The Coronation of King Charles III is not history yet; it will be on Sunday 7 May 2023. But here are some memories of the celebrations surrounding the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth on 2 June 1953.

Janet Holloway nee Crane wrote to our village newsletter back in June 2013 with her recollections of 1953 – it is a long narrative but worth reading every word as it shines a light on village and small-town life and some celebratory customs no longer happening, from 70 years ago

Janet was born in 1937 and spent her childhood in Ashwellthorpe with her parents Arthur and Olive Crane and her three brothers – Patrick, Peter and Richard - in the home of her grandparents Robert and Emma Gibbons. The Gibbons' old house and orchard were next to Ronnie Clark's farm and the detached house opposite the village shop in The Street. In the present day, Ronnie Clark's Rose Farm bungalow has been demolished and developed with two detached houses and the Rose farmyard is now (May 2023) being developed. Now there are a pair of new semi-detached houses and a bungalow on part of this site, which used to be the village petrol station owned by Mr and Mrs Bill Turner from the 1960s. Then came the detached house opposite the 1970s village shop - this house was built for Janet's parents in 1952/53 on one side of the orchard.

Janet wrote:  "In the spring of 1953 Wymondham Town Council decided to celebrate the Coronation with a Carnival Queen and various events spread over one week. Brother Patrick played football for Wymondham Minors and because I was a keen supporter of the team, the boys decided, without my knowledge, to enter my name in the Carnival Queen competition. The local cinema in Wymondham was packed for the occasion. A number of local girls were entered in the contest although I don't recall exactly how many there were. Prior to the showing of the film "Buttons and Bows", we were asked to walk across the stage one by one and then line up together in front of the judges once they had made their choice".

Philip Yaxley, the well known Wymondham historian, told the Wymondham Magazine in May 2022, that the Carnival Queen and her attendants were chosen from fifteen girls who paraded before the judges and an enthusiastic audience on the stage of the Regal Cinema, now the Regal Lounge of the Wymondham and District Ex-Services Club. It was not confined to a beauty contest but deportment was taken into account and the judges would also pay attention to the volume of applause from the audience.

Janet went on to say: "I wore a lovely pale pink dress, typically fifties style, with a fitting bodice and short full skirt, and a pair of black high-heeled sandals lent me by a friend for the evening as I did not possess any suitable shoes. They were the first high heels I had ever worn and I felt so grown-up in them. I was very pleased I managed to cross the stage without tripping up and even dared curtseyed low to the judges.

I was so thrilled to be picked and with Christine Walker, a fellow pupil at the Notre Dame High School in Norwich, and Doris Bell as attendants, we settled down with the judges to watch the film. I was aware there was some disappointment that a Wymondham girl was not choosen".

Courtesy of Philip Yaxley and the Wymondham Magazine
Courtesy of Philip Yaxley and the Wymondham Magazine

"During the next few weeks it was arranged for us to visit the stores in Wymondham to choose the material for our dresses and our shoes which had been donated, and to the lady who made the dresses for us. Mine was made of white taffeta with a little bolero trimmed with sequins, and we all wore long lace mittens and silver sandals".

Courtesy of Philip Yaxley and the Wymondham Magazine
Courtesy of Philip Yaxley and the Wymondham Magazine

Philip Yaxley mentioned that on the Wednesday (3rd June 1953) of the week's celebrations, the Carnival Queen and her attendants were driven in a limousine around the town, with the British Legion Band, leading the Carnival and its Fancy Dress Parade, decorated cycles, horse-drawn vehicles and lorries.

Janet added: "One of my duties was to present the prizes at the athletic sports event at King's Head Meadow and I recall visiting older members of the community at a lunch in the WI hall and being presented with a diamante bracelet from the council.
It was a wonderful experience and a treasured memory" 

This was the 8th Annual Sports and Cycle Racing meeting and Janet and her assistants also visited street parties in the Pople Street area and one in Preston Road. The old people's event in the old Women's Institute Hall on Norwich Road was attended by about 250 people and Janet entertained the audience with ballet dancing.

Courtesy of Philip Yaxley and the Wymondham Magazine
Courtesy of Philip Yaxley and the Wymondham Magazine

In her 2013 letter, Janet added that at the time of the Coronation celebrations, she had attended the Peggy Car School of Dancing for some years and had just passed her final teachers' exam. Within a few weeks, she was asked to join a touring variety show at the old Norwich Hippodrome Theatre in St Giles when some of the dancers had flu, and this began her career on the stage. For a few years she danced in many shows across the country and also in Spain and Paris at The Moulin Rouge. She had met her husband during a summer show in Bournemouth and settled in Hampshire.


