“NEVER before has there been such a day in Woking,” wrote the News & Mail on reporting the events in the local area, as Peeps into the Past looks back to celebrate the coronation of Elizabeth II on Tuesday 2 June 1953.

A big celebration event took place in Woking Park on the Saturday following coronation day, and some estimated the attendance to be as high as 20,000 people. During a five-and-a-half-hour programme, there were displays of athletics, swimming, boxing, bowls, cycle speedway, dancing, gymnastics, fencing and by police dogs.

There was also band concerts, community singing and dancing, all of which culminated with a “mammoth fireworks display”.

Flags and bunting festooned the streets and hundreds of people lined them to watch two processions that wended their way to the park.

The first was a marching procession that started from the Wheatsheaf Hotel. It was led by the Staff Band of the Royal Army Medical Corps, who were followed by troops from Inkerman Barracks at Knaphill, Home Guards, members of the Air Training Corps, Army and Navy Cadets and Air Raid Precaution wardens. Then came youth organisations marching behind Woking’s Salvation Army Band, and bringing up the rear, fancy-dress competitors.

The second procession was of decorated vehicles, organised by Woking Chamber of Trade and started from Sheerwater. The first prize was awarded to D. King and Jones in a pony and trap; second prize, Mrs Stimpson, on a decorated tricycle; and third prize, Barry West, on a decorated bicycle.

The weather was not kind for the celebrations, but that appears it did not prevent people enjoying themselves as there were plenty of street parties during a week of celebrations. However, it was reported that in Byfleet “several hundred people braved the biting wind on Wednesday” for a party on the recreation ground.

At 1.30pm there was an open-air church service, and: “In the face of ominous rain clouds, fancy dress and sports competitions were held. The children’s tea, which was to have been held out in the open, was packed into paper bags and distributed, while about 300 over 65s gathered in the village hall for high tea, while adults were competing in sports.”

The Thursday of the week was a day for school celebrations in Knaphill, which included a fancy-dress parade, maypole and folk dancing, while “an agile vaulting display was warmly applauded”.

Pupil Kathleen Frost recited a speech that had been given by Elizabeth I and one made by the Queen, when she Princess Elizabeth, on her 21st birthday. Later in the evening there was ballroom dancing for the adults in the school hall.

The local press also noted that churches were reporting large congregations at services during coronation week. On the Sunday the chairman of Woking Council, Cllr W. L. Darby, with representatives of other organisations, attended an afternoon service at Christ Church in Woking.

At the same time a service for members of youth organisations was held at Woking’s Trinity Methodist Church, in which the Reverend Peter Ruffle, of the Church Missionary Society, gave the address.

My thanks for helping with this article go to Peeps researcher Mark Coxhead for delving into back copies of the News & Mail; Tessa Westlake, of Byfleet Heritage Society, for the photo of the open-air service; and Neil Burnett, for the picture of the people from Sandy Lane, Maybury, sent to me via Richard and Rosemary Christophers, archivists at The Lightbox.

If you have some memories or old pictures relating to the Woking area, call David Rose 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: [email protected]