“They Really Went to Town in the Villages” was the West Sussex County Times headline, on June 5th, 1953, as they reported on the celebrations that had been held across West Sussex for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
Plans for the celebrations in Loxwood began in November 1952 with the formation of a Coronation Committee, and the local Women’s Institute were at the forefront of the arrangements, led by its President Violet Farmer of Penlands (now Linden House).
The committee sent a questionnaire to all Loxwood households asking for suggestions for Coronation Day and most support was for; souvenir mugs for the children, a meal for the senior villagers, children’s and adult sports events, a fancy dress parade or grand carnival, a community tea party, an evening dance and a “public television show”. Television was in its infancy and the Government had fiercely debated whether the Coronation should be televised because of the scrutiny the cameras would bring to the historic ceremony. Winston Churchill personally urged the Queen to refuse to allow the ceremony to be televised, however the Queen dismissed that advice, and said she wanted everyone to be able to participate in the day and the cameras would most certainly be allowed.
The questionnaire also asked for suggestions for a suitable commemoration to mark the occasion, and there was overwhelming support for a bus shelter or shelters to be erected in the village because they were so desperately needed.
By February 1953 the Coronation events were finalised, without the “public television show” and the committee arranged a door-to-door collection to ask villagers to help pay for the celebrations and that raised a healthy £55. The following month the Warnham Youth Club staged a pantomime of Aladdin at North Hall in aid of the Coronation which raised a further £15 and at the end of March a social evening and dance was held at North Hall which boosted the fund still further. By May the committee had raised £116, another dance and social event was planned, and Mrs Amlett had started a “mile of pennies” collection which involved the villagers’ saving pennies in jars, to be opened at the celebration on June 2nd.
Coronation Day – ‘The Community Spirit’ & the incredible W.I.
The Coronation Day was cold and wet but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the villagers and all the events went ahead, centred around North Hall. The children took part in a fancy dress parade and the judges decided to award every child a prize for their amazing costumes, with special mention going to Janet Wilson, dressed as The Queen, Anne Stenning who came as Britannia and Trevor Lillywhite who was an Indian Brave. Violet Farmer planted a commemorative Blue Cedar tree that the W.I. had purchased from their funds, and the W.I. members served over 400 cups of tea, catered for 130 children at a ‘sit down’ party and then served over 300 adults with a buffet. The W.I. also sent a congratulatory telegram to Queen Elizabeth on behalf of the village and later that month Her Majesty graciously responded, also by telegram.
Reverend Roland Braby was in his seventeenth year as the Vicar of Loxwood having arrived in July 1935 from St Matthews Church, Brixton and he was one of the longest serving vicars in the district at that time. Reverend Braby attended the celebrations with his wife Kathleen and Kathleen presented prizes to the winners of the flower competition and the adult and children’s sports events. Mrs Amlett then gave the collection from the “Mile of Pennies” to the committee and that raised an impressive £20 for the Coronation Fund. The day ended with a dance and social evening at North Hall with music provided by “The Modernaires”.
The Coronation had finished but the celebrations continued!
Later that month members of the Coronation Committee arranged a Coronation Supper at North Hall for seventy senior villagers and Aylward & Smith of the Combination Stores presented them with a cake in the shape of a crown, which was cut by Mr Stringer, who was the oldest villager. In the evening, the community hymn singing was led by Mr Puttock, Mr Madgwick, Mrs Shapland and sisters Winifred and Constance Watson.
In November 1953 the locations of the long-awaited Bus Shelters were finally approved, and it was decided that two shelters would be constructed, one near Flitchfold Corner and the other at Alfold Bars. The Coronation Committee had £103 in hand to pay for the works but that didn’t stop the enthusiastic fund-raising events continuing, and Mrs Shapland arranged another evening dance for the community at North Hall, which must have been a ‘lively’ event because the music, both modern and old-time, was played by the brilliantly named band, “Erb and his Hayseeds”!