The Queen’s Coronation

The Queen
The Queen
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THERE are so many different elements to history that it’s hard to know where to start.

But we have lots of local people who are experts on different areas of history and our heritage so, every week, we ask them to tell us a little bit about what they know.

This week, it’s Delia Thomas from Kettering Manor House Museum.

With the Diamond Jubilee celebrations drawing closer it seems a good time to look back at the way in which Kettering celebrated the Queen’s coronation.

The Museum’s archives revealed a copy of the Souvenir Programme (priced 6d [21/2p] of Kettering’s celebrations, which set out what was planned by the town.

Before the day itself, the town centre was decorated with thousands of yards of pennants, bunting, garlands and, most impressively, fifty four twenty-feet high, decorated and illuminated pylons. All the public buildings and offices were decorated and the public parks illuminated.

Competitions were held for the best-decorated house in each street and ward and for the best-decorated shops in the town centre.

Two thousand of the elderly and sick received gifts of ‘Caskets of Biscuits or Canisters of Tea’. Children were also presented with Coronation souvenirs. Those at school received a Coronation Book Elizabeth Our Queen, while those under school age received a special Coronation Beaker. On Coronation Day there was a full programme of events, which took place despite the bad weather.

These began at 9am with a peal of the Parish Church bells followed by a civic procession, which marched from the Horsemarket to the Market Place for a public service.

Throughout the day there were band concerts by Kettering Town Band and the Salvation Army Band while throughout the evening there were dances at Wicksteed Park and Rockingham Road Park. Due to the rain these events had to be held under cover rather than in the open, as had been intended. The highlight of the town’s celebrations was the children’s events held at Wicksteed Park.

here were free teas, Punch and Judy, marionettes, illusions, performing ponies and sheep dog demonstrations. In addition, children were given a free ice-cream and the choice of a ride on the train or a trip in a motor launch.

Although a few thousand went to Wicksteed’s, the numbers were far less than expected, as the park “was chilled by a bitter wind and swept by rain”.

The culmination of the whole day was a grand display of fireworks. According to the Evening Telegraph: “Shortly before 10 o’clock at night hundreds of cars and thousands who walked thronged the park for the firework display.”

These, though, were the official celebrations; there were others less formal. Many streets held parties. The residents of the Ivy Road estate seem to have solved the weather problem, holding their parties in such diverse locations as Kettering Working Men’s Club, Avondale School and Bath Road Methodist schoolroom.

For many, though, the highlight of the day was the Coronation service itself. Most listened to it on the radio but some watched it on television. Many people had bought televisions for the first time for the Coronation, my aunt’s father among them, so, along with other members of my family, I, too, crowded around a television on Coronation Day.

During the half-term holiday the Manor House Museum will be running children’s art and craft workshops with a Jubilee theme. The Museum, run by Kettering Borough Council, is situated close to the council offices and Kettering Library on Sheep Street. It is open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 10.00am – 4.45pm. Entry is free. For further information please contact the museum on 01536 534219.

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