On 6th February 1952, 25-year-old Princess Elizabeth, the elder of two daughters of King George VI, suddenly became a queen. Her 56-year-old father had died in the early hours of the morning. At the time, she was on a visit to Kenya en route for Australia with her husband, Philip so she flew back to Britain as Queen Elizabeth II. Sixteen months later on 2nd June 1953, Elizabeth was crowned as queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms (the title, Empress of India, had been abolished in 1948).
Badsey began planning for the coronation in January 1953. It was decided not to have a firework display on the day as this would cost approximately £100. The treasurer (Mr K G Johnson) stated that there was now £168 0s 3d in the bank, with approximately another £80 promised. An invitation was extended to Aldington residents to join with Badsey in the celebrations, but the Secretary of the organizing committee was told that Aldington were organizing their own celebrations.
Events in May
On Ascension Day 1953 (14th May), Coronation Booklets were distributed at a Children’s Service at St James’ Church. On the following Sunday, there was “A Pageant of the Coronation” performed by some of the older choir boys and Sunday School scholars. This was performed at 5.30 pm at Wickhamford and 6.45 pm at Badsey. Mr Harvey, Headteacher of Badsey County Primary School, and two members of his staff, Miss Norah Smith and Mr Jackson, made excellent models of the Regalia. Pat Goldstraw remembered that Miss Smith was very creative, saying:
In 1953, Coronation Year, we at school had the finest set of Crown Jewels outside the Tower of London – all made by Norah – and also a model of the golden coach of State and horses.
Special services were held on Trinity Sunday (31st May) in preparation for the Coronation with the Order of Service issued by the Command of the Queen being used: at 11 am and 6.45 pm at Badsey and at 5.30 pm at Wickhamford.
Flying the Flag
On the eve of the coronation, Les Williams ascended the giant Wellingtonia tree which used to stand in the front garden of The Pool House in the High Street and was a landmark for miles around (it was felled in 1980). It was customary on special occasions for local men, usually clandestinely, to attach a flagpole to the crown of the tree.
According to his daughter, Marilyn Wood, who wrote a letter to The Evesham Journal at the time of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, Les tied a broomstick holding the flag to the top branch while Reg Welch and Bert Evans stood watch below. He climbed the tree for a £5 bet which, incidentally, was never paid.
With thanks to Angela Holdsworth (née Chapman) for this photo of the Wellingtonia tree on Coronation Day.
Coronation Day in Badsey
A report of the actual day’s festivities appeared in The Evesham Standard of 5th June, beginning:
Coronation Day will long be remembered in Badsey where everybody entered into the spirit of the day.
In the morning there were services at St James’ Church and a coronation peal. In the afternoon, Charles Binyon, OBE, opened proceedings at the Recreation Ground, speaking of happy memories of previous coronations and stating that the character of our Queen had captured the imagination of all her subjects as was shown by their expression of loyalty all over the country.
A fancy dress parade attracted over 80 entries. Winning costumes included “Off the Ration” and one bearing the words, “Prepare for a long reign”. Little did the person who created that fancy dress appreciate quite how long a reign the Queen would have! There was a decorated cycles class and a decorated pram class. Prizes for the best decorated houses in the village were awarded to Mr C Stewart, Mabberly’s Stores and Mr A W Smith of Blackminster.
There was a tea at Badsey School for all aged over 60 was very much enjoyed, with conjuring by Mr Mabberly. Refreshments were taken to those unable to be present through illness and gifts were sent to those in hospitals and homes. There were plenty of entries in the children’s sports. Afterwards 300 children enjoyed a free tea in a large marquee on the Recreation Ground and a Punch and Judy show. Adult sports were well patronised, the tug of war being won by The Royal Oak who beat the Gladiators. A free running buffet was available for all adults.
Another event was the opening of the children’s swings at the Recreation Ground by Mr G A King, Parish Council chairman. A set of swings was also provided at Horsebridge Avenue (on the site of the present-day Packs Close). In both cases, Queen Elizabeth outlived the swings!
Celebrations on the day concluded with a well-attended dance at the Badsey School.
Coronation Day in Aldington
At Aldington on Coronation morning about 30 villagers watched the television in the Mission Hall.
In the afternoon, pillow fights, fancy dress parades and football matches all provided amusement in Aldington’s celebrations. Over 30 villagers paraded in fancy dress outside the Manor in the afternoon and then proceeded to Mill Lane where a short service was conducted by the Vicar of Badsey, the Rev W B Chapman.
