Birmingham Celebrates!

Coronation Celebrations Programme

Coronation Celebrations Programme, 1953 (LE/Royal Occasions/42)

An extensive programme of events took place across Birmingham to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. In June 1953 concerts were held at the Town Hall where locals could enjoy such varied entertainment as the National Band of New Zealand, the Humphrey Lyttelton Jazz Show, the experience of an Old Time Dance, featuring Leonard Hayes and His Orchestra, and a Coronation Barn Dance.

The official Coronation Programme produced for Birmingham shows that gifts were to be distributed throughout the city. Babies born on Coronation Day were to receive £2. 2s. 0d, paid into an account in the Municipal Bank. All children up to the age of 11 were to receive a Coronation mug and a tin of chocolates. Older children could receive a Coronation mug, a decorated glass tumbler, a Bible, a New Testament and other books, propelling pencils, a pen knife, a sweet dish, spoons, sweets or a brooch. ‘Gifts for Old People’ were also produced. Women over 65 and men over 75 could apply for a souvenir canister containing ½ pound of tea and a caddy spoon. Approximately 62,000 applications were received and proof of age was required!

Diary of Musical Events for the Coronation Celebrations

Diary of Musical Events for the Coronation Celebrations (LE/Royal Occasions/42)

A ceremonial parade was organised throughout the City, commencing at Holliday Street. Representatives from all arms of the Armed Forces participated, including Commonwealth Forces from Pakistan and Ceylon. Local residents were busy organising committees to arrange their own street parties. One in particular, Newborough Grove and Newborough Road, took the celebrations seriously. As early as February 1953, residents were setting up a committee to organise special events. Celebrations included fancy dress, sports and games, and an evening concert provided by local talent. Official programmes were even printed with the order of events for the day. While it was hoped much fun was to be had by all, correspondence in the Ephemera Collection noted “You will see that we have purposely left out “Drinking”, although we do hope to all drink the Health of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.”

Another street ‘committee’  aimed to raise enough money so that a gift could be made to local ladies between the ages of 16 to 40 of a “pair of the sheerest nylon stockings they can buy”. Companies were also joining in the spirit of celebration with the Assay Office stamping their gold and silver with a special edition die showing the profile of the Queen’s head. One Birmingham company, Firmin & Sons Ltd. had the honour of supplying helmets, badges and buttons for the troops of the Household Cavalry riding in the Coronation procession in London.

The city centre was decorated in style. Lamps were decorated with banners in red, blue and yellow with the Royal Cipher in white emblazoned upon them. Rich coloured drapes with heraldic shields and crowns were hung, with ‘canopies of banners and swags’. Flag staffs were erected inVictoria Square and a decorative crown surrounded the base of the statue of QueenVictoria. New Street was described as a blaze of colour and the floodlit centre as ‘providing a fine climax to the day’.

The Coronation was enjoyed by all and brought Birmingham residents together to celebrate in style. The Diamond Jubilee gives Birmingham the opportunity to come together once again and celebrate 60 years of Queen Elizabeth II.

Nicola Crews

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