Coronation festivities brought much joy to town

IN the post-Second World War years of austerity, as Britain was getting back on its feet, the Queen’s coronation brought much joy to Woking, as this week’s Peeps into the Past will show.

Woking Council and the Chamber of Trade came together to plan the celebrations that were unveiled in the News & Mail in the weeks leading up to the great event in June 1953.

Smiling faces at a coronation celebration party in Old Woking. Picture courtesy of The Lightbox

The newspaper stated: “Outstanding features of the decorations will be the five decorated arches, hung with bunting – one at each of the four main approaches to the town and one outside the railway station.

“Carnival shields, evergreens and flags will decorate all the lamp standards in the town centre. And bunting will be draped across the roads.

“Woking Council is itself providing 2,500 yards of bunting to decorate the area, from the Cotteridge Hotel in the south to Woking Hospital in the north.

“Many shops in the centre of the town have already begun their own decorations. One large store had a large flag pole especially built into its wall. Below its Union Jack is a huge red, white and blue garland.”

“Many Horsell street committees have collected enough money to plan extensive decorations adding to the coronation fun.”

The council also purchased 11,500 coronation mugs, one for every school child in the Woking area. They were presented to the children as they broke up for the Whitsun holidays ahead of the coronation.

Instead of providing coronation souvenirs, Surrey County Council – the local education authority – gave all schools £10.

Newspaper cutting of Sheerwater’s coronation queen, Mrs M. M. Levi, being presented with a scroll and a bouquet of flowers

Those who recall celebrating the coronation will surely remember the changeable weather during coronation week. Depending on which days celebration parties were held, the weather was either wet or sunny. Some parties that were planned to be held outside were hastily rearranged inside local halls.

Children of Bentham Avenue and Dykes Path in Sheerwater held their party in St Michael’s Hall.

Outside, at Beechwood Close in Knaphill, there was a fancy-dress parade, then tea, followed by games and dancing.

Other coronation celebration snippets that were reported included: “Attending Chobham’s Coronation Sports last week, 15-year-old Kenneth Coleman entered six events. And six times he went up to receive a winner’s prize.

“On four occasions he received a small silver cup, the fifth prize was a wallet and the sixth a tie. But Kenneth, a pupil at Woking County Grammar School for Boys, had yet another journey to make to the winners’ rostrum. At the end of the proceedings, he was awarded a magnificent silver cup as the outstanding athlete of the coronation meeting.”

A donkey called Smoky gave rides for children at the Vale Farm Road and Oaks Road street party in Woking. Evidently, Smoky was on its best behaviour, despite earlier making its escape and running off up Goldsworth Road.

And in Sheerwater, Mrs MM Levi, aged 25, of Devonshire Avenue was elected as its coronation queen from 17 entrants. Her prize was the “freedom of Sheerwater” for one year.

If you have some memories or old pictures relating to the Woking area, call David Ros, on 01483 838960, or drop a line to the News & Mail.

David Rose is a local historian and writer who specialises in what he calls “the history within living memory” of people, places and events in the west Surrey area covering towns such as Woking and Guildford. He collects old photos and memorabilia relating to the area and the subject, and regularly gives illustrated local history talks to groups and societies. For enquiries and bookings please phone or email him at: davidrosemedia@gmail.com

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