Locals played their part in Queen’s coronation

archive picture coronation 1953
archive picture coronation 1953

ON Monday, the Queen will celebrate the 60th anniversary of her coronation.

Hastings historian Victoria Seymour provides some of her memories from the June 3, 1953 and those of others who took part in the momentous occasion.

RESIDENTS of Hastings and St Leonards played their part in one of the most historic day’s in British history.

A group of 17 Hastings police officers went to London to represent the borough force at the coronation.

The men were accommodated under canvas at Kensington Gardens.

The only female police officer in the group, Miss Ethel Tucknott, stayed in a police section house in Bayswater.

Hastings Chief of Police, Lt Colonel Cargill, was also present on the coronation procession route.

He said that near where he stood was a young American reporter, crouched over a typewriter on the pavement in the drizzling rain.

Ten students from the Hastings Hotel and Catering School, six girls and four boys, were sent to London to serve coronation guests at a buffet. The students reckoned that between them they had waited on about 10,000 people.

In one marquee there was such a crush that some shelves collapsed. The police were called and service was suspended till order was restored.

Among the Hastings students was Jill Rowland, aged 19, who said she served Winston Churchill, the Commonwealth Prime Ministers and many other distinguished guests.

For revellers at home the rationing of some foods still existed, but everyone was allowed an extra pound of sugar and four ounces of margarine for the coronation; eggs had been de-rationed in March and cream in April. The 1953 street parties for children were more lavish than those held for victory eight years earlier.

For a Hastings mother-to-be coronation day became unforgettable.

Marie O’Neill, of Carisbrooke Road, gave birth at home to twins, a boy and a girl, at 12.45 am. They were named Norma Elizabeth and Norman Phillip to honour the day.

It was believed at the time that they were the first twins to be born in Britain on coronation day. Their birth was a shock to the parents as they had made preparations for only one baby. But Observer readers came to the rescue with offers of help and gifts for the twins.

The borough coucil gave a twin pram, as thanks for the favourable national publicity the O’Niells had brought to the town.

Brenda Cruttenden recently got in touch with The Observer about a coronation competition in which she won first prize.

She said: “I was 14 and a pupil at the St Mary Star the Sea in 1953.

“The competition was to make a commemorative scrapbook of the coronation. My effort won the first prize which was a big box of chocolates. Although sweets had come off ration in February I had never before seen such a big box.

“I still have the scrapbook but it is very fragile now.”

For more of Victoria’s memories of Hastings her book The Slow Turning Tide Hastings 1946-1954 is available priced £9.99, from Waterstones and the Hastings Information Centre. Alternatively visit www.victoriaseymour.com

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