- Part One

Some of you will have known Samuel Victor Harvey and some will know of the building company which, for many years was in Wreningham and which is still in business today. Back in 1998, he wrote down his memories of growing up in Ashwellthorpe where he was born to Robert William Nathan Harvey and his wife Bessie nee Douglas, on 12 May 1910. His house, which later became known as Kenwyn until c. 1980 and then Lark Rise, was at the top of a loke along New Road. The picture below shows Samuel Victor standing between his father and sister, along with his mother and brothers and sisters in about 1916. 

Samuel's first day at Ashwellthorpe Village School on The Street, was 14 April 1914 when he joined 52 other children under the Head Teacher Mrs Annie Royle. Miss Lily Whitehand became Head in May 1919 after the death of Mrs Royle.

In 1998, Samuel Victor Harvey wrote down for me many of his memories of his school days, people, houses and events in Ashwellthorpe during his childhood and the time he lived in Ashwellthorpe. Some of his reminiscences are set out below in their original form.

Samuel Victor remained at Ashwellthorpe School until 8 August 1924 when he reached the leaving age of 14 years.

Lady Berners of Ashwellthorpe Hall, who died in August 1917, visited the school at least once a week during 1914/1915 and, in December 1914 and 1915 just before Christmas, she distributed presents to all the children - Samuel Victor remembered her well.

Although the above photograph was evidently not taken at Christmas time, it does show Lady Berners in her donkey cart surrounded by the children from Ashwellthorpe School

There was no Methodist Chapel in Ashwellthorpe, but there was one along New Road - just into Fundenhall - which had been founded in 1890 and which was attended by many Ashwellthorpe villagers. Samuel Victor Harvey remembered "There used to be a Sunday School at the Fundenhall Chapel. A Mrs Clarke lived on New Road was the Head Teacher and an anniversary every year held in a barn just further along, which since been pulled down, the proceeds collection used to give the children a treat which was a Tea in the Chapel and games and scramble for nuts".

Original Postcard calls it Ashwellthorpe Chapel

He added "When on a meadow at Gibraltar Farm (Fundenhall), the first item was a ride in horse drawn wagon around Wreningham, Silfield and back to the Chapel. Then after a year or so, the children used to go to Yarmouth for the day and the children thought that was great as some had been there before. It took 2 buses supplied by M/S Humphry of Forncett what cost about £10 for the two".

Two photographs of the outings are shown below from 1922 and 1926. Although all children are named in the 1922 picture, not many are recognised in the 1926 photo - but please let this website know if you can recognise anyone.

Samuel Victor also remembered a Curate called Mr Brundle who lived in Ashwellthorpe Parsonage, who rode a three-wheeled bike. "If he, by chance, was on the road when we came out of school, 2 or 3 of us boys would get behind his bike and push him along a bit faster than he normally went" [Mr Brundle was, probably the Reverend Ernest William Matthew Carey Rundell who was Curate under Canon Fardell in 1914/1915]. 

Samuel Victor Harvey remembered the First World War:

He also remembered:

John Bolton, the son of a Boot and Shoemaker in Carleton Rode (Francis and Thirza Bolton) lodged in Ashwellthorpe before 1861 and set up as a shoemaker. He remained in the cottage now known as Red Squirrels, The Street, until his death aged 78 in June 1917.

.Mr Harvey mentions below that the Co-op [Manchester Co-operative Wholesale Society] owned Lower Wood; its purchase followed the sale of the Ashwellthorpe Estate in 1918/1919. Anne Edwards, in her book If You Go Down to the Woods Today: A Natural and Unnatural History of Ashwellthorpe Lower Wood, writes that the Co-op referred to its Norfolk woodlands in its newssheet The Producer in 1920, "from which comes the materials for the brush works and wood cases for the fish depots on the east coast". The Co-op had a brush factory in Wymondham.

Samuel Victor Harvey mentioned his father Robert in one of his memories

Tragically, Samuel's father, Robert William Nathan Harvey, died  in 1930, after receiving a head injury from being hit by a Tolly Cobbold lorry outside the Bonds Department Street in Ber Street. Norwich.  He was buried in All Saints, Ashwellthorpe, graveyard on 7 August 1930 aged only 60