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Celebrating Coronations and Jubilees in Guildford From 1897 to 1977

Published on: 29 May, 2012
Updated on: 29 May, 2012

David Rose delves into his collection of Guildford photographs and artefacts with a royal theme

Guildfordians appear to have gone to town and celebrated wholeheartedly every time there has been a royal coronation or jubilee. In my collection of old photographs and artefacts relating to Guildford I have an interesting selection that reflect these royal events and how people enjoyed them.

Crowds gather on the Town Bridge as part of Guildford's celebrations for Victoria's diamond jubilee in 1897.

The town literally put all the flags out in 1897 to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria. This picture (above) shows the view from the Town Bridge looking up the High Street.

Flags everywhere for the diamond jubilee of 1897.

Another view from 1897. This time the photographer has his back to the bridge and more of the High Street and all its flags and bunting can be seen.

The High Street at Ram Corner during the festivities to mark the coronation of Edward VII in 1902.

Although Edward VII ascended to the throne on January 22, 1901, his coronation did not take place until the following year. Photos of the celebrations in Guildford are rare, but this one (above) shows the top of the High Street at its junction with the top of North Street / Chertsey Street at a spot known as Ram Corner. The photographer is standing roughly where the George Abbot statue is today and the view looks towards the upper High Street. A large arch of greenery can be seen that was erected to commemorate the event.

A large crown was placed on the top of the Guildhall clock as seen here. I was told this was for the coronation of 1911, but I wonder if it was actually 1902?

George V’s coronation took place on June 22, 1911, and by this time picture postcards were the ‘in’ thing and all the celebrations in Guildford are well represented. Once again all the flags came out and there were many events on the day that included a grand carnival procession and the lighting of a bonfire near Pewley Down.

Cover of the souvenir booklet for Guildford's celebrations for the 1911 coronation.

A booklet was issued that listed all the events that went on in Guildford to mark the 1911 coronation. The celebrations commenced with a peal of bells from St Nicolas Church at 3.30am. At 7am there was a gun salute from the Castle Keep and at 10am a service of thanksgiving at St Saviour’s Church.

The King and Queen pictured inside the booklet.

During the day there were prominade concerts and a dinner for 360 elderly people at the County and Borough Halls in North Street.

Guildford medals to mark royal events. The one of the left was issued at the time of Victoria's diamond jubilee and the one on the right was issued for the coronation of George V..

You could even buy a special Guildford medal to commemorate the event!

1911 coronation mug issued by Compton Pottery.

The Compton Pottery issued a special 1911 coronation mug. This is a picture of one at Watts Gallery – I’d like to add one to my own collection!

Flags and bunting out for George V's silver jubilee in 1935.

George V’s silver jubilee was celebrated at a time when the UK was in a deep depression. Perhaps it was the kind of event to help people forget the hard times they were going through. In Guildford, a town that was not effected so much by the depression as those in other parts of the country, the banners and flags came out once more.

A wooden mock castle was erected by the Town Bridge.

There were a number of events that took place to mark the occasion on May 6, 1935. An open-air service of thanksgiving took place at Guildford City Football Club’s ground in Joseph’s Road.

Service of thanksgiving in 1935.

There was a large carnival procession and buildings were illuminated at night.

The 1935 carnival procession makes it was along the bypass near Stoke Park.

The day also saw the opening of the rock garden and boating pond in Stoke Park, named the Jubilee Gardens.

Holy Trinity Church lit up at the time of the 1937 coronation. Note the long banners that were the main feature of the High Street.

The coronation of George VI on May 12, 1937, can perhaps be known as the ‘silent coronation’, coming, as it did after the abdication of Edward VIII. In Guildford, at least, there does not appear to have been celebrations on the scale as the most previous royal events.

Photographs of Guildford’s celebrations are rare indeed. The town was lit up at night. The main feature of the displays in the High Street appear to be a number of large long narrow banners that were hung from buildings or on posts. Looking at them today that are somewhat similar to the type of Nazi banners that were going up all over Germany at the time! An eerie thought, given that the Second Word War was only two years away.

I have recently added a copy of the Borough of Guildford’s programme of celebrations for the 1937 coronation. In it it notes that there would be the “Planting of the Coronation Oak near the paddling pool by His Worship the Mayor”. I wonder if that tree is still in Stoke Park? There were also “midnight revels” in the High Street from 11pm to 1am!

Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation took place on June 2, 1953 – the weather was wet and wild. However, in Guildford people made the most of it and there were street parties aplenty!

Guildford's souvenir programme for the 1953 coronation.

