Ten years later the Queen was frail, but the town had grown and events and projects had also become more ambitious and defined. The ‘Surrey Advertiser’ in its summary of the last sixty years in its issue of 26 June 1897 declared that ‘Woking gives one the impression of being thoroughly progressive, smart and up-to-date’ and it was ‘one of the youngest and most go-ahead towns in the county … charmingly situated among pines and heather’ with a population which had increased from 2,000 at the Queen’s accession to 14,000.  

On 16 March 1897 a meeting was convened by Mr Gustav Wermig (who had been the first Chairman of the Woking Urban District Council, formed in 1894) which proposed the building of a cottage hospital to be called the Victoria Cottage Hospital as a permanent memorial to the Queen’s reign, to replace the inadequate small hospital in Bath Road. 

Victoria Cottage Hospital

Dr Leitner, of the Oriental Institute, was the only member of the committee to vote against it, saying that he would prefer a free public library (that had to wait another 30 years), and free dinners for the poor.  A Jubilee Committee was formed and a subscription list was opened and £200 was raised, including £10 from Dr Leitner.  The proposal for the hospital envisaged nine beds at a cost of £2000 with a need for £600-700 annual income.

In May Mr Wermig presided over another meeting with forty people present and it was agreed to appeal to members of the neighbourhoods to contribute to Jubilee expenses.  Several sub-committees were formed: the Torchlight Society to carry out illuminations and fireworks; a Football Club committee to steward events; an amusement and refreshment committee.  By 15 May a volunteer band of 24 performers had been hired to play from 10am to 10pm for £10 plus refreshments, as well as the Nine Elms Band for £8.

Mr Gosling of the Red Lion, Horsell, was to be paid £1 for every 500 people to provide drinks. Mr Wooldridge, the town surveyor, said that it had been decided that a costume football match should be played, but the Surrey County Football Association had barred their members from playing in it on penalty of being ineligible for the next season – so the committee organised this themselves.  The committee found another task on their plates, literally, as no tenders had been received for refreshments.  

Mr Gloster did, however, offer the loan of cups and saucers and groceries at a reduced price. It was agreed that admission to the grounds for the festivities, John Stedman the brewer’s field (now Horsell Sports Ground) would be 1s for adults and 6d for children (5p and 2 ½ p). Meanwhile, the hospital committee had met and while they had raised £500, its chairman Samuel Bircham, of Beech Hill, Mayford, felt that this was not enough to justify the laying of a foundation stone on the Jubilee commemoration day.  

Samuel Bircham

In May a local committee for Woking Village decided to hold celebrations on 22 June for Woking Village, Westfield, Sutton and Mayford, with two bands, tug-of-war for mothers, tea and sports and other amusements for children at Beech Hill, incorporating a fête for working men from Mayford and Westfield which had previously been considered as a separate occasion, and the locals were also joined by boys from the industrial school which increased participants to 870.  The day was rounded off by a smoking concert which finished at 11.30, all costing £60 with food over which was distributed to the poor.  In Horsell 212 children were entertained to tea in the school room with bread and butter, cake and jam puffs and unlimited tea.  Oranges and a 3d commemorative medal were distributed to each child. They then went to Mr Stedman’s field where the Woking Jubilee sports were being held, as described later.  Knaphill and St John’s and Brookwood children marched to Highfield for sports, Punch and Judy and a band; tea was served and every child received a mug. On 20 June Children from the Sunday School in Byfleet were presented with a medal, as were those from the National School who had not been present at Sunday School.  Byfleet’s main celebrations formed part of Parish Day on 7 July, with dinner for cottagers aged over 16, which was enjoyed by over 300. This was followed by sports, including a veterans’ 100 yards race with only one brave competitor, and tea for 800 with a performance by the Byfleet band.

The main Woking event was held on Tuesday 22 June, centred on Mr Stedman’s ground in Horsell.  It had been decided not to have a large dinner, as funds were being directed towards building the cottage hospital, but there was a full programme of sports and entertainment, which attracted 3000 people.  There was a fancy-dress competition and the costume football match did take place with local players and caused much amusement.  The sports included a ‘menagerie race’, which attracted four entries, and was won a rat, followed by a gander and pig: a ferret was placed third but was disqualified by being carried by its owner; after all these races and sports, there were separate sports for ‘working men’, with prizes of beer, and then in the evening races for boys and girls, balloon ascents, conjuring and theatrical performances.  Although a ‘soul-stirring melodrama’ had been promised the play was instead a ‘screaming farce’.  The Torchlight Society agreed to act as illuminators, producing fireworks with cycling effects and a set piece portraying the Queen and ‘God Save the Queen’.  Gate receipts were £80 and this meant that the whole proceedings had made a small profit.  

The Woking celebrations were formally wound up in July with receipts of £226, although the poor reproduction of the report makes other details obscure. John Stedman received a silver flower bowl for allowing the use of his field.  The foundation stone was laid in due course and on 26 June 1902, marking the Coronation of King Edward VII, a commemorative stone tablet was unveiled bearing the inscription ‘Victoria Cottage Hospital, erected 1899 in commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The Outpatients’ building was erected in 1902 as a memorial of her reign – June 20 1837 - January 22 1901.  This stone was unveiled on 26 June 1902, the Coronation of King Edward VII’.

Victoria Cottage Hospital and Wheatsheaf Bridge