THE whole of the country partied on June 2, 1953, when the young Elizabeth Windsor was formally crowned Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey.

York was not about to be left out, despite a blustery wind and the threat of rain.

“Street parties in York risk the weather – but are ready for a move indoors” proclaimed the headline across two broadsheet pages of photographs of the city celebrating the coronation.

“York celebrated the Coronation with gaiety and merriment,” wrote the reporting team that day. “A city of myriads of flowers, thousands of flags, miles of bunting and scores of parties in terraces and streets, it made the day a fittingly memorable one. Low clouds bringing the threat of rain this morning, coupled with a cold, strong wind from the north, failed to lessen the determination of people in the city to celebrate the great occasion.”

In the city’s hospitals, children were given sweets courtesy of Rowntree to celebrate the day, while adult patients who could leave their beds watched the coronation on that new-fangled instrument, the television.

On York’s rugby league ground in Wigginton Road there was a variety entertainment to celebrate the coronation. Across the city, streets were garlanded with flowers, including no fewer than 150 hanging baskets, and bunting.

Parliament Street was kept clear of traffic for open-air dancing, and across the city – and in towns and villages throughout the area – streets and local groups and neighbourhoods organised their own parties.

The children of Poppleton Road Junior School dressed up as pirates, cowboys and gipsies for their Coronation fancy dress parade. Another such parade made its way along Heslington’s village street, while the Muncaster Tenants and Allotments Association crowned its own ‘queen of the party’. She travelled on a float with a beautiful replica of the Queen’s own crown to her ‘crowning ceremony’ in York.

Copmanthorpe’s celebrations provided one of the prettiest tableaux of the day, reported this newspaper, with a “Queen of the revels” riding in a decorated vehicle, with postillion and liveried attendant. Dane Avenue, meanwhile, crowned its own little queen, Marlene Taylor.

While the people partied, York’s civic leaders didn’t forget their duty. They sent a formal message to the Queen from the ‘Citizens of York’.

“To The Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty”, it read. “Most Gracious Sovereign. We, The Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Citizens of the City of York most respectfully and dutifully tender to Your Majesty our sincere devotion and loyalty on your Coronation. We remember with pride the interest taken in and the many visits made to York by Your majesty and other members of the Royal Family, and we assure Your Majesty of our unswerving loyalty and affection. We pray that God may grant Your Majesty long life, peace and happiness.”

The Lord Mayor, Charles Oliver, and his Sheriff, John Shannon, hosted a coronation ball at the Assembly Rooms Tickets were 30 shillings each, which included supper. On the menu that evening was fresh Scotch salmon, ox tongue or roast stuffed Norfolk turkey, sherry trifles, gateaux or peach flan, and assorted cheeses and biscuits.

In a special coronation supplement in the Yorkshire Evening Press, the newspaper’s staff went overboard, meanwhile, in their attempts to bring the magic of the Coronation at Westminster Abbey alive for readers.

A ‘fashion correspondent’ wrote of the “dream dress, sparkling like dew on a summer morning”, designed especially for the Queen to wear at her Coronation.

“The historic dress is of white satin, embroidered with emblems of Great Britain and the commonwealth,” the correspondent noted. “It has short sleeves with a full, flaring skirt, slightly trained, and the neckline of the fitted bodice is cut square over the shoulders, then curving into a heart-shaped centre.”

A team of special correspondents from the newspaper were in London for the big day, covering every moment from the Queen’s departure from Buckingham Palace to the moment she emerged from Westminster Abbey, wearing the imperial purple and ermine.

Terence Feeley, a former member of staff, was in Westminster Abbey for the ceremony itself. He described the slim figure of the ‘undoubted Queen’ turning to face the blazing fanfare that greeted her. “Out of the glory of the Coronation, what am I left to tell my children in the years to come?” he asked.

“This is the dominant thought in my mind as I sit in the abbey and the Queen goes down the nave to go through those great doors. I am left with the blare of trumpets, the blaze of robes, the jewelled coruscation of the coronets, but above all this, clear and heart-warming amongst the glitter, I am left with… the Duke of Edinburgh in the South Transept. His eyes are steady on his wife. She stands alone before the altar, slight and womanly in an unadorned white robe before her anointing, and I am conscious of the distance between them.”

That distance, he wrote, was underlined when the Duke came to swear loyalty to his wife and Queen, and to become her “liege man of life and limb”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury then, after anointing the Queen, presented her to the assembled dignitaries in the abbey as their ‘Undoubted Queen.’ Undoubted Queen indeed, wrote Feeley, “as the fanfare blazes and the slim figure turns and faces south and again east, and again north, and ‘God Save Queen Elizabeth’ echoes out from us all”.