CORONATION CELEBRATIONS 1902-53


There have been only five coronations since Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837 (including hers - Edward VIII was never crowned), which is largely due to her longevity and that of our present Queen. We have no way of knowing when the next one will be, or what form local celebrations might take, but the borough has put on a big show for past coronations.

Edward VII

Caricature of Edward VII.
Caricature of Edward VII.
Image source: Library of Congress.

Edward was 59 years old when he finally became King on 22 January 1901, following the death of his mother, Queen Victoria, after a reign of 63 years and 7 months. The coronation, scheduled for June 1902, had to be postponed until 9 August, to allow the new King to recover from appendicitis.

The next picture shows the Catering Committee for the local celebrations of the event. Newspaper reports of the time indicate that there were several committees, including one dealing solely with bonfires.

The 1902 Catering Committee
The 1902 Catering Committee
Image source: Epsom And Ewell Local And Family History Centre

Epsom UDC had advertised a public meeting, to be held on 11 April 1902 at the Public Hall, to consider proposals for the celebrations. Local auctioneer Walter Langlands seems to have been in charge of the main Committee, which had acquired funds to the value of about 600 (Lord Rosebery donated 50). It is highly unlikely that any of those concerned with arrangements had been involved in dealing with a coronation before, but they whipped out the plans for the celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897, which had cost about 527, to use as a template.

It was customary to issue a souvenir coronation mug and 1902 was no exception. The Catering Committee ordered 2,300 of them at factory prices for the local children.

The 1902 souvenir coronation mug
The 1902 souvenir coronation mug
Image source: Bourne Hall Museum

According to the Surrey Mirror of 23 May 1902, the proposed programme for the great day was as follows:
10.30Church services and ringing of church bells.
11.30The inhabitants to assemble by the Clock Tower and sing the National Anthem.
12.30-2.30Dinners to aged and poor people in a marquee west of the Town Clock. (A monetary gift will be given to the sick and the very infirm unable to attend.) Procession of children through the town to the Recreation Ground, preceded by the various bands.
4.30Children's sports in Recreation Ground.
3-6Old English sports for adults to take place in the High Street.
4.30Tea to mothers in Recreation Ground. A Pleasure Fair will be held in the Sports Recreation Ground and a variety company and Punch and Judy shows have been engaged.
8.30Torchlight procession, formed in the Waterloo Road, and proceed at 9 pm to Epsom Downs, where a
11.30Torchlight procession returns from the Downs, when the proceedings of the day will be terminated by singing of the National Anthem.

As mentioned, the coronation had to be postponed because of the King's illness, but some of the celebrations went ahead as planned on the original date. The Sussex Agricultural Express of 5 July said, 'For Coronation Day an extensive programme had been arranged in the little racing town and the decorations and illuminations were to have been of an elaborate character, the committee having been provided with funds amounting to 600. As it was, the festivities were abandoned, the only portions of the festivities carried out being the entertainment to the old and young. Over 1000 persons over 50 years of age, working men and their wives, were entertained to dinner on Thursday, and 1800 children, who each received a Coronation mug, were regaled with tea and afterwards indulged in sports. Tea was also given to 500 mothers.' It seems from other reports that various additional parts of the celebrations were carried out on the original date, including a promenade concert and illuminations in the High Street.

It had been thought that the King might die, but as his condition improved, councils had to decide what to do with the bits of celebration they hadn't yet dealt with. Another programme of events was held upon news that he was making a good recovery and on the new coronation date the postponed ox-roasting went ahead, the animal having been obtained from Devon by Mr Langlands: it weighed 86 stones and was paraded through the town wearing red, white and blue ribbons before being slaughtered. In the photo shown below, the roasting all looks pretty straightforward, but it wasn't. The Surrey Mirror reported that 'For the purpose a brick furnace had been built in the street with curved ends and a front of iron bars some two feet deep and about ten feet long, and this was surrounded by an iron fenced enclosure about five feet high, one end being occupied by an immense temporary booth built by Messrs Waglan.' In other words, it was a giant barbecue with a spit. The Committee even took the precaution of importing an expert bullock-roaster from Warwick to ensure that all went well. Many local traders provided necessities to make the party go with a swing, such as coal, beer and bread, and the meat ran out before everyone had sampled it.

The 1902 ox-roasting
The 1902 ox-roasting
Image source: Epsom And Ewell Local And Family History Centre

The report continued with 'The Town Band played during the afternoon by the Town Clock and the time was wiled away until the evening, when the time for the torchlight procession to start approached. As eight o'clock came near large numbers of fantastically-garbed individuals made their way towards the L. and S.W. Railway Station, where the procession was soon formed up and torches served out. Headed by the Town Band, a start was made out into High Street and round East Street, down Station Road, and then up Church Street to Mr A W Aston's grounds (i.e. Woodcote Grove), where for upwards of an hour a grand display of fireworks was carried out, which was greatly appreciated. The final proceedings took place in the High Street where the procession, on returning, halted, and the National Anthem was again sung and the crowd gradually dispersed.'

