Leamington History Group looks back at coronation celebrations in the town
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Ever since 1830, when Princess Victoria stayed in the Regent Hotel - then a grand hotel which put Leamington on the European Tour Map - the town’s connections with royalty were truly cemented, writes Stella Bolitho of the Leamington History Group.
Appropriately The Leamington Courier, declared, in 1838, that “the Coronation Festivities and Leamington will not be surpassed in splendour or character!”.
With two days of entertainment planned, plus the closure of all businesses for the duration, such was the excitement for the newly named Royal Leamington Spa town.
Even the hoi polloi were invited to celebrate - with the rich encouraged to donate funds for this.
Church bells rang out and the townspeople gathered in thanksgiving.
A huge children’s procession, involving most schools and Sunday schools, marched from Leam Terrace to Lansdowne Crescent, Beauchamp Square, Clarendon Square and Church Street.
In the same year, the foundation of the town’s new bridge was laid - aptly named Victoria Bridge which then opened in 1840.
There are many places named after the Queen, including Victoria Terrace and Park.
The coronation of Edward VII and his Queen, Alexandra, in 1902, was no less grand and celebrated “in a style befitting the great occasion.”
This, of course, was the year that Queen Victoria’s statue was erected, a domineering feature of the town today.
Music, dance, parades, and thanksgiving allowed the public to join in the celebrations – including the “aged and infirm” who were fed in the Pump Room Gardens.
Sports were arranged in Victoria Park, with parade and masquerade carnivals from Binswood and Beauchamp Avenue, to every corner of the town, followed by a torchlight parade to the Campion Hills bonfire.
This was no different in 1911 when George V and Mary were crowned.
The town was brightened with banners and flowers and a competition for the ‘best dressed’ premises, including E. Francis & Sons in Bath Street.
Victoria Park hosted sports and games – including pillow fights and human donkey rides - and there was a bonfire.
Four Thousand coronation medals were presented by the Leamington Mayor to children – and they had a whole week off school.
I wonder where these medals are now?
The Coronation for the next monarch, George VI and Elizabeth, took place in 1937, where again the Parade and parks were adorned.
The Pageant Procession raised funds for Warneford Hospital.
It was a time of great jollity for its residents - although an Engineer wrote to the local paper suggesting that the Town Council bring a “good, permanent supply of soft water” instead - to “give the townsfolk reason to remember the Coronation with rather more pleasure than mere illuminations, fireworks and flags!”.
The re was a Programme of Rejoicing for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, with The Courier reporting that the town celebrated “in a manner to be expected of a Royal Spa”.
Starting with a service at the Parish Church, the week-long party ended with a Carnival procession through the main streets.
There was a Regency Ball in The Royal Pump Rooms, street parties, music, juggling, tree-planting – in spite of the chilly weather.
"Long may she reign” was toasted across Leamington.