In the early hours of 6 February 1952 King George VI passed away from a coronary thrombosis at the age of 56, an event which saw Princess Elizabeth’s immediate accession to the throne.
Prince Philip broke news of her father’s death to the new monarch at Treetops Hotel, Kenya where they were staying en route to a tour of Australia and New Zealand. Proclaimed Queen throughout her realms, she retained Elizabeth as her regnal name and so began the second Elizabethan age.
There was no tangible marking of the occasion of accession so the following year’s Coronation was the de facto act of mass acknowledgement. This shows how St Ives commemorated the big day.
Summer 1951 had seen the Festival of Britain, with an impressive nationwide programme of cultural events as Great Britain sought to shake off the effects of post-war austerity, but the Coronation was the first concentrated focal point of widespread celebration. To ensure St Ives was ready to play its part a Coronation Committee made up of members of the town council, local ministers and representatives of local organisations from throughout the borough was formed.
By the end of the May the streets were festooned with flags, bunting and floral displays as shopkeepers, businesses and householders responded in no uncertain manner to the call to ‘be gay’. Central St Ives was a sea of red, white and blue, with fairy lights along Fore Street, High Street, Tregenna Hill and Tregenna Place.
The Wharf area took on a modernistic appearance, members of the the art colony creating 12 mobiles suspended on 30 foot high stanchions erected around the harbour. The mobiles, made of various metals in designs representing the industries and craft of Cornwall, wove patterns as they swung in the wind. The Guildhall and Malakoff had displays of flowers and bunting, with a big floral crown at the junction of Tregenna Hill and Tregenna Place.
The streets of Downlong were decorated with garlanded fishing nets and glass floats.
Mayor Of St Ives
“We the Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses of the ancient borough of Cornwall humbly tender sincere congratulations on the occasion of your Majesty’s Coronation and express our continued loyalty to the Crown.”
“With your Majesty’s approval this telegram is sent in lieu of a formal address of loyalty, and the money thus saved is being devoted to the provision of a holiday for two people to be selected by the Red Cross Society.”
“We earnestly pray for God’s blessing on your Majesty, and that your reign might be long, happy, and prosperous.”
Marion Pearce, appointed on 18 May as St Ives’ 319th mayor and the first woman to hold this office, sent a greeting to The Queen.
The holiday suggestion was warmly commended in a letter of reply from The Queen’s private secretary.
This outline programme, giving predominant emphasis to the Coronation’s religious significance, was produced in the last week of March:
Saturday 30 May – Salvation Army International Band (SAIB) will be received at The Guildhall at 3.15 p.m. with a reception festival open to the public.
Sunday 31 May – Parade led by the Royal British Legion in which the SAIB will take part. The salute to be taken at The Wharf, the parade ending at the Wesley Chapel for a festival of thanksgiving and rejoicing.
Monday 1 June – Special united service in the Wesley Chapel.
Tuesday 2 June (Coronation Day) – Special service in the Parish Church at which the broadcast of the Coronation Service will be heard. (Each night during Coronation week the Parish Church will be floodlit, as will the Parish Church of St Anta and All Saints, Carbis Bay).
Immediately after the Coronation, a 21-gun salute will take place from West Pier. At 9 p.m. a bonfire will be lit on The Island, followed by a torchlight procession to the harbour, where a firework display will begin at around 10 o’clock.
‘Each child living in the borough will receive a Coronation beaker. In Carbis Bay, Lelant and Halsetown separate programmes will be arranged.
At Carbis Bay there will be a triumphal arch at the top of Longstone Hill made of floral decorations, while Lelant will have a permanent reminder of the event by the dedication of the Coronation gates at St Uny Church on 31 May.
A scented white rhododendron will be planted by Lelant W.I. President Mrs I. Gregory at the Lelant War Memorial, the tree carefully selected by Colonel Tyringham in the hope that it would ‘thrive and blossom as a lasting reminder of this wonderful coronation year.’
The SAIB brought a letter from the Lord Mayor of London Sir Rupert de la Bere, who said ‘It has come to my knowledge that the Salvation Army International Staff Band is visiting St Ives in connection with the Coronation celebrations. I am happy that the City of London will be so worthily represented and send my very best wishes not only for the success of your effort but for the continued wellbeing of all who come within your jurisdiction.’
That parade took place in brilliant sunshine, with hundreds lining the route along Lifeboat Hill, Market Palace, High Street, Bedford Road and Wesley Place to watch the band as it moved on the Wesley Chapel. Such was demand for the service over 1,500 crammed into the church, with many more turned away.
In the evening the band appeared at a festival of ‘music for everybody’ at the Wesley Chapel, with organist Walter R. Roberts. Among the audience were Miss Priaulx Rainier, organiser of the St Ives Festival of Music and G.N. Pearce (President) and members of the St Ives Rotary Club.
Throughout the course of producing these pages, we spent many hours researching through the town archives and asking the public to bring any and all the information regarding the events that took place here in St Ives.
We hope you enjoy what we have gathered together and if you have any additional pictures, film, or memorabilia please bring it to the St Ives Library and we can share it on these pages. Any digital contributions to be sent direct to St Ives Archive.
Research and content kindly supplied by the St Ives Archive, newspaper extracts supplied by the St Ives Library and reproduced with the kind permission of the St Ives Times & Echo.
Colour images taken from John Gyles Stevens’ 1953 cine film and shown here courtesy of Frank Stevens.