Fascinating old photographs of royal celebrations in St Neots

Children enjoyed the coronation celebrations in Shaftesbury Avenue in Eynesbury, St Neots, in 1953.

Children enjoyed the coronation celebrations in Shaftesbury Avenue in Eynesbury, St Neots, in 1953. - Credit: St Neots Museum

Over many years’ members of the royal family passed close by to St Neots as they travelled the country. In 1835 Princess Victoria and her party, stopped to change horses at the Cock Inn on the Great North Road in Eaton Socon. There she was charmed by a landlords young daughter and said ‘what a pretty child, I should like to kiss her’, the child was held up and the princess kissed her.

Once Victoria became Queen, she and her husband, Prince Albert, became hugely popular as they developed a new style of friendly and approachable royal family. When their eldest son Prince Albert (later Edward VII) married Princess Alexandra of Denmark in 1863, the whole country celebrated. This photograph shows the decorations put up in Cambridge Street, St Neots to celebrate the wedding and is one of the earliest photographs we have of the street.

Cambridge Street in St Neots in 1863.

Deccorations in Cambridge Street, St Neots to celebrate the wedding of Prince Albert and Princess Alexandra of Denmark in 1863. - Credit: ST NEOTS MUSEUM

In 1870, when Joseph Barringer, a baker in St Neots, heard that Queen Victoria would be travelling by train along the Great Northern Line and stopping at Peterborough he determined to present the queen with a bunch of grapes he had grown in his own heated greenhouse. He travelled to Peterborough Station and was allowed to present the grapes to Victoria on his best silver salver, they were graciously received – but Mr Barringer never saw his silver salver again!

Many years later in 1897 Queen Victoria celebrated 60 years on the throne - her Diamond Jubilee.

A national bank holiday was declared for June 22, 1897 and special celebrations were held across Britain. In St Neots, a committee was formed and organised a whole range of celebrations, including a street procession, prize competitions on the Market Square and meals for children and older residents.

In the 20th Century, the celebration of royal occasions have continued to be enormously popular. In 1935 King George V celebrated his Silver Jubilee after reigning for 25 years and again across the country the flags and bunting were put out and the High Street and Market Square were the focus for celebrations in St Neots. 

St Neots Market Square in 1935.

St Neots Market Square in 1935. - Credit: ST NEOTS MUSEUM

Sadly, George V died in January 1936 and in 1937 (after the abdication of Edward VIII) the town was celebrating the coronation of George VI, the father of the present Queen. 

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This photo shows the butchers shop of John Rayns Smith on St Neots High Street with the flags out and his new fleet of delivery vans parked outside.

JR Smith vans in St Neots High Street in 1935.

JR Smith vans in St Neots High Street in 1935. - Credit: ST NEOTS MUSEUM

The celebrations for royal events cheered up the depression years of the 1930s and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 cheered up the tough years of the 1950s after the Second World War. These photographs give a glimpse of the celebrations held locally to mark the coronation of the Queen in 1953.

Coronation celebrations in Eynesbury in 1953.

Coronation celebrations in Eynesbury in 1953. - Credit: ST NEOTS MUSEUM

St Neots Market Square in 1953.

St Neots Market Square in 1953. - Credit: ST NEOTS MUSEUM