Remembering the Coronation Celebrations

On 6 February 1952, at the age of 25, Princess Elizabeth became Queen on the death of her father, King George VI.  One year later, residents of Bishopthorpe started planning to celebrate the Coronation which was to be held on 2 June 1953.

When June arrived, the villagers started a party that lasted a whole week!  They held sports events, firework displays, dances, fancy dress parades and crowned their own Carnival Queen.

Bishopthorpe resident, Elizabeth Anfield, remembers the excitement of being chosen as one of the Carnival Queen’s flower fairies.  Here she tells her story:

“I was about eight years old and feeling very proud of myself.  I had been chosen to represent my home village in the Coronation Festivities.  There had been a lot of preparations going on for many months.  I had been for an ‘interview’ in the village hall where any children who were interested in taking part had to parade on stage in front of the Committee.  It was a thrill to have been chosen.

“We then attended fittings for our costumes which had been cut out by the Village Seamstress, Phyllis Trafford.  The costumes were finished by our mothers on their Singer sewing machines.

Carnival_Queen_19531 June 1953: Surrounded by flower fairies, Mr. Reading crowns Carnival Queen Janet Heath outside the village hall.

“The Carnival Queen was Janet Heath. She had a magnificent dress with a red train – I was one of her attendants.  We were Flower Fairies, all dressed in different pastel colours.  I was a Violet and my dress had a full net skirt with scalloped petals around the waist.  We wore little caps with stalks on top and carried a posy of appropriate flowers to match.

“Eve Simpson was the Queen’s Special Attendant; dressed in white. She carried a cushion upon which the crown was placed until the Crowning Ceremony.  We gathered outside the village hall for photographs, with a Guard of Honour.

Carnival_1953_2“We climbed on to a flat-bed lorry, which was decked out with bunting and Union Jacks, and transported to the celebrations in the field in Acaster Lane (where the shops now are, opposite the Cricket Field).






“On Saturday, 6th June, there was a Fancy Dress Parade where we paraded together again.”

With thanks to Elizabeth Hulme (nee Anfield) for her memories and Barbara Duggan (nee Judson) for her photographs.


1897 – The Other Diamond Jubilee

Queen_VictoriaQueen Victoria’s portrait taken to mark her Diamond Jubilee in 1897.


The celebrations for this year’s Diamond Jubilee are much in evidence with promises of bonfires, fireworks and flag-waving taking place almost everywhere.  It would seem that the atmosphere was much the same in June 1897 when Queen Victoria celebrated her sixty-year reign.  Her great Jubilee procession which included troops from all over the empire, snaked its way through London, pausing for an open-air thanksgiving service outside St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Attending that service was the Archbishop of York, Dr. Maclagan, while at home in Bishopthorpe, his parishioners were enjoying their own modest celebrations.  The day started similarly with a thanksgiving service at St. Andrew’s Church.

Perhaps the vicar, Rev. Keble, reminded villagers of the occasion when, in September 1835, just two years prior to her accession, the young Princess Victoria stayed for a few days at Bishopthorpe Palace as guest of Archbishop Harcourt.  The Princess and her mother, the Duchess of Kent, arrived at the Palace escorted by the Yorkshire Hussars, no doubt watched with some excitement by many local residents.  The Princess was here to attend the Yorkshire Musical Festival.  According to her diary, Victoria did not particularly enjoy the concerts – she wasn’t a fan of Handel – but she must have enjoyed a good night’s sleep.  The Archbishop, it was reported, set about renovating the Palace for the visit and ordered two elegant state beds.   Victoria’s was covered in white velvet and her mother’s in blue.  They both laid their heads on pillows embroidered with rich Valenciennes lace.

Sixty-two years later in 1897, there were probably not many residents left who personally remembered that royal visit but, nonetheless, the inhabitants of the time were ready to celebrate Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.  Following the thanksgiving service, and in traditional Bishopthorpe-style, they set off down Acaster Lane and played a game of cricket.

The next important event was tea! Needless to say, a Diamond Jubilee Committee had been set up to organise the day’s events.  Headmaster Mr. Fred Taylor and the butcher Mr. George Scholey were in charge of the proceedings.  They ordered large quantities of food from suppliers in York: 16 loaves, a 40lb plum cake, 200 cheesecakes, 100 pork pies and a huge ham for sandwiches.  The women of the village were not to be outdone for they also ordered copious quantities of flour, lard, milk, yeast, currants and candied peel to bake buns and, appropriately enough, queen cakes.

This feast was consumed with some enthusiasm in Farmer Lofthouse’s granary but, as the villagers numbered about 400, they had to eat in two relays.  When appetites were satisfied, the children were delighted to be presented with souvenir mugs.  Once again, they returned to the cricket field where all kinds of sports were enjoyed.  Throughout the day, the band of the West Yorkshire Regiment had accompanied the fun by playing many lively pieces – but possibly not those by Handel!  The gathering concluded with three hearty cheers for Her Majesty and then joined in with a rousing chorus of the National Anthem.

Was it possible that the Queen enjoyed her Diamond Jubilee day just as much as the villagers of Bishopthorpe?

Linda Haywood


Yorkshire Gazette: Saturday, 5 September 1835, p3.

Yorkshire Gazette: Saturday, 26 June 1897, p3.

Borthwick Institute for Archives: BIS/34 Misc. bills, accounts & receipts.