THE Woking area pulled out all the stops to celebrate the coronations of King George V, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II.

The festivities were reported in great detail in the News & Mail. And the reports give a fascinating insight into the patriotism of residents young and old. 

The report of the celebrations to mark George V’s coronation appeared in the  23 June 1911 issue.

“With flags flying gaily in the breeze, and the sound of bugles and fifes, Woking on Thursday morning commenced its day of coronation festivity,” said the report.

“And what an unusual and animated appearance the town presented. From flagstaff and gable, from window and shopfront, and from every available point on houses, shops and public buildings, flags and bunting flapped merrily in the breeze.

“A slight drizzle of rain was falling when the procession to the Recreation Ground left the council offices at 2pm. 

“The band of the Mayford Industrial School headed it, and following it were the children of the Mayford Boys’ School, Brookwood, Church Street, Maybury, Monument Hill and Westfield schools, with members of the Church Lads’ Brigade.”

Other celebrations included the planting of young oak trees near Constitution Hill and an aquatic gala at the swimming baths. 

In Chobham, the church bells rang out, and there was a procession of schoolchildren, and sports on the cricket field. In Ripley, there was a Procession of Empire – and in Send, the festivities look place in the grounds of Send Holme, where 600 people dined together.

The weather marred the celebrations marking the coronation of George VI. 

In its issue of 14 May 1937, the News & Mail wrote: “Unfortunately, the unfavourable conditions had a disastrous effect on the programme arranged for the entertainment of some 3,000 local schoolchildren on Woking Sports Ground. 

“Apart from a fancy-dress parade, the subsequent children’s programme had to be abandoned.”

However, the situation was better at Chobham, West End and Knaphill, as it was reported that “no rain was experienced until late in the evening”.

Of the celebrations in Byfleet, it was noted: “Memories of previous coronations were revived in the minds of 65 old people, who sat down to lunch at 1pm. The arrangements were made by the Byfleet and West Byfleet Women’s Institutes.”

There was a procession in West End, with maypole dancing by the children of the village. And inside Woking’s Grand Theatre, “200 old folks enjoyed a tea and entertainment”.

Reports of the celebrations marking Elizabeth II’s coronation appeared in the News & Mail dated 12 June 1953, one of the headlines being “Coronation festivities end in sunshine”.

The newspaper said: “Never before has there been such a day in Woking. 

“That was the verdict of one and all on the central celebrations held on Saturday.

“Mr and Mrs Woking and the whole family turned up at Woking Park at some time during the afternoon and evening, and there was something to suit their varied tastes.”

Young Ronald Stacey, winner of the coronation fancy dress contest in 1953. (Picture supplied)

It was estimated that up to 20,000 people went to the park for the festivities. There were sports including athletics, swimming, boxing, bowls and cycle speedway, and displays of dancing, gymnastics and fencing. There was also a display by police dogs, plus band concerts, community singing, dancing and fireworks.

There were competitions too, three being arranged by the Woking and District Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the central celebrations. 

There was a balloon race from the park that attracted 1,500 balloons, a window spotting competition and a window dressing competition.

The News & Mail said: “There was a variety of coronation gifts for the children and the over-70s of Kingsway and Kingsway Avenue. 

“The girls received combs and coronation silk handkerchiefs, the boys penknives, while the under-fives were given plastic coronation mugs. All the over-70s were presented with a souvenir casket of biscuits.”

The winner of the title of most original costume in the under-fives’ group of the fancy-dress parade was Ronald Stacey, dressed as Sir Winston Churchill, complete with large cigar and giving the famous “V for victory” sign.

Thanks go to Peeps researcher Mark Coxhead for making copies of the News & Mail pages that are held on microfilm at the Surrey History Centre in Woking.

If you have memories or old pictures relating to the Woking area and its people which you would like to contribute to this page, call David Rose on 01483 838960, or write to the News & Mail.