Memories of Queen’s Coronation street party in east London

To mark the Platinum Jubilee, Georgina Green looks back to the Fairlight Avenue street party in Chingford that was to held to celebrate the Queen’s Coronation on June 2, 1953.

Her piece is based on the memories of childhood friends Mary Martyn (née Duffield) who lives at Highams Park, Joan Westover (née Andrews) who lives at Blackmore in Essex and Jill Novaes (née Bowley) who has lived in Portugal since 1967.

The Fairlight Avenue and Fairlight Close locality was a happy place to grow up. The houses had been built just before the war and many had been bought by young couples and newly-weds. They went on to have children, many of whom (including Mary, Jill and Joan) were born early in 1943. Other babies followed just after the war and there were a few older children too. As the road was very quiet it was safe for them all to play together, with only the occasional coal lorry to interrupt their skipping games. Altogether, it was a very happy little community which organised their Coronation street party in June 1953.

The Duffields, Mary’s family, were one of the lucky ones who managed to buy a television in time for the Coronation and their sitting room was crammed full of neighbours all watching the service. They lived on the corner of Fairlight Avenue at 24 Endlebury Road, Jill lived at No.44 Fairlight Avenue with Joan two doors down at No.40.

A Punch and Judy show was held at the party

Memories are hazy as to the exact day of the party but the fancy dress competition is very clear. Jill was resplendent as a mermaid, with a long blonde wig which she admired in a scallop shell mirror. Needless to say, she won! Jill herself says that her mother spent all night making the scales for the mermaid outfit, but that “I hated it. I was topless and even though I had no breasts to worry about, I was very embarrassed and kept myself covered with the long tresses of my blond wig.”

Neither Mary or Joan can remember their costumes – they were so impressed by Jill’s mermaid, which Joan describes as “having a silvery scaly flipper that encased her legs and extended to her waist. She was lying along a board that had wheels underneath so that she could be pulled along.” Jill’s younger brother, Vernon, went as a strongman with a ‘leopard skin’ and ‘weights’.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

The front cover of ‘Royalty in Essex’

Once they were all back in sensible clothes there were races for the children at the Endlebury Road end of Fairlight Avenue, while presumably the Mums organised the food at the Larkshall Road end. Trestle tables had been put together and in those days when no-one had even heard of garden furniture, they brought out dining chairs. Mary still remembers how strange and exciting it was to sit at a table and eat in the street! Every family brought something for the feast such as sandwiches of cream cheese and beetroot which were delicious and seemed really exotic in those days. The centre piece was a cake made like the crown. Jill still remembers the purple ‘velvet’, it was such a vivid colour exactly like the photographs of the actual crown. Strangely, none of them remembers much about the Punch and Judy show in the picture but they must have all enjoyed it from the look on their faces.

Apart from the street party, there was a spectacular firework display on Chingford Plain with everyone singing songs like ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. Mary remembers that some children from King’s Road Junior School were dressed up as playing cards, with a kind of sandwich board arrangement. They went up to the Green (by St Peter & St Paul’s church) and the headmaster, Mr Swindle, the Rector, the Mayor and someone else played a game of whist with the ‘cards’. She also remembers a get-together of all the Brownies in the district which included dancing round the maypole.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Queen Elizabeth II pictured on page 32 of ‘Royalty in Essex’

Joan also remembers that three items were given to her to commemorate the coronation year. There was a Coronation cup, a book given by Essex County Council called ‘Royalty in Essex’, and a propelling pencil with a little painted metal crown at the top which she treasured.

Georgina Green has been involved with local history in Redbridge, Waltham Forest and the Epping Forest area for 40 years and is the author of several local history books. She is also ‘Mary’s little sister’ and remembers that she took part in the fancy dress as a ‘Rosette Girl’ with a dress made of tiers of red, white and blue crepe paper like a rosette. At the time she had no idea what a rosette was!

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