5 bostin’ Black Country Coronations and Jubilees
Coronations and jubilees are right royal celebrations that bring people together! Throughout history people have held street parties and alike to celebrate their reigning monarchs. Our researcher Nadia shares below some examples of how Black Country folk have celebrated coronations and jubilees through time.
1. Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee (1897)
On 22 September 1896 Victoria surpassed George III as the longest-reigning monarch in British history. The Queen requested that public celebrations were delayed until 1897, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. At this point, she was 78 years old and still mourning the loss of her husband, Prince Albert, so she felt it appropriate to delay proceedings. The nation waited patiently and held a very festive affair in her honour.
In the Black Country, preparations were being made months in advance of the jubilee. Town councils and newspapers set up subscription funds for both festivities and charitable causes to mark the occasion. There were processions with horse-drawn carts in Ocker Hill, Tipton. In Walsall the celebrations included bell ringing, a procession of local dignitaries, roast beef dinner with plum pudding for the elderly, brass bands and bonfires. Children were entertained with an array of games, such as sack races, high jumps and obstacle races. They also participated in a rather unusual game of ‘climbing a greasy pole for a leg of mutton’!
In Dudley, a large fete was held in the grounds of Dudley Castle during the Whitsuntide bank holiday (a little ahead of the official jubilee celebrations). There were acrobats, comedians, tightrope walkers, an aeronaut with a hot air balloon and a miniature circus. The grounds of the castles were illuminated by a majestic display of fireworks.
2. King George V Silver Jubilee (1935)
6 May 1935 marked 25 years of King George V’s reign. The day was declared a bank holiday and it was marked with large-scale events throughout the country. It was the first ever Silver Jubilee celebration of any British monarch (jubilees traditionally related to 50-year celebrations).
In the Black Country, beacons were lit, funds were raised, high teas and street parties were held. In addition, there was a push for local councils to raise funds for the ‘youth of the nation’. In Dudley, this took the form of ‘the provision of playing fields’. Also in Dudley, a party was arranged for the children and there were plans for a special service at the Parish Church.
In Walsall the streets were elaborately decorated. Celebrations went into the evening; after listening to the King’s speech on wireless sets, pianos were hauled into the streets and people danced until the early hours (with elderly ladies dancing ring-of-roses around a lamppost!)
Such events take community rallying, and the right sort of character to make sure everything and everyone comes together. In the case of Francis Street in Walsall, that character was Mrs Robbins:
“Everybody spoke of Mrs Robbins.
“Who has done that scroll on the wall, ‘Here’s To Our King?'” we asked.
“Mrs Robbins” we were told.
“Who is putting up that crown?” we asked.
“Mrs Robbins” they told us. “She lives at No.10 Downing Street.”
“She ought to (corrected a lady with a serious smile), but she actually lives at No.10 Francis Street”.
Not only had Francis Street got its roof of colour, with its crown forming the centre feature; but a tasteful artistic scheme had been applied to every window of every house in the street. Probably Mrs Robbins had suggested this feature, and it had been taken up with enthusiasm. There is nothing like leadership on such occasions.Walsall Observer, Saturday 11 May 1935
3. Coronation of King George VI (1937)
The Coronation of George VI was the first service to be broadcast on the radio. The procession was broadcast on the BBC Television service (which had only been operating since November 1936).
Celebrations in the Black Country included a children’s fancy dress parade, sporting competitions, and tea parties. There was a ‘Coronation Meat Tea’ for ex-servicemen in Aldridge, as well as fireworks and bonfires. In Darlaston, there were football matches, gymnastic displays and fireworks. The elderly of the town were invited to tea at the canteen of Rubery Owen & Co.
Bunting and streamers weren’t just out on streets – factories across the region were elaborately decorated to celebrate the occasion. The D. Mason and Son factory in Walsall was decorated with red, white and blue garlands. The GKN Sankey factory in Wolverhampton was covered in paper streamers and alike. Employees of the tubemakers Messrs Allen Everitt & Sons decorated their Smethwick-based factory with paper garlands, bunting and a rather impressive crown which was hung from the rafters.
Five coaches were booked for a ‘Coronation sight-seeing tour’. Starting in Walsall, the tour went to Wolverhampton, Dudley, Smethwick, Birmingham, Sutton Coldfield and Lichfield. Around 120 children were taken on the tour, and given tea at Manley Hall, and they were all give a silk handkerchief as a souvenir.
4. Coronation of Elizabeth II (1953)
Following the death of her father, Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne in 1952 and her coronation was on 2 June 1953. To date, it is the only British coronation to be fully televised. This was a huge national event, as people across the country gathered around the television to watch. Pauline describes her memories of the celebrations in Wednesbury and how they all tuned into the television broadcast:
“We had a choice that year, as children, we could either have a television or go on holiday. Because dad used to take us on holiday every year. We chose a television so we could watch the coronation. We had a street party to celebrate the coronation…we all had a present of a silk handkerchief with a crown and the union flag on it (I’ve still got mine somewhere…). It wasn’t an enormous amount of years after the war, rationing was still on…we had lots of extra goodies that we wouldn’t have had because people saved ration coupons…The street was closed off to any traffic, even the milkman!…We were allowed to stay up very late. It was great… I think we were one of the first in the street to have one so our friends came around to watch the Coronation as well. Our living room was crammed full of people!”Pauline, oral history interview, BCLM Collections and Archives
As per tradition, the people of the Black Country came together for street parties, fancy dress competitions and street games. Coronation gardens were established in Dudley and Tipton, and there were ceremonial tree plantings to mark the occasion. Decorations were certainly creative for the Queen’s coronation. The White Lion Pub in Darlaston was decorated with flags of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, and what appears to be a bottle-top banner!
5. History in the making – Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee (2022)
As you can see, the people of the Black Country have always celebrated jubilees and coronations, and 2022 is set to be no different! We are inviting you all to join us to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. Don your best red, white and blue outfits and join us as we celebrate past monarchs, from Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee all the way to Queen Elizabeth II’s present day Platinum Jubilee. Meet a whole host of characters who need help with their celebrations – there’s a street party to prepare for and you don’t want to miss it! To find out more, check out our Half Term event page.