From the Thorley Archives

  Local Thorley Memories of the Jubilee Celebrations


In response to the Editor's invitation in May's edition of 'In Touch' for Thorley memories of 50 years ago, I have been in contact with some of Thorley's more senior villagers. The Herts and Essex Observer archives were also able to add reports of events held to commemorate the 1953 Coronation.

The most significant event for Margery and Colin Sampford was that their courtship began at the Coronation Day party held in Thorley School. " It was a miserable day (weather wise) and Colin had a motor bike so he took me home after the party." The H&E observer recounts that "so many people turned up to the tea that a second sitting had to be arranged. At the same time the children's tea was held in the Hut which had been decorated for the occasion. All refreshments were arranged by Mrs T. Camp and helpers."

A Coronation Sports Day was held in the Valley Meadow the following week organised by the late Mr B.C. Mitchley and Mr G. Barker. Over 100 children took part in the events. Margery's brother, Jim Morton, aged 12, won the obstacle race - the prize for which was an alarm clock which is still working today. In the evening a 25-foot high bonfire was lit and there was a fireworks display.

Joyce Griffiths played her part in the Coronation celebrations when she worked at the Snap factory in Twyford Road. They made all forms of Coronation novelties including streamers, party hats and crackers that went all over England. The factory was owned by Mrs E. Maslen and Mr R. Speechley.

Len Wood's memories as a boy in the early 1950s are of the cart horse derby held in the fields by the Coach and Horses Pub in Thorley Street. Also, at that time, the houses in Highland Road and Hawthorn Rise were supplied with water from a wind pump in the field behind their houses. Len remembers many occasions when the pump either dried up or froze up and he was then detailed to take buckets to the village pump situated in Thorley High across the main road.

Perhaps the most abiding memory of the Coronation, and not just for the people of Thorley, was that this was the first time that the vast majority of the population had seen a live television broadcast.

Chris Newman recalls this as being " heady stuff in those days …… a room full of selected family and friends watching the flickering 14 inch black and white picture all morning, of being told to be quiet or sit still or go out to play - I think I did the latter." His street party was in the grounds of Whitehall and, besides the usual party goodies, they were entrusted with their Coronation mug.

At least two of our congregation were fortunate to see the Coronation procession at close quarters as it passed by them in Piccadilly. Doug Conridge worked at the Western Union Office. Whilst he had to be at the office by 6.30 a.m., before the route was cordoned off, he was given permission to leave his desk just in time to see Queen Salote of Tonga pass in her open-topped carriage. Doug remembers the day as being particularly wet and hers was the only open carriage in a long procession. Pamela Finch was also in position in a hotel overlooking Piccadilly. Her memory of the Queen was that she looked so grand and pretty but quite pale due, her father thought, to the weight of her crown.

Other events that year also came to mind - The news of the conquest of Everest by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing's was well timed for Coronation Day whilst later that year Dennis Compton, Stanley Matthews and Gordon Richards were the nation's sporting heroes.

Meanwhile on June 5th 1953 the H & E Observer reported that a special service was held at St. James the Great, Thorley, with the presentation of new flag of St. George. The parade was led by Mr H.R. Darnell and the standard bearer was Mr Gordon Barker. In his address the Rector (Rev. S.E.F. Robinson) said " Today we have made a new beginning in the dedication of this St. George's flag. It is the symbol of Christian faith and of Britain's greatness. It will be a constant reminder of the Coronation."

In recognition of this year's Queen's Jubilee, the St. Barnabas Centre has just received the gracious offer of a new flag and flagpole.

Bill Hardy
June 2002

From the Archives