2:34pm Thursday 31st May 2012
By Gill Johnson
THE Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953, prompted joyous celebrations across every town and village of East Lancashire.
Bunting, balloons and bonfires helped mark the royal occasion for cheering townsfolk and brought a welcome respite from the gloomy days of post war hardship.
It was the first opportunity people had to really celebrate their new monarch – as her accession to the throne in 1952 was more a time to mourn the passing of King George VI.
And while the people enjoyed parties in the street, crowned their own queens and danced in the open air, the Northern Daily Telegraph carried every last detail of the historic ceremony.
On the eve of the crowning, our special Coronation supplement carried the front page banner headline ‘Now Let the Trumpets Sound’ and set out a complete guide to the pageantry that was to unfold in London, alongside the hundreds of celebrations that were to be staged across our boroughs.
On the ‘Glorious Day’ itself, we brought pictures and news from the capital, where hundreds of our readers enjoyed a ringside seat, travelling to London by train on our organised Coronation excursion.
1953 had also heralded a new era in entertainment technology — television — and the announcement that the day was to be televised prompted hundreds of families to go out and buy their first set.
Suddenly scores of houses in terrace streets across the area began to sprout TV aerials on their roofs and on June 3, from 10.15 am until 5.20pm, when the broadcast ended, families, friends and neighbours crowded into living rooms round sets with their grainy, 12in black and white screens, to watch a piece of history.
Stores urged people to ‘buy now, to get a front row seat’, with John Walsh Electreliance, of King Street, Blackburn, advertising the brilliance and clarity of a Murphy ‘Standard’ set for just £72 15s — that was six times the £12 weekly wage earned by the majority of workers. You could buy a three-piece suite for 26 guineas.
For those who did not have the new TV, there were public screenings — in the Ambulance Hall and Co-op Assembly Rooms in Barrowford, in the library at Darwen, the Regal cinema in Rishton and Padiham’s public hall.
With manufacturing then a major employer in East Lancashire and our area playing a big part in the life of the country, several local people played a role on Coronation day.
One of them was Dr P M Herbert, who had been the first Bishop of Blackburn and was given the task of preceeding the Queen into Westminster Abbey, carrying a Bible, as a triumphant fanfare burst forth. He also attended the Coronation of the Queen’s father, George Vl, in 1937.
His successor and the second Bishop of Blackburn, Dr W M Askwith, was also among the throng of heralds, peers and knights, in his capacity as Prelate of the Orders of Knighthood — he had been invested with the badge by the new Queen at Windsor Castle the previous year.
Former superintendent of Blackburn Methodist Mission at Queen’s Hall, the Rev Colin Roberts, who had risen to become President of the Methodist Conference, was among the high ranking churchmen taking part in the ceremony at the Abbey.
Bearing the Sword of State was the Marquess of Salisbury, president of the Darwen Division Conservative Association. His father Lord Cranbourne had been the first Member of Parliament for the division, in 1885.
The Northern Daily Telegraph revealed another with family roots in East Lancashire was Somerset Herald, Major Michael Trappes-Lomax.
His family lived for many years at Allsprings in Great Harwood and he went to Stonyhurst College.
The splendour and majestic colours of the Coronation pageant was matched throughout East Lancashire as families decorated their homes and streets in red, white and blue and public halls, factories, shops and even buses were draped in flags, plaques and banners in loyal greetings to the queen.
At Sunday services, two days before the ceremony, churches across the area gave thanksgiving and prayers for the Queen, with many being preceeded by big processions.
In Great Harwood, a 200-strong procession was led by Belmont Prize Band, while in Blackburn, 14 Churches of England, formed probably the biggest procession the town had ever since, with 5,000 people taking part, including 2,000 youngsters and seven bands.
Coronation fever had gripped the area from early May and villages around the Ribble Valley celebrated with traditional customs — the women of Gisburn, for instance, revived the old custom of ‘catching the pig’!
There was also a Coronation rally in Ewood Park during May, where 500 members of the Girls Friendly Association, and 700 boys from the Church Lads Brigade gave massed skipping and agility displays, after a grand parade led by Leyland Motors Band and the pipe band of the St John Ambulance Brigade.
Bacup’s celebrations began when the Mayor Ald Herbert Lord, switched on the Xoronation fountain, which was to be a permanent commemoration of the occasion, although the town was not alone in opting to making a lasting feature, with the village of Waddington, choosing to remember the day with a Coronation Bridge.
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