Teas for children and adults were held in the Mission Hall, followed by an amusing mixed football match with about 22 a side! Mr J Taylor won the cash prize for the pillow fight on a pole. A conjuring show was also given by Mr Mabberly of Badsey.
Aldington’s oldest inhabitant, 90-year-old Mrs Celia Reeves, presented each child with a Coronation mug filled with sweets and a Coronation souvenir book given by Mrs Ballard.
After the Queen’s speech, a social evening was held in the Mission Hall after which there was so much food and beer left over that another social was held on Wednesday evening.
Coronation Day in Wickhamford
At Wickhamford, the day began with a well-attended short service at the church. Later in the morning, villagers were able to watch the Coronation Ceremony and Procession on televisions in the Memorial Hall, two sets having been loaned by Messrs H C Dillworth of Evesham.
At 2 pm villagers assembled in Sandys Avenue for a fancy dress, decorated perambulators and bicycle parade. The parade included the members of ladies' football team carrying a banner, "Leave it to the women, victorious we reign". In fact there was no such team, they had just dressed up for the day.
The procession went to the Memorial Hall and en route a commemorative tree was planted at the junction of Manor Road and Manor Close by 87-year-old Mrs Elizabeth Mason. Prizes were presented at 4 pm, followed by tea for the children where each was given a souvenir mug and stick of barley sugar. There were also prizes given for the "Gayest Gardens" in the village. Musical entertainment in the afternoon was provided by Messrs Lyddiatt of Chipping Campden.
Sports were then held in a nearby field, by permission of Mrs R Daffurn, Mr Green being in charge of the amplifier. The competitions during the afternoon included bowling for a pig. At 8 pm a Social and Dance began in the gaily-decorated Memorial Hall (a replica of the Coronation Crown hung in the centre) and this lasted until midnight. A box of food was sent to each person unable to attend during the day.
More details of the day can be found in Wickhamford Celebrations.
In the July 2013 edition of Community News, Gill Woods wrote about Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. She wondered how many people who were children in 1953 still had their coronation mug.
Wendy Beasley (née Tompkins) was quick to respond. Not only did she have her 1953 coronation mug (given to her when she was a 13-year-old schoolgirl at Blackminster School), but she also had the mug given to her grandfather on the occasion of King George V’s coronation in 1911.
The Coronation Procession in London
A few lucky people were able to travel to London to watch the coronation procession. Miss M Hurman was chosen as one of three Cadets from the British Red Cross Society in Worcestershire to go to the Coronation. Mrs C Marshall, church organist and representing the Mothers’ Union, was also awarded a seat in the Mall for the Coronation, and wrote about her experience in the July 1953 Parish Magazine:
The Mothers’ Union seats near Buckingham Palace were in the best position of the whole route so we had a wonderful view of the processions as they went and returned. I arrived at the stand at 5.50 am and left at 6.30 pm. During that time there were several storms but there was so much to see that we didn’t notice the rain. The colours were so beautiful that it was like a fairy story come to life. The perfect timing of everything and the rhythm of it all were really wonderful. After the procession had gone an announcer described the arrival of the Queen at the Abbey and the Service was relayed to us. It was most impressive to hear all the people on the stands singing, “All people that on Earth do dwell” and joining in the service. I was talking to a Yorkshire lady just before I left and mentioned Mrs Chapman’s name. I was most surprised to hear someone say, “Do you come from Badsey?” I had been sitting near friends of the Vicar and Mrs Chapman all day and did not know until then!
Another person to visit London for the coronation was Badsey Society member, Jean Dyke. In 1953, Jean was working for the Evesham Borough Council; they were allocated four tickets for staff members to attend. In the event, just Jean and one other person went. They had to catch a midnight train but were not allowed to their seats at Green Park until 7.30 am. It was pouring with rain and hundreds of people were sitting on the pavements, but it was worth the wait once they got to their seats which were well situated. Despite the passing of 70 years, Jean remembers the spectacle of the day very clearly, particularly the colourful Queen of Tonga as she passed by. An avid royalist (Jean also remembers the coronation of George VI when she presented a bouquet to the lady giving out coronation books in her home village of Aston Somerville), Jean is looking forward to watching the coronation of Charles III on television.
Maureen Spinks, April 2023