Blanche Parry

Royal day remembered

For her latest column our local historian Ruth E. Richardson looks back to a special event that still lives in many people's memories - the Queen's Coronation in 1953

I was not the only excited little girl, or boy, looking forward to Hereford's celebrations. I had watched the Coronation on my aunt's black–and–white television, children on the floor, chairs taken by relatives and friends. Everyone did the same, causing a huge boost in T.V. sales. Cakes, tea, something stronger for toasts, chat and happy atmosphere made it friendly and fun. Plenty of souvenirs were bought and I still have my small royal coach and horses complete with tiny postilions. People partied in the streets and events were arranged. Available members of the extended Royal family criss–crossed the country visiting as many official occasions as possible. Now, even Hereford was welcoming a Royal to our own celebrations on the Bishop's Meadow.

Then, times were different and royalty was still remote. HRH Princess Alexandra arrived by royal train at Hereford's Barrs Court Railway Station. She walked across the newly painted footbridge but did not descend to the near platform. Instead, steps leading from the footbridge straight down to the outside area were refurbished. These brought her directly to her car and she proceeded through cheering crowds to meet the city's dignitaries.

The focus of her visit was the Pageant and Fair, whose theme, in common with most similar events, was Our New Elizabethan Age. Queen Elizabeth II was 26 years old when she succeeded on the death of her father, King George VI, on 6th February 1952. Queen Elizabeth I was just 25 years old when she succeeded her half–sister in November 1558. Her reign of 45 years brought stability after the short reigns of her half–brother and sister. It was colourful, featuring Sir Francis Drake, the Armada defeat, explorations, William Shakespeare and England (including Wales and Ireland) becoming a powerful nation. In the 1950s people were trying to cope after World War II. My priority was sweet rationing which had only ended in February 1953. I can just remember wanting a Mars–bar in our local shop and my mother asking if I had enough coupons left. It would be another year before rationing finally ended on meat and other foods. The New Elizabethan Age offered hope for a better future.

The procession, in glorious sunshine, was led by 'Queen Elizabeth I', a girl from Hereford High School for Girls wearing a fetching red wig. Her attendant boys and girls were chosen from local schools. One girl was from Holmer School which then took pupils into their teens. All were beautifully costumed, the colours glowing. They took their places on the dais for opening speeches. The meadows filled with activity, stalls and side–shows. Schools and community groups gave lively demonstrations. 'Redcap' pupils (Margaret Allen Preparatory School, now closed), in red-spotted dresses, danced delightedly around a maypole. Most popular, though, were young 'country yokels' on a farm cart singing 'Uncle Tom Cobley and All', each bobbing up–and–down when his name was mentioned: 'Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney, Peter Davy, Dan'l Whiddon, Harry Hawke, Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all'. It drew appreciative crowds. Do you remember this too?

©Ruth E. Richardson 2013

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