Coronation Day celebrations, June 1953

Collections for the Coronation Day celebrations began in November 1952. On Coronation Day itself, 2nd June, a morning church service was followed in the afternoon by a fancy dress parade. As the following two memoirs show, the weather was so bad that the sporting events were postponed until the following Saturday, and a planned parade was abandoned altogether.

Later in the afternoon there was a tea in Grange Barn (Grange Farm, Mr Symington), which was specially decorated for the occasion. Everyone in the village participated, at a cost of £89 17s 9d. An inscribed mug was presented to every child under sixteen, and after the tea there was a social. In all, the celebrations cost just over £110.

Eva Blackburn's daughter Hazel in fancy dress for the Coronation celebrations

Eva Blackburn’s daughter Hazel in her fancy dress costume for the Coronation celebrations

Gillian Beckett’s account

Queen Elizabeth the 2nd’s Coronation Day proved to be, weather-wise, one of the most awful June days I have known. There was a strong to near gale-force northerly wind blowing into Stanhoe straight from the North Sea bringing cold temperatures and even colder rain. What a day for a national holiday, but everyone did their best.

Celebrations started with a Fancy Dress competition held in the trackway to Mr Symington’s great barn, right in the teeth of the wind. I felt sorry for the younger children, many of whom were dressed as fairies or other such scantily dressed characters, some with costumes made largely from crepe paper which sagged sadly and doubtless had later to be changed before they disintegrated.

I went as the cricketer W.G. Grace, with layers of clothes to make me look somewhat portly topped with father’s white cricket flannels and sweater, and for added protection a pair of pads. To help the disguise, a thick black beard was topped with a cricket cap. I was beautifully warm! I was, however, put in my place when judging began, as it was carried out by one of the high-ranking officers from Sculthorpe USAAF base with his wife and they, of course, hadn’t a clue who I was supposed to be! The winner was Mrs Eva Blackburn. The parade was forgotten when the judging had finished and everyone rushed for the shelter of the barn.

Most of the farming equipment had been moved out of the biggest of the Grange Farm barns and the ground had been spread with clean straw. Long trestle tables were provided with benches alongside and there was bunting, flags and other decorations hanging around. The feast was open to everyone in the village and only those who were too infirm to attend failed to come; they were not, however, forgotten and were sent their platefuls the same day.

My father did the catering and the accounts, which survive, show not only what was eaten, but also how custom was diplomatically shared between the shops in the village and the regular visiting tradesmen from Burnham, Docking and Sedgeford, while the crockery was borrowed from the local RAF station at Bircham Newton.

I don’t remember much about the feast apart from Mr Albert (Jimmy) Steward serving beer to Mr Smithson, who was then over 90, and being told to “fill that up properly”. He did, and Mr S. lifted the brimful glass and drank it without a drip lost! I think I was a little in awe of anyone that age having such a steady hand.

A fancy dress parade and sports had been planned for the day but these had to be abandoned, the parade totally and the sports until the following weekend.

Eva Blackburn’s account

Residents of Stanhoe and Barwick of all ages attended a meal in the Grange Barn belonging to Mr Symington. The weather forecast was for a wet and windy day with perhaps some sun, and this turned out to be correct.

The fancy dress parade was not feasible so the entries were quickly judged by the entrance to the Barn from Station Road. I was given the first prize, being dressed as the weather forecast wearing wellies, shorts, a sun hat, t-shirt, woolly gloves, scarf and sun glasses and carrying an umbrella with a hot water bottle slung around my waist. Sadly there is now no photo, only one of my daughter Hazel as the first Queen Elizabeth which was taken the previous day! Gillian Beckett (nee Tuck) went as W.G. Grace, well padded to keep warm, and there was also a John Bull amongst the crowd.

The large barn had been cleared and tables and chairs set out. This was all managed by the Coronation Committee: I remember Mrs Willie Wright, Mrs Henry Newell, Mrs Read, Mrs Robert (Granny) Steward, Mrs Charlie Seaman and many more.

The meal consisted of meat and salad with pickles. I remember that the onions were rather hard and caused some laughter as hey were always flying off people’s plates as they tried to spear them. I remember glasses of beer being served and perhaps lemonade.

I believe mugs may have been given to the younger children and that the sports were cancelled.