A Royal Diamond Jubilee may be a rare event in the country’s history but as old local newspapers and the Museum’s photographic archive reveal Warrington has always known how to celebrate in style even in hard times.
In 1897 Warrington had a double cause for rejoicing as Queen Victoria reached the 60th year of her long reign and the town celebrated its 50th anniversary as a borough. The focus of events was naturally Tuesday 22 June which was a bank holiday and the national day of celebration. Warrington brought forward its annual Walking Day so that the procession of Sunday school children from the Town Hall would be a fitting centre piece for the day. 14,000 children paraded through the town and all received an envelope of newly minted coins.
Celebrations continued into the night with all the main streets decorated with flags and bunting and the novelty of shop windows with illuminated displays attracted large crowds which stayed on to watch a firework display.
There were also civic celebrations with the presentation of a new ceremonial sword and mace to the town. Other lasting legacies of the Diamond Jubilee year were the purchase and opening of two new public parks to benefit everyone; the aptly named Victoria Park and Queens Gardens.
Two World Wars passed before Queen Elizabeth’s great-great granddaughter’s coronation in 1953 and as one local paper reported, “the coronation has come like an oasis in a desert of fear, suspicion and escape from reality.” Warrington was ready for a party though some foods were still subject to wartime rationing. Communities came together to plan and by the big day on 3 June there were “dazzling displays of red, white and blue, flag hung houses, streamer bedecked shops and smiling photographs of the Queen and her husband.”
Religion was still a key part of people’s lives and many began the day at a church service. At 12.30 pm Warrington Parish church began a three hour long peel of its bells. Meanwhile those who could went to watch the events taking place in Westminster Abbey live by the new-fangled television set. Of course this wasn’t a 42 inch 3D full colour ultra thin screen but a tiny 9 inch flickering black and white picture!
Those lucky enough to own a set opened up their living rooms to as many neighbours who could cram in to watch the BBC coverage. Alas for the street parties the skies were grey and cheerless and some street parties had to take shelter in church halls, school rooms and even large garden sheds.
Soggy sausage rolls and spam sandwiches were saved and the trifle wasn’t washed away! A good time was had by all as “no expense was spared and few children were without a souvenir of some description when they finally toddled happily to bed.”