West Sussex Unwrapped Week 5: Jubilees and Coronations

Though 2020 has not really been the year for street gatherings, if there’s one thing people like to do – it’s have a celebration! Royal Jubilees and Coronations have been some of the easiest excuses for communities to gather together and have a bit of a party.

Taking a look through the centuries, we’re able to see a shift, particularly during Queen Victoria’s reign, when monarchs crossing milestones became a community driven celebration from more quiet and serious affairs, restricted to the church and upper classes.

Jubilees and Coronations on Film

Click the gif to go watch the film!

Snippet from the Crawley celebrates a Jubilee and a Coronation on Vimeo by Screen Archive South East, part of the series for West Sussex Unwrapped.

Images should not be reproduced without permission from West Sussex Record Office.

Jubilees and Coronations in the Archives

Going back some 400 years, we do have a couple of records which directly mention coronation days or what we now call jubilees. They appear mainly in parish records such as accounts and vestry minutes. As time goes by, and record keeping improves, we start to see more of what people were up to outside of Church services.

Tudors, Stuarts and Hanoverians

It is entirely likely, of course, that more was going on in local communities during coronations than the ringing of church bells – but very few official records survive from this period unrelated to the church. Still, we’ve got the odd reference to celebrations across the county during the 16th and 17th centuries for coronations and jubilees.

For example, Par 416/9/7, Lindfield parish accounts, mention a payment made for the ringing of bells for the anniversary of Elizabeth I’s “crownacion day” near the bottom of the page in 1591, and in Par 45/8/1, Chichester, St Peter the Less Churchwardens’ accounts, there is mention at the bottom of the page for the ringing the church bells for the coronation of James II in 1685.

With the Hanoverian period, public record keeping is more likely to survive, so whilst parish records are still the best places to find information for coronations and jubilees, we also find references in the old Chichester and Arundel Council minutes, as well as letters, invitations and other more personal records relating to the accession of monarchs.

The formal celebration of jubilees began with George III’s Golden Jubilee in 1809, but where the ‘informal’ celebrations truly begin is with Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, nearly eighty years later.

Queen Victoria and Edward VII

With Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, there’s an explosion of records to explore! Committee minutes, photographs, decorations, mugs, and so on the list goes! Here are some of our favourites from the Victorian and Edwardian era.

For Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 – the first to be celebrated since George III in 1809, parish records continue to be a great resource to consult. For example, Par 213/12/1 is West Wittering parish service sheets for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Look at that handwriting!

Chichester Cathedral also held a thanksgiving service on the 22 June 1897 for her Diamond Jubilee (reference Add Mss 41260, f16).

Celebrations were also organised by local councils. A favourite at the Record Office is ChiCity/CAL/1 – Minute Book of the Queen’s Jubilee, Local Celebration and Commemoration Treat Committee, 1887. We have written about this volume before, so check out that blog for more information on what Chichester got up to in 1887!

One delightful trend which started up was the Coronation/Jubilee Arches of Chichester. Based at each end of East, West, North and South Street, it grew into a competition of whose arch was the grandest. It petered out by George V’s time, but thankfully these photos remain! This one to the left is PH 14562, showing Eastgate’s arch in, 1887.

They popped up again in Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee ten years later. Below we have PH 20175, PH 20173 and PH 4835 – Northgate, Southgate and Westgate’s arches.

Also held within the city was several charitable events. Add Mss 41259 contains a notice for a public dinner to be held at the Corn Exchange on Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee for the poor of the city in 1897. The qualifications to be accepted for such a meal sound a little bit complicated, but the spirit was there nonetheless!

The ascension of Victoria’s son to the throne as King Edward VII meant more street decorations, as well as a coronation mug, which we happen to have received. Kevis images and PH 6521 show Petworth decorated in 1902, whilst PH 22207 shows J. Hobbs Bakers, on 19 North Street, Chichester all decorated to the gills!

King George V and VI

King Edward VII did not make it to a ‘major’ landmark of a jubilee, so the next big celebration came with the coronation of George V, in 1910. George V would rule for around 26 years, ensuring a Silver Jubilee was on its way.

Par 166/7/20 – Selsey Parish Church coronation Souvenir for George V’s coronation, 1910

King George V’s Silver Jubilee was marked by warm weather and a sense of stability after the short reign of his father and the economic uncertainty of the 1930s. Souvenirs, floats, parades and decorations show what Sussex got up to in 1935.

These photos all come from PH 6253, a photo album of Chichester and Walberton Silver Jubilee celebrations 1935. The album also contains photos from George VI’s coronation a couple of years later.

This is one our favourites! Add Mss 54839 is a printed cloth flag souvenir of the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary, 1935

The parish collections still provide great insight into local celebrations however! For example, Par 98/43/1, Harting’s parish committee for George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935, gives an overview of what went on during the sunny May day.

Par 59/7/14 – Cowfold orders of service for George V’s Silver Jubilee and the coronation of George VI, 1935 and 1937

King George VI’s coronation has a bit of an usual history. His older brother, the abdicated King Edward VIII, never had his coronation. As such, to stop all that planning from going to waste, King George’s was held on 12 May 1937, the same day Edward was originally due to have his coronation.

Photographs of the streets and shop windows are abundant at this time, and show a real festive mood, reminiscent of Queen Elizabeth II’s own coronation and jubilee days. This photo here is PH 334, and shows North Street, Chichester, Brenda’s Hairdressers decorations for the Coronation of George VI, 1937.

Do you recognise these streets from 1937? Chichester certainly got all done up to celebrate! Storrington made floats for a parade through the town.

Queen Elizabeth II

Zooming forward to more recent memories, Queen Elizabeth’s coronation day was not as sunny and warm as to be expected for a June coronation, but that did not stop the commemorations!

The Queen’s Silver Jubilee was marked by parties, fêtes, and services. Many of the posters and programmes have made their way to the Record Office, including MP 1611, which is a bundle of items showing local celebrations.

Additionally, items like Par 213/54/7 – West Wittering Programme for the Silver Jubilee Celebrations, 1977 – show what local parishes did to commemorate the anniversary.

For the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilees… well, needless to say, medals were struck, parties were held and mugs were made! Whether it was North Mundham, Balcombe or Midhurst, there was something going on everywhere.

What are your memories of the different jubilees (and coronations even) over the past decades! What did your local area do? Feel free to peruse on our online catalogue to see what we hold; it may bring back some fond memories! If you have anything from these times that you think should have a home at the Record Office, we would love to hear from you at record.office@westsussex.gov.uk

Keep an eye out for next week’s theme, ‘Rural Traditions’, on Tuesday 21st July.

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