We will all be celebrating on this day, and a number of events are planned in and around the village. which may be covered elsewhere in this magazine edition. The village hall will be handling both ends of the age spectrum, by giving a Coronation mug to every under 18,¹ and providing a lunch in the hall for those who will be now experiencing their second coronation.²
We have just experienced something that everybody living in the UK today will almost certainly never see, that is a monarch reigning for 70 years in Elizabeth II. The reasons for Elizabeth coming to the throne at the tender age of 27 were pretty unprecedented, namely two world wars. an abdication and a reluctant King who smoked to excess and died in his 50's.
Although Elizabeth was at a tender age in 1952, she was not the youngest queen. that title belongs to Mary Queen of Scots who came to the throne in 1542 aged 6 days. Henry VI. a local lad born in Windsor Castle. came to the throne in 1429 aged 8 months and 26 days. Henry had an eventful reign. also being king of France, he had his own local issues with Scotland. and also some with the French, so nothing much changes does it? In his spare time Henry set up Eton College and had a pub in Eton named after him. Our own King Charles III now holds the record as the oldest monarch to take the throne at 73.
Barring tragedies Charles will be succeeded by William V and he by George VII. so if you check their various ages and do the maths you will see why we state that no-one living today will see another 70-year reign.
Anecdotes — These are a few anecdotes collected from °Wickites" who remember snippets from their childhood at the time of the death of George VI and the coronation of Elizabeth II.
Apologies in advance if any of them have misremembered, they were very young, and it was an awfully long time ago!!
"My first memory is arriving at Porny playground. There is an uninterrupted view of the Round Tower. The flag was at half-mast. I burst into tears. I was inconsolable. My world as I knew it had changed forever. My next memory (presumably a few days later) is of the whole school being walked up Castle Hill to watch the procession for the proclamation of Elizabeth II at Victoria's statue.
Just before coronation day all Porny children were presented with a coronation mug by a local dignitary. My parents had a Coronation party for friends and family at their newly built home in Tilstone Close. I had a new dress (a rare occurrence). It was blue and white with a beautiful. smocked bodice. bought from the Bunny Shop in Eton High Street. I thought it was lovely.
My maternal grandparents bought me a die-cast model of the Golden coach with its 8 Windsor Greys (I don't know what happened to it). We all crowded around a small piece of furniture. with a 9° screen and a magnifying screen in front of it to watch the proceedings. Afterwards my dad was passing round drinks and cigarettes from a wooden box. I took one. He said -You've taken it lady, now you can smoke it". It was awful. I coughed and coughed. felt sick and dizzy and have never put a cigarette between my lips since!!
My younger brother remembers standing outside Tom Brown Tailors with his classmates to watch the Queen in an open carriage with lots of horses and soldiers on her way to Windsor. (I have no recollection of this). Nearly everyone eventually went to the ABC Cinemas in Thames Street to watch the coronation on the big screen and see pictures of Hilary and Tensing on top of Everest. We all clapped and cheered."
Jacquie aged 10½ in 1953
"Myself, and my younger sister, lived on the main road at the junction with Tilstone Avenue. We had a street party in Tilstone and it was organised by Mrs Wilkes and Mrs Wilson. There were lots of tressle tables and benches (I don't know where they came from). My mum had to borrow lots of small bowls as she was in charge of making the jellies. They were left to set in the back porch and covered with a sheet. She also made lots of rock cakes. My auntie made bowls of fruit punch and Bonds supplied some fruit. We were very excited watching balloons being blown up with a pump. (Could it have been helium?) We went to the brook at Dorney Common edge to let them go. We didn't want to lose them. balloons were a special treat and some of the children got upset. We watched the Coronation on our newly bought SM screen television. The Village Hall had lots of decoration and there was bunting around the rec.
Pat Cole aged 14 and Nita aged 8 in 1953
"My father had a position with what was then known as the War Office (later Ministry of Defence) in Whitehall. He had been able to secure tickets for seats at an upstairs window on the route of the Coronation Procession from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace for my brother Philip (15 years old) and me (11 years old). I cannot recall many details now 79 years after the event but do recall how lucky we felt and how excited we were at the time.
Shortly after Coronation Day there was a Royal carriage procession along Eton High Street which was decorated with bunting. I believe this procession continued over Windsor bridge and up to the castle. Pavements were lined with excited loyal subjects cheering the new Monarch. We lived at 122 High Street. Eton practically opposite the entrance to Porny school and had a balcony which gave us great views of the procession as it passed by. I have a small photograph taken at the time from an upstairs window. I also have feint recollection of a street party along the length of Eton High Street which I feel sure was replicated on a national scale.'
Mike Newland - 6 February 2023
I was living with my parents and grandparents in Eton Square and went to Eton Porny School. We didn't have a television, so we went to my aunt and uncles in Spingfield Road, Windsor and watched the Coronation and what I think was a 12" Bush TV with a magnifying glass in front on the screen. We were all excited because my uncle Mac was in the procession and followed the Coronation coach and was the Royal Standard bearer. He was a regimental Corporal Major in the Royal Horse Guards which later become the Blues and Royals. As I recall the weather that day was wet and the only memory I have is seeing Queen Saloti of Tonga who insisted on riding in an open top carriage and getting soaked:
Barry Alder aged 10½ in 1953
We thank all the above for their interesting anecdotes. In terms of street parties, we are told they were in The Wheatbutts field and on what was known as the 'new' Rec (opened in 1952 by Prince Philip), alongside numerous gatherings on a street-by-street basis. On a more sombre basis we also received memories of the funeral of King George VI. and his journey from the ceremony to where he is entombed, at Windsor Castle. He was taken to Windsor Central station by special train.
Children from Eton and Eton Wick were taken to watch the train cross the viaduct from Chalvey to Windsor, those lucky enough to live on the right side of Somervile Road could actually watch from their back gardens! Similarly, those elder children attending Ragstone Road secondary school³ could watch from their playground. For those with an interest in railways the locomotive hauling the train was No. 4082 Windsor Castle'.
We would hope that all our readers will enjoy the coronation weekend, maybe a unique one in history, hopefully there will be plenty of events in or around the village, and if nothing else the young ones will appreciate another day off off school and extra cakes, as they did on Coronation Day 1953.
As previously mentioned, the Village Hall trustees will be organising Coronation celebration mugs for village children, together with a large screen broadcast and lunch in the Village Hall for our senior citizens.
Note 3 Ragstone Road secondary school is now called Slough and Eton Church of England Business & Enterprise College.
This article is republished here with the kind permission of the Eton Wick Village Hall Committee. It was published in the April 2023 edition.