 35 years or whatever until we have another. It’s really nice to see everybody here.”