With the upcoming coronation of King Charles III, here at the University Archives we wondered what we might have hidden amongst the collections that related to coronations past. It turns out we have a small but interesting selection of material.
As we might expect, there were a number of nationally produced commemorative publications and souvenir programmes. However, the items that caught our eye most were programmes which captured local celebrations, demonstrating how the people of Hull and the East Riding chose to mark these occasions.
Partying it up in the regions, 1937 and 1953
For instance, this small souvenir programme was produced by Withernsea Urban District Council. It records the official events that were held to mark the occasion of the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on 12 May 1937.
The day kicked off at Pier Towers with a fanfare of trumpets played by the Gospel Mission Band. This was immediately followed by a pageant procession and distribution of souvenirs. In the afternoon, sports were played on the Central School playing fields and a tea was held for over-65s at the Queen’s Ballroom. The evening’s events included tree planting at Municipal Buildings, a presentation of pageant prizes, and a young people’s dance at the Central School. The day ended with a torch light procession to Hull Road playing fields, where a bonfire was lit and the crowd was treated to a fireworks display.
Similar celebrations were held in Swanland. Children of the parish were presented with commemorative cups. After a service and an official opening of the celebrations, both adults and children were invited to take part in a fancy dress parade. Prizes were awarded for best decorated cycle, best costume, and most original costume. Additionally, prizes were awarded for the best decorated houses in the parish, although these presumably were not part of the parade! In the afternoon, sports were organised, including children’s races and high jumping, alongside adult events, such as the ‘married ladies’ egg and spoon race and the ‘gents’ sack race. At 4pm, children were treated to a tea in the Memorial Hall. To finish the day, a ‘talkie cinema show’ was held in the Memorial Hall, followed by a coronation dance with live band and MC.
Sixteen years later, Swanland parish marked the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II with an extravagant programme of events lasting a full week.
Residents were encouraged to decorate their houses and keep the village tidy, Girl Guides distributed souvenir programmes to all residences, and souvenir beakers, spoons, cups and saucers were available to purchase. Events included the unveiling of a specially constructed village sign by the pond, a whist drive with free admission for pensioners, a coronation dance and buffet ‘at moderate charges’, the lighting of a beacon in the parish field by members of local youth groups as part of a national chain of beacons, a village concert, sports, and the presentation of three one act plays by the Swanland Drama Group.
The party boat, 1953
One item from the collections illustrates how people from Hull and the East Riding have contributed to coronation events on a national stage.
Amongst the records of the Ellerman’s Wilson Line, we discovered a file relating to this shipping company’s involvement in the Spithead Naval Review, staged as part of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
Ellerman’s Wilson Line was once one of the largest shipping companies in the world, and was asked to participate in the review by nominating and sending a ship from their own fleet. The company selected the S.S. Borodino.
The S.S. Borodino was captained by a Humber Pilot, Captain E. Ford, who had worked for the company since 1911. He was asked to write an account of his life at sea for use in publicity material for the review. In the opening passage he describes how his first experience of ships was being onboard a small Wilson Line steamer captained by his father, and how this experience had a royal connection.
The file also contains a full list of crew members who were present onboard the S.S. Borodino during the event.
One of the additional support staff employed for the occasion was 25 year old steward, Fred Young. When a launch from the royal yacht was sent to collect Captain Ford for a sherry party being hosted by the newly crowned Queen, Young heroically dived into the river to rescue two sailors who had been knocked off the launch into the water. Slightly more excitement than was expected on the day!
The rest of the event appears to have gone off without a hitch. The S.S. Borodino sailed from Hull on the 12th June 1953 with a full complement of guests, each of whom were allocated their own private rooms.
Having had a thoroughly good time, all involved returned to Hull onboard the ship, which arrived back in port on the 17th June. The file contains numerous letters thanking the directors of the company for their hospitality and for the chance to participate in such a notable occasion.
This quick search through the archives for coronation related material just goes to show that, if you can think of a subject, there’s probably something hidden away waiting to be discovered.
And so, with a brief nod to coronations past, we move forward into a new royal era.
Hull University Archives