Bishopthorpe Celebrates George V’s Coronation, 1911

It is 100 years ago that the nation celebrated the Coronation of George V and Queen Mary.  The actual day, 22 June 1911, was a holiday and the city of York took on an air of festivity with bunting and flags strung from shops and homes.

By contrast, a visitor to Bishopthorpe who wrote about the day in the Parish Magazine was slightly disappointed.  The writer found, “So little had been done in the way of decoration of the houses or the village street.  A few inhabitants had made some effort in this direction, and they enabled one to see how good an effect could have been obtained if only more had cooperated.”

However, he or she, writing under the pseudonym of ‘An Outsider’, soon realised that various leading parishioners were missing, although loyally engaged elsewhere.  This included Archbishop Lang who was attending the Coronation in Westminster Abbey with his chaplain, the vicar of Bishopthorpe, the Rev. Crawley.  The ‘Outsider’ excused the lack of decoration in the village as the locals soon showed that their “energies and loyalty had been exercised in other ways”. He also admitted to having been indulgently and hospitably welcomed.

So the day began with Divine Service at St. Andrew’s Church which was well-filled; the children’s aisle being particularly crowded.  The singing of the National Anthem brought the service to a close and the congregation then proceeded to the cricket field.  On the way, the schoolchildren entered the Palace grounds where they were given Coronation mugs filled with sweets; a gift from the Archbishop.

On reaching the cricket field, sports and games followed thick and fast.  The tiny “dots” under the age of five ran the first race “manfully in the blustering wind.”  The little girl who was blown in first won a doll.  Race after race followed with children winning tops, building bricks and teddy bears.  Disaster struck only one yard from home when the two leading girls in the three-legged race lost the handkerchief which tied their legs together. As a result, they were disqualified.

The adults also took part in many races.  Most interest centred upon the tortoise bicycle races.  The women’s race was won by Mary Lofthouse who showed remarkable skill in the manipulation of her free wheel.  Egg and spoon, thread-needle and mixed clothes races were, apparently, very amusing and popular.  The most remarkable race of the day was for men aged over 50 years when an old gentleman of 85 came in third.

The races were followed by tea in Mr. Lofthouses’s barn, which had been cleaned and decorated making it look like a huge tent.  The long tables were spread with a beautiful tea and house plants.  But the children were described as the nicest decorations: “so pretty they looked, and so well-behaved were they that it was no wonder Mr. Sutherland took a snapshot of them.”  [What became of this rare photograph?]

The children returned to the cricket field for more games and sports while the adults had their tea.  Sports continued until 8.00pm when the prize-giving took place.  Cheers rang out afterwards for His Majesty and for the Archbishop who had supplied the tea as well as the Coronation mugs.  While the Archbishop was, indeed, generous the funding for the festivities was raised by public subscription and organised by many willing helpers.

The evening, which was spent dancing to music by a “capable” band, ended with the lighting of a huge bonfire and a display of fireworks.  As the anonymous writer, ‘Outsider’ concluded: “This ended a day that will linger long in the minds of many who were fortunate to be there.  A happy day it was to all, and the reason was not far to seek, all with one accord seemed to mean to be happy, and right royally they succeeded.”

Linda Haywood

Bishopthorpe Parish Magazine, July, 1911.

The Yorkshire Gazette, 24 July 1911, p7.