The borough issued a souvenir programme and it lists all the fun activities that took place – the highlight being a pageant in Stoke Park. But the inclement weather bedevilled the efforts of many of its performers. At 11.15pm a torch-lit procession left Stoke Park for The Mount where a large beacon was lit by rover scouts.

Guildford borough coronation mug.

A Guildford coronation mug was also issued. The one in my collection was bought by a friend at a car boot sale in recent years. It does have a small chip in the rim. Suffice to say, I’d like a mint one for my collection.

Another view of the coronation mug.

I have also heard that special Guildford / coronation pencils were issued, but I have yet to see one!

Tea caddy issued by Clark's Tea Ltd.

A store in Guildford also sold a tea caddie that commemorated the coronation. The store was in the upper High Street near the Royal Grammar School. Can anyone add some more information about the store?

Base of the tea caddy reveals the name of Clark's Tea Ltd, 204 High Street, Guildford.

Here are some photos of street parties that were held in Guildford marking the Queen’s coronation in 1953.

The Avenue, Woodbridge Road, Guildford.

Northway, Guildford.

Rydes Avenue, Guildford.

Almond Close, Bellfields.

Princess Anne made a visit to Guildford on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 6, 1977, as part of the that year’s celebrations of the Queen’s silver jubilee. Once more, Guildfordians celebrated the royal event with street parties, fetes and shows. A beacon was lit on The Mount on Sunday, June 7.

Silver jubilee celebration in 1977 at Shepherds Hill, Guildford.

However, as yet, my collection of photos does not have that many from the 1977 celebrations. If you have any and would like to share them, please contact me (01483 838960). Here are a couple I do have from a street party that took place in Shepheards Hill, Guildford.

Having fun in Shepherds Hill.

Without doubt, many people in Guildford will mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee this weekend by having fun parties and celebrations. But it is interesting to compare these images from the past, when it seemed the whole town (of course it was much smaller then) took part. Those events would have been much anticipated as there probably wasn’t much else happening for months before or after. So, even if you weren’t a royalist, you probably went along with it all.

It will be interesting to see if this weekend’s diamond jubilee events remain strong in the memory and talked about for months afterwards, especially given that we have a busy summer ahead with all the wall-to-wall sporting events culminating in the London 2012 Olympic Games.

You can read more about Guildford’s celebration for the Queen’s coronation in my book, Guildford Remember When, co-written with Bernard Parke. Available in local bookshops or online.

Guildford Museum is staging a special exhibition about coronation and jubilee celebrations in the town. It is open now. Some items from my collection (and seen here) are on loan to museum for the duration of the exhibition. Call 01483 444751 for more details.

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Responses to Celebrating Coronations and Jubilees in Guildford From 1897 to 1977

  1. David Jopson

    June 11, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Back in 1953 when I was coming up to 5 years old, mother used to take us to the welfare clinic in York Road, Guildford to check that we were making the correct progress health-wise.
    I, along with a boy named Kim Ferguson were chosen as heralds to blow our tin trumpets to announce the arrival of the Rose Queen, a girl named Heather, as we were driven around the streets of Guildford in a Morris Eight convertible with Heather sitting ong the folded down roof – no health and safety then! I suspect that there were more attendants etc. but the old memory has grown a bit dim.
    We then enjoyed a tea party on the lawn at the clinic.
    Kim and I were wearing a crimson tabard, decorated with four emblems of Great Britain, a rose, a daffodil, a thistle and a shamrock and a crimson pill box hat, all made by my mother. We also wore royal blue tights and red satin shoes made to curl up at the toes. The Rose Queen wore a frilly white dress, the skirt of which was decorated with red roses.
    I don’t know if my mother kept any Surrey Ad cuttings of this event – she kept lots of bits she cut from the papers but do you have any references to it in your archives?

  2. David Rose

    June 12, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    David, I can’t say I have seen any specific references to the Rose Queen that you mention. I know that there was a carnival procession that passed through the town to commemorate the Queen’s coronation in 1953. I have a couple of photos of that. One shows a float that belonged to the printer’s Billings and another of a decorated bus of the Yellow Bus Services from Stoughton.
    The events were reported in both the Surrey Advertiser and Surrey Times at the time.
    During my long career at the Surrey Advertiser I spent many hours pouring over back copies of editions of the paper in the files. Although I have read a lot of the reporting of the events surrounding the coronation celebrations in 1953 (a number of which appear in my book Guildford Remember When, co-written with Bernard Parke), it’s just possible I may have overlooked the Rose Queen event.
    If you have the time, the best place to have a look is at the Surrey History centre in Woking that has back copies of the Surrey Advertiser on microfilm.
    However, perhaps any others reading this may be able to supply some details.
    But thanks for sharing your memories – very interesting indeed!