A Coronation and a Wedding – Royal Events in London

In my second post of the Jubilee weekend, I am looking at a couple of royal events in London. The 1953 Coronation and 1981 Royal Wedding. Some of these photos have been in previous posts, some are new, and they show how in many ways royal events in London are much the same today as they were seventy years ago.

Many of my father’s photos were taken on bike rides around the city, early on a Saturday or Sunday. This worked due to periods away on National Service, work during the week, and other commitments. The following photos were taken early on Sunday, 31st May 1953, and look at some of the street decorations for the Coronation.

A decorated café in Hoxton, with my father’s bike leaning against the wall.

London cafe decorated for the Coronation

The above photo has been in the header to the blog since I started in 2014, however I have not yet found the location, apart from it being in Hoxton. The building has almost certainly been demolished.

Appleby Street, also in Hoxton:

Coronation at Appleby Street

Ivy Street, Hoxton, between Hoxton Street and Pitfield Street:

Coronation at Ivy Street

Shenfield Street, between Kingsland Road and Hoxton Street:

Coronation at Shenfield Street

The northern end of Whitecross Street, close to the Old Street junction:

Coronation at Whitecross Street

Another view of Whitecross Street:

Coronation at Whitecross Street

The expectation at the time was of a new Elizabethan era with comparisons back to Queen Elizabeth I as shown by the following tableau along the route of the procession. The text on the left is abbreviated from a speech given by Queen Elizabeth I to the Houses of Parliament on April 10th 1593 (1558 was the year that Elizabeth I became Queen) and that on the right from Queen Elizabeth II from her first Christmas broadcast in 1952.

Royal Events - the new Elizabethan age

A map of the Coronation route was produced jointly by the London Transport Executive and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis for the Coronation of Elizabeth II on Tuesday 2nd June 1953:

1953 London Transport map of the Coronation route

Some of the elaborate decorations that lined the Coronation route:

Coronation street decoration

Whitehall:

Coronation street decoration

The ornate decorations that suspended a crown over the Mall:

Coronation street decoration

The 2nd of June 1953 was Coronation Day in London and a public holiday. As usual for such an event, people started lining the route between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey well before the procession to ensure a good position to see the new Queen.

The weather during the previous May had been excellent with lots of warm, sunny weather broken only by the occasional thunderstorm. This weather broke by the end of May, for the last week of May and the rest of June the country was under many low pressure areas moving from the Atlantic bringing rain and cold temperatures for June. It was the coldest June for a century.

My father took a number of photos of people as they lined the route, along The Mall and round into Trafalgar Square and surrounding streets.

These show people wrapped up for the weather:

Waiting for the Coronation

These two look cheerful despite the long wait and the weather:

Waiting for the Coronation

The newspaper between them was the Daily Mirror from the 29th May. The headline “The Shame Of Piccadilly” and “The rich street forgets” refers to the complete lack of decoration in Piccadilly for the Coronation. There are two photos on the page. The top photo shows Piccadilly without any decoration, the bottom photo shows, what is assumed to be an ordinary working class street decorated with flags and bunting and a Long Live The Queen banner stretched across the road:

The Shame of Piccadilly

The morning of the 2nd of June was more like an autumn day with rain showers and temperatures reaching only 12 degrees centigrade. Very low for early June.

This is Trafalgar Square:

Coronation at Trafalgar Square

On the left is one of the commentary boxes set-up along the route. This was the first Coronation to be televised:

Coronation at Trafalgar Square

Photo of the small group of people on the lion. Not sure how long the man on the far left was going to balance in that precarious position:

Coronation at Trafalgar Square

A wider view of a very busy Mall:

Royal Events in the Mall

The weather did improve later in the day. Again in The Mall and the crowds are growing. In the top left is the faint outline of one of the arched decorations that spanned the Mall (see earlier photo for the suspended crown), and the legs of one of these decorations can be seen among the crowd sitting at the street edge:

Waiting for the Coronation

The following two photos were taken on the day before the Coronation as people found their place ready for the next day’s events. Sleeping in The Mall:

Waiting for the Coronation

This photo was also taken in The Mall. They look well prepared for the wait. The man is obviously not interested in people watching, he looks engrossed in his book. The group in the background also seem very well prepared judging by the number of boxes they have around them.

Coronation

Royal events have always brought people out to the streets of London, and whilst fashions change and the clothes they are wearing look different, there is a common thread between all the street scenes at this events.

I did photograph the 1977 Jubilee, but cannot find these photos / negatives. Hopefully I have not lost them in the intervening 45 years.

