CORONATION DAY - JUNE 1953

DID YOU KNOW THE KING IS DEAD ?      I can remember those words as vividly today as I did as a seven year old child on that February day in 1952 when King George VI died. It was Mrs Atter, who then lived at number 15 Summerhill Road, who stopped and told the group of assembled children the tragic news. Obviously we did not understand there and then the full significance of what she had told us but, in the days that followed, it certainly became more apparent.  From the stark headlines that appeared on the front page of the following days newspaper, and then the steady stream of bulletins broadcast on the radio. Since few people had Televisions at the time, the radio was the focal point for news, music and your evening’s entertainment. I think it was at this time that I first became aware of Winston Churchill. Being the Prime Minister of the day, his name was constantly heard on the radio bulletins. 

In the months that followed the talk was now of the ‘Coronation’ of Queen Elizabeth II. In those early post-war years this was a time of great excitement for the children of Summerhill Road. People were making plans for street parties and special activities at schools. I have some vague memories of ‘The Festival of Britain’ in 1951 and being given a jig-saw puzzle of the Exhibition area on the South Bank in London, but the Coronation was different with so much activity going on. This was also the time when many people purchased their first television sets since the event was to be televised live to the nation. 

The children at school were each presented with a commemorative mug, plate and glass ( I still have the mug and glass to this day) and, since the conquest of Mount Everest also occurred in early 1953, I can remember being taken on a party from school to the ‘ABC’ Cinema at Turnpike Lane to watch a special film of the event. 

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  Coronation Glass & Mug  1953

West Green Road - Coronation 1953 - Coronation 1953

 

In the weeks and days preceding the Coronation, Summerhill Road took on a distinct carnival atmosphere. There were flags and bunting decorating most houses and streams of flags stretched across the road. Like many kids living in Summerhill Road at the time, my brother Ray, sister Chris and myself were badgering our parents to buy the flags and decorations with money they could ill afford to spend, although we never appreciated this fact at the time. But the end results were splendid and very worthwhile for the whole road was ablaze with colour and you could feel the buzz of excitement in the air.  

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A Childrens Scrap Book for the Coronation in 1953

There were a number of different street parties taking place in various parts of Summerhill Road, but our family attended the party at the house of the ‘Potter’s’ who lived at number 22. They had had a Television set installed and I can remember between 30-40 people peering to get a view of a ghostly picture displayed on a small nine-inch screen. This was the first time we had seen so many members of the Royal family and numerous Kings and Queens from across the world. It was an occasion for a display of public pageantry and loyalty unsurpassed  since the war.

As I recall it was a damp grey day, but once they had cleared away the table and chairs from the party, there were games and music out in the road. There were also races planned for both children and adults and I can remember Bob Corbyn from number 16 coming a nasty tumble in his race resulting in some terrible cuts and grazes.

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CORONATION DAY 1953 - BACK GARDEN 22 SUMMERHILL ROAD

Back Row:   BillyPotter,  Fred Potter, Alf Corbyn,  George Potter,  Dickie Corbyn

Bottom Row: Connie Corbyn,  Ted Glynn,  Bobbie Corbyn,   Tommy Corbyn,  Bill Potter

It’s amazing to think that we have since had both the Silver Jubilee in 1977 and the Golden Jubilee celebration in 2002. Having moved from the area over 36 years ago nothing can erase the evocative memories of the Coronation in 1953. I know that the recent Golden Jubilee celebrations were very successful and its pleasing to know that the friendliness and neighbourly spirit of the residents of Summerhill Road continues to this day !

 Alan Swain

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