'With regard to the decorations, they were similar to those already used during the various periods of coronating already gone through. Union Jacks, Royal Standards etc were very plentiful but there was considerable change in the illuminations in the evening. On the announcement of the illness of the King, many who were preparing to adorn their premises abandoned the idea until better news could be obtained, and deferred their illuminating until this occasion. Notable amongst these were Messrs. Chilton and Paine, whose large corner establishment in Station Road was brilliantly lighted with varied colours of electric light. Mr G J Beams' too was handsomely lighted by the same means, and the Capital and Counties Bank in High Street was very effectively lighted and draped very prettily.'

Messrs. Chilton and Paine
The Capital and Counties Bank
Messrs. Chilton and Paine and The Capital and Counties Bank
Image source: Epsom And Ewell Local And Family History Centre

'…the central figure of which was, however, the Clock Tower which, as before, was illuminated and adorned with flags and formed the most attractive feature in the town and a standing tribute to the ability of Mr Foster (electrical engineer) and his assistants.' Edward VII died of pneumonia on 6 May 1910 and was succeeded by his second son, George V, the eldest, Albert, having died in 1892.

George V

King George V in coronation robes by Samuel Begg.
King George V in coronation robes by Samuel Begg.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

George was crowned on 22 June 1911, then aged 46, and once again there was a local Catering Committee. This time round they must have hoped that the King would stay fit and be crowned on the correct day, which he was. Presumably, they replicated the 1902 blueprint, as there was another ox roast.

The 1911 Catering Committee
The 1911 Catering Committee
Image source: Epsom And Ewell Local And Family History Centre

The crowd attending the ox roasting for George V Coronation
The crowd attending the ox roasting for George V Coronation
Image source: Epsom And Ewell Local And Family History Centre

The 1911 souvenir coronation mug
The 1911 souvenir coronation mug
Image source: Bourne Hall Museum

George V died on 20 January 1936, after many years of poor health, to be succeeded by his eldest son, Edward.

Edward VIII

As everyone knows, Edward abdicated in December 1936, so that a coronation never happened, although the mugs had already been manufactured!

Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson in the Mediterranean 1936.
Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson in the Mediterranean 1936.
Image source: National Media Museum.

King Edward VIII Coronation mug
King Edward VIII Coronation mug.
Image source: Bourne Hall Museum

George VI

George VI (actually Albert) was thrust into kingship by his brother's abdication and the coronation took place on 12 May 1937.

'The Year of the Three Kings' postcard.
'The Year of the Three Kings' postcard.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

King George VI by Sir Gerald Kelly.
King George VI by Sir Gerald Kelly.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

The 1937 souvenir coronation mug
The 1937 commemorative handkerchief
The 1937 souvenir coronation mug and commemorative handkerchief
Image source: Bourne Hall Museum

.
I do not have a newspaper report of the local celebrations, but I imagine they were similar to previous occasions. We do, however, have some photos.

Preparing a bonfire to commemorate the Coronation of George VI.
Preparing a bonfire to commemorate the Coronation of George VI.
Image source: Epsom And Ewell Local And Family History Centre

A postcard of the Ancient Order of Foresters in costume for the Coronation of 1937
A postcard of the Ancient Order of Foresters in costume for the Coronation of 1937
Image source: Bourne Hall Museum

The 1937 Souvenir Programme
The 1937 Souvenir Programme.
Image source: Bourne Hall Museum

George VI died on 6 February 1952, aged only 56, and was succeeded by his elder daughter, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth II

Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

I was not local, but I do remember - I think - the memorabilia that was issued to me (I was a rookie at infants' school at the time of the coronation - 2 June 1953) and I imagine that it was much the same everywhere. There was a souvenir book, a mug of course, a pencil and, I believe, a coronation tin. I have no idea where all this stuff went, although I probably used up the pencil.

The 1953 souvenir coronation mug
The 1953 souvenir coronation mug
Image source: Bourne Hall Museum

There are some interesting reminiscences about the 1953 coronation on this website by Gill Bassett, Freda Elbourne and Michael Rogerson. A lot of people remember watching the ceremony on television (their own or someone else's), but we didn't even have electricity back then, so I suppose we saw it on a cinema newsreel at some point afterwards.

Here are some photos of the decorations and celebrations.

Epsom High Street decorated for Elizabeth II coronation.
Epsom High Street decorated for Elizabeth II coronation.
Image source: Epsom And Ewell Local And Family History Centre

Ewell High Street decorated for Elizabeth II coronation.
Ewell High Street decorated for Elizabeth II coronation.
Image source: Epsom And Ewell Local And Family History Centre

Epsom High Street, Shop fronts of Smarts and Freeman Hardy and Willis decorated for Coronation
Epsom High Street, Shop fronts of Smarts and Freeman Hardy and Willis decorated for Coronation
Image source: Epsom And Ewell Local And Family History Centre

And finally, I just had to include this one, featuring Hilary Gardner (later Mrs Marogna) as the Queen and winner of 1st prize in the Cunliffe Road fancy dress competition, together with Michael Bland as Edmund Hillary, who had conquered Everest just before the coronation, and Jack Lack(?) as a spiv. I hope the cigarette wasn't real, Jack.

The winner of 1st prize in the Cunliffe Road fancy dress competition
The winner of 1st prize in the Cunliffe Road fancy dress competition
Image source: Epsom And Ewell Local And Family History Centre

Linda Jackson © 2015.



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