Looking back at the Coronation
02 Jun 2018
It is 65 years since the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II so I thought I would take a quick look in the archive and see how our companies marked the event.
As might be expected, I found quite a few photographs of our offices decorated for the occasion. The photograph below shows the decorations planned for the Glasgow office of Northern Assurance at 90 St Vincent Street. Sadly, we don’t have any photographs from the day itself to see how the building actually looked in its finery.
Northern Assurance, Glasgow office proposed coronation decorations, 1953
Fortunately, we can see the finished coronation decorations on Norwich Union Life’s head office, Surrey House, in Norwich. This building is now home to the archive and the archive collection even includes the minutes of the coronation committee which planned the display.
Norwich Union, Surrey House decorated for coronation, 1953
The reign of Elizabeth II was to be the 10th in which the company had operated. For the coronation of the Queen’s father, George VI, Norwich Union had proudly produced a postcard depicting all the Kings and Queen who had come to the throne since the establishment of its earliest constituent, the Amicable Society, in 1706.
Norwich Union, promotional postcard for coronation, 1937
Another company looking back to its earliest roots as part of the coronation celebrations was Commercial Union. As well as photographs of decorated branches, such as the image below of Ipswich branch, the archive collection includes mementoes of a coronation cricket match.
Commercial Union, Ipswich branch decorated for coronation, 1953
On 30 May 1953, members of staff took part in a very special match played at the 'cradle of cricket', Hambledon, Devon. The team from Commercial Union, dressed in specially made replica uniforms from the company’s earliest fire brigades, played a team from Hambledon, whose cricket club had been formed in 1750.
Commercial Union, poster for coronation cricket match, 1953
The match took place at Hambledon’s Broadhalfpenny Down ground with spectators as well as players dressed in period costume. The Hambledon team arrived by horse and cart while the ‘ancient firemen’, naturally, arrived on a fire pump. The match, which ended in a draw, was played according to rules from 1744 with under arm bowling, curved bats, no boundaries and a notched stick for scoring. We still have one of the bats and a scoring stick in the archive collection.
Commercial Union, bat used at coronation cricket match, 1953
The Commercial Union team were: H J (Percy) Pluck (captain), Brian Grainger, Geoff Lumley, George Gobey, Mike Allingham, Ray E Waller, A G (Bert) Crouch, W C Hall, John R Porter, Geoff F Smith and Don W Smith with John R Bissett acting as one of the umpires. According to contemporary newspaper reports Geoff Smith had even grown his own side whiskers for the event.
Commercial Union, photograph of cricket match, 1953
Staff at General Accident’s Perth office in Scotland were not looking back to the ancient roots of cricket, instead they were invited to watch the coronation on the latest communication medium, television. A fortunate few received invitations, such as the one below, to watch the procession in person from the company’s offices at 13 Pall Mall.
General Accident, invitation to coronation procession, 1953
General Accident had particularly good reason to celebrate the coronation having had close Royal links since 1908 when the Prince of Wales, the future George V, had taken out the first of many royal motor insurance policies. The letter below was sent to the company in 1911 listing carriages and horses which needed to be insured against accidents during his coronation.
General Accident, letter re coronation insurance, 1911
I would like to think that the 'old state coach' insured for £3000 is the gold state coach in which the Queen travelled in 1953 for her own coronation.
Although I have yet to come across anything in the archive to show our companies insuring the coronation procession of 1953 we do know that they were providing insurance cover for smaller events up and down the country. The Employers' Liability Assurance Corporation produced this eye-catching proposal for Public Liability insurance for Coronation celebrations.
Employers' Liability, proposal cover for coronation celebrations, 1953
Norwich Union’s proposal for third party liability policy for coronation celebrations was more understated. It covered food, drink, fire and explosion which, for an addition premium, could be extended to cover fireworks, motor cycle events, procession risks and car parking.
Norwich Union, proposal cover for coronation celebrations 1953
The company also suggested to employers that they could mark the occasion by setting up pension schemes for their staff.
Norwich Union, cover for pension booklet, 1953
I only wish I knew how many companies took up the offer or how many employees were recipients of 'Coronation' pensions.