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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
During the day there were prominade concerts and a dinner for 360 elderly people at the County and Borough Halls in North Street.
You could even buy a special Guildford medal to commemorate the event!
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!
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.
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.
There was a large carnival procession and buildings were illuminated at night.
The day also saw the opening of the rock garden and boating pond in Stoke Park, named the Jubilee Gardens.
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!
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.
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.
I have also heard that special Guildford / coronation pencils were issued, but I have yet to see one!
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?
Here are some photos of street parties that were held in Guildford marking the Queen’s coronation in 1953.
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.
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.
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.