QUEEN Elizabeth II’s reign began with... rain.
The Hunts Post delved back into its archives from 59 years ago to see how Huntingdonshire celebrated the coronation of Her Majesty after being contacted by reader Carol Back, of Surrey Road, Huntingdon, who still has a souvenir from the time.
The six-page booklet is a programme of the events that took place in Huntingdonshire in 1953 to mark the coronation. It was given to her by her husband’s grandmother, Lily-Rose Watson, who as a community midwife had been invited to many of the events.
She said: “When she was going through her things, Lily-Rose found the programme and, knowing I was a big fan of the monarchy, she passed it on to me. It’s is one of my most treasured possessions.”
Luckily for Mrs Back, the programme survived the rain that forced a lot of the celebrations indoors and caused a few to be cancelled.
The Queen was crowned in Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953, after she came to the throne on February 6, 1952. Celebrations to mark the Jubilee begin on June 1.
Only six people attended the Coronation night dance in St Neots, the worst attendance during a week of celebrations. The town also cancelled a skating marathon and wheelbarrow, relay, and potato races in the market square.
But, the older generations did better with 137 over-70s having tea in the Youth Centre and received souvenir boxes of chocolates.
The Jubilee weekend kicks off with the opening of the four-day Camra real ale festival at the Regatta Meadow, and a 70s and 80s night at the Priory Centre on Friday, June 1.
On the Saturday, a family fun day is planned for the Regatta Meadow complete with an air display and the rive will play host to a series of races. A Neil Diamond tribute act will perform in the Priory Centre.
The Sunday sees more family events, a rock concert and a firework finale. The weekend culminates in the lighting of the St Neots beacon on Regatta Meadow.
A fancy dress parade attracted so much interest that the 300-seat Corn Exchange was filled with 700 people, and it was expected that there were just as many outside. Despite the poor weather, the parade was held outside.
A packed house also witnessed impromptu entertainment from Miss V Steggles, Miss J Mowbray, Mr Dunnington, and Mr D James. St Ives Youth Club held a square dance display of four dances.
The town lit the Old Bridge and the Parish Church for the celebrations which included a fireworks display.
On Saturday, June 2, the town centre is being transformed into a street party with live music and dancing, with restaurants and hotels offering free samples to give “A Taste of St Ives”.
Hairspray star Leanne Jones will head the open air concert on the Sunday, with easy listening music playing throughout the afternoon and then other artists in the evening.
A beacon at the Parish Church will be lit at 10pm in unison with the rest of the country and on Tuesday the Queen’s Parade will be screened in the Corn Exchange.
The week of festivities began with a Coronation Ball “which set the mood of gaiety that characterised events since then”. A large crowd gathered on the Market Hill to hear her broadcast speech, followed by music and dancing that lasted well into the night. Fireworks and bonfires on Mill Common capped the evening off.
A flypast is hoped to go over the town on Saturday, June 2, and in the evening the mayor will be hosting a black tie dinner in the Town Hall. On the Monday, there will be an event in the town park, followed by a torch lit procession throught the town to Castle Hills to light their beacon.
In Godmanchester, the cricket team played a ‘comic’ game, dressed in Victorian gowns and ex-army gas capes, they used footballs and tennis balls and racquets and walking sticks as bats.
Ramsey’s emergency weather plan saved the day, with many events transferred to indoors, and a woman won a TV for forecasting the first four placings in a shop window competition.
Villagers in Forty Foot were praised by The Hunts Post as the pride of the nation for not letting the grey skies ruin their day as they continued with outside events.
To mark the anniversary, Ramsey are changing the name of Mill Lane Playing Field to Queen Elizabeth II park and is lighting a beacon. Sawtry are holding a Picnic in the Park event and villages across the district are holding street parties and lunches as part of the Big Jubilee Lunch.