I have found photos of another of London’s Royal events, of crowds building for the wedding of Charles and Diana that took place on the 29th July 1981. On the evening of the 28th July I took a walk from St. Paul’s Cathedral and along Fleet Street and the Strand to take some photos.

Starting at St. Paul’s Cathedral, this is where the best positions were and large crowds had already found their place ready for an overnight stay.

I must have had a couple of photos left on some Black and White film before moving to colour.

Outside St. Paul’s Cathedral:

Royal Events outside St Paul's Cathedral

Crowds at this perfect position looking across at the steps leading into the Cathedral:

Royal Events outside St Paul's Cathedral

I must have then switched to a colour film:

Ludgate Hill

Ludgate Hill:

Ludgate Hill

Looking back up Ludgate Hill. Although this was the evening before, the road had been closed and a large number of people were just walking the route, taking in the atmosphere and watching the people who were settling in for the night along the edge of the route. It was a warm evening and I remember there being a real sense of a big event taking place the following day.

Ludgate Hill

The Old King Lud pub, decorated for the event. This was a lovely Victorian pub, built-in 1870:

Old King Lud pub decorated for the Royal Wedding

Now in Ludgate Circus. This was when the railway bridge still ran across the start of Ludgate Hill. The Old King Lud pub is on the left:

Royal Wedding at Ludgate Circus

Moving up into Fleet Street. This road was still open and the pavements were busy with those walking and those waiting:

Royal Wedding in Fleet Street

This was when Fleet Street was still occupied by newspaper publishers. The Express offices on the left and those of the Star on the right. I remember walking along Fleet Street and the side roads leading down to the Thames on a late Saturday afternoon / early evening and listening to the sound of the newspapers being printed and the amount of activity to get the next day’s edition distributed. All very exciting when you are young and exploring London.

Royal Wedding in Fleet Street

Most of the decorations were put up by the owners of the buildings along the route. “Official” street decoration was very limited, mainly these pennants hanging from lamp posts. Union Jacks along with red, white and blue bunting was out in abundance:

Royal Wedding

The George pub in the Strand which fortunately is still there:

Royal Wedding

Along the side of the Royal Court’s of Justice:

Royal Wedding

Prepared for a long night’s wait:

Waiting for the Royal Wedding

Royal events show a rather timeless side to London. Whilst so much in the city changes, the streets repeat previous appearances whenever one of these events take place.

They continue to attract people in their thousands to line decorated streets, many reserving their place on the preceding day, and braving whatever the weather brings down on London.

A shame though that Transport for London no longer issues any special maps for such events.

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12 thoughts on “A Coronation and a Wedding – Royal Events in London

  1. Brian Beckett

    An uncle of mine serving in the territorial army, RAMC, sat in an ambulance just off Piccadllly the night of June 1/2 watching people trying to bed down on pavements in the drizzling rain.

    Reply
  2. Diana Swinfield

    I love the combination of coronation bunting and cricket stumps chalked on the wall in Appleby Street.

    Reply
  3. Guy

    Nor do we seem to be able to lay hands on those little cardboard periscopes that everyone used for seeing the processions….perhaps they didn’t work properly !

    Reply
  4. JohnC

    The view from Ludgate Hill brings back memories of working in the late 1980s in the building on the left just beyond the railway bridge (when it was known as Export House). I used to watch the trains go by from my office window. Opposite Export House was an undeveloped bomb site which I believe was intended at one time to be the site for a station on the Fleet / Jubilee line. It is now the City Thameslink station.

    Reply
  5. Celia Marus Crangle

    I remember Coronation Day although I was only 6 years old. I guess it was the street party and Coronation Mug we were given. The wedding of Diana and Charles, I watched on Television in Canada.

    Reply
  6. Stan

    Thanks for these great photos. I lived in Qeensbridge Rd, Dalston I remember standing in line waiting for the Queen, I was disappointed she was in a limo and not a coach, I actually lived on the route although we could see better from our house we still joined the crowd. I also lived in Pearson st that’s in one of your photos ‘Appleby St’ we classed it as Shoreditch. All great stuff and thank you again. Stan

    Reply
  7. Robert Wells

    We lived in Cardiff at the time and did not own a tv so we all went up to a friends house and watched theirs. It must have been crowded as there was eight of us. Plus Stevens family . After the coronation all the school kids were taken to the gaumont to watch a film of the event. What sticks in my mind was when the Queen and Prince Philip came to Cardiff as part of their grand tour and I along with all other members of uniformed organisations, scouts, guides etc. lined the route through the city centre. A very special day

    Reply
  8. Stan

    We had a small TV ‘as they all were’ but we still went outside to watch the Queen go by even though we could Watch It from our house which was on the route. A very memorable day.

    Reply

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