Richmond in the 1937 coronation

Cover of the Radio Times, 7 May 1937 edition, marking the Coronation of George VI; with a painting by Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson

The last coronation to take place in May was in 1937, when the grandfather of HM King Charles was crowned. It took place on Wednesday 12 May. This was actually the date fixed for the coronation of Edward VIII, King George’s elder brother, who had abdicated the previous December. It was judged that the arrangements were too far advanced for the date to be changed.

The towns in the area were highly decorated in honour of the new king. The Richmond Electricity Company were selling “handsome coloured shields for outside decoration. Shields can be brilliantly lighted by one 40-watt lamp and the cost of current for 24 hours (say from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily during the Celebrations) will be about one penny.”

Visitors to Kew Green found that it was: “encircled with red, white and blue bunting and streamers, and nearly every house sports a Union Jack and coat-of-arms. Many of the houses present most colourful spectacles, especially after dark, when artistically-arranged fairy lights give the village almost a Venetian aspect.” In Richmond, Hill Rise “was a mass of flags and bunting and coloured lights. The Richmond Cinema was adorned with fairy lights. The Town Hall bore an elaborate shield and decorative scroll with the letters ‘G.R.’ The Union colours were also prominent.”

The festivities lasted a week, finishing with a splendid torchlight procession from Richmond Park to the Old Deer Park. A thousand torches were carried through the town centre. A journalist wrote of how athousand quivering flames lit up the dark shadows of the trees in the background. The whole road was a mass of light, creating a marvellous spectacle.”

Many residents had been setting aside small amounts each week towards celebrating the coronation with a street party. In Albert Road, Richmond “[t]he substantial sum of £25 was collected and donated for a coronation tea. The children each received a gift. The girls were given a pinafore, and the boys a tie. They all received a coronation mug, a bag of fruit, sweets and biscuits, and lemonade. There was a running buffet provided for the adults during the evening.”

Hyde Road’s tea party

In Hyde Road, three mothers had been collecting since September for a children’s tea party on Coronation Day. The Richmond Herald reported that that the children had been given a “wonderful ‘spread’, including pastries, jellies, sandwiches, fruit and cream, and ice-cream. In the evening there were very high spirits as the grown-ups had beer and sandwiches, and danced in the street. It was a merry scene.”

Based on an article originally published in Twickenham and Richmond Tribune, 28 April 2023