Step back in time and revisit 1953 Coronation day in Huntingdon

The children’s Coronation party held on the green space to the west of Coxons Close in June 1953.

The children’s Coronation party held on the green space to the west of Coxons Close in June 1953. - Credit: Lasosence of Huntingdon

Later this year, celebrations across the country will be arranged for Queen Elizabeth II's platinum jubilee to mark her 70 years of service, the first British monarch to reach this feat.

A Hunts Post reader has kindly provided us with some fascinating photos from the Coronation Year of 1953.

David Dixon, who was ten-years-old at the time, recounts the marvel of June 2, 1953, shedding light on how people in Huntingdon lived and also how they marked these special occasions and all as we look forward to the Queen's jubilee later this year.

Before the Coronation, David recalls a sombre February 6 1952, after his headmaster delivered the shocking news to him and his classmates that King George the sixth had died.

David revealed: "It had begun as a normal winter’s day at Huntingdon V.C. School. The dilapidated building was cold and draughty, each classroom heated by a huge iron stove.

"The milk bottles which were given out each morning were often delivered frozen with ice inside them, and school dinners likewise arrived in huge metal boxes to be reheated on the premises. But no meals were served this day. We simply left the school that morning and drifted off home, though our general chatter was more fatalistic than sympathetic."

However, in the months that followed, David recalls the buzz that encapsulated the nation, transforming the country, and how news rippled across Huntingdon and its 5,000 populates for the forthcoming Coronation of Elizabeth II.

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David said: "Newspapers and comics were filled with features relating to the big day. Cardboard periscopes went on sale along with Commemorative coins and all kinds of souvenirs. As the big day approached, every child was given a free Coronation Mug and a bar of chocolate – a special treat because sweets were still rationed and each child had his or her own ration book."

Even a brand new train service named the 'Elizabethan' was launched between London and Edinburgh.

The audience watches an entertainer at the Coronation party. (David Dixon is the portly looking boy in the school cap)

The audience watches an entertainer at the Coronation party. (David Dixon is the portly looking boy in the school cap) - Credit: Lasosence of Huntingdon

David said: "The whole school was marched across Mill Common to see it thunder through Huntingdon North station."

Whereas now a large proportion of the public could afford a television, David reflected that a TV would cost half the average salary in the early 1950s, offering just the one paltry BBC channel equipped with finite broadcasting hours.

"A month or so before the big day, Arthur and I were balanced on the roof behind Millers moving a large TV aerial back and forth. Down at ground level, his mother shouted instructions as his father struggled to get a decent picture. Before Coronation year, I knew of only one home in Huntingdon with a TV set."

When the day finally arrived, David's parents gathered at a fellow resident's house to watch the coronation on their new TV. However, David admits that it was the evening he was more interested in and enthralled by due to his youth.

He recalled: "Once the rain had stopped, the Market Place was a hive of activity. A large wooden stage had been erected in front of the Town Hall for a Coronation Day Talent Competition. A huge crowd packed the square, and everyone was in high spirits. 

"Next day came a children’s party on the green adjoining Coxons Close complete with conjuror. All this just days after Mount Everest had been climbed. The new Elizabethan Age had arrived."

The Queen has, in fact, already reached the 70-year milestone on February 6, but various events and initiatives have been planned to take place throughout the year up to June for a proper celebration.

The culmination is a four-day UK bank holiday weekend from Thursday June 2, to Sunday, June 5 to allow the British public a chance to come together in their communities and celebrate the historic milestone.

Do you have any memories of this time? What will you be doing to celebrate the Queen's jubilee this year? Please get in touch with Alexander.Gilham@archant.co.uk to share your plans, stories and any photographs you may have.