Royal Visits: Queen Elizabeth II

Her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, made six official visits to the Solihull Borough during her 70-year reign. There were other visits when she passed through the Borough, e.g. arriving at or leaving from Birmingham Airport, but there were only these six official visits, as far as we are aware.

25th May 1962 – Solihull town centre

This was the Queen’s first visit to the Solihull Borough and is also believed to have been the first official visit to Solihull of a reigning monarch. During her visit she opened Solihull Civic Hall, toured the grounds of Solihull Hospital and visited Solihull School. For further details see our earlier post: The Queen opens Solihull Civic Hall

7th April 1971 – Chelmsley Wood

The Queen wasn’t actually visiting the Borough of Solihull for this visit, as Chelmsley Wood was part of Meriden Rural District at this time.

However, parts of Meriden Rural District, including Chelmsley Wood, subsequently merged with Solihull County Borough Council in 1974 to form the new Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council.

For a full report of the Queen’s visit, see our earlier post: Chelmsley Wood Shopping Centre 1971

2nd February 1976 – National Exhibition Cente

The £44m complex opened to the public on Sunday 1st February 1976 with the International Spring Fair, which the Queen toured on the following day.

She arrived with the Duke of Edinburgh at Birmingham Airport and performed the opening ceremony in the Exhibitors’ Club, unveiling a plaque and declaring the centre officially open from a second-floor window. She then pressed a button to start a fountain in the centre’s Pendigo Lake, and the flags of 30 nations were unfurled by soldiers of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers at the centre’s main entrance.

In her opening speech, the Queen described the centre as being:

ideally situated at the heart of a great industrial area with excellent access by road, rail and air

Birmingham Daily Post, 3rd February 1976

The Queen was presented with a brooch designed by Waldron Gardner of Cheltenham.

At the time of opening, the NEC had six exhibition halls which provided a total of one million square-feet of exhibition space on the 310-acre site. The architects were Edward D. Mills & Partners, and the consulting engineers were Ove Arup & Partners, with R. M. Douglas Construction Ltd the main contractors.

After touring the centre and unveiling a plaque, the Queen had lunch at the new Metropole Hotel as a guest of the City of Birmingham, before receiving officials and then being driven back to the airport for a flight to RAF Marham, near Sandringham.

27th July 1977 – Solihull Town Centre

As part of a whistle-stop Silver Jubilee tour of the West Midlands, the Queen visited Wolverhampton, Dudley, West Bromwich, Walsall, Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry on 27th July 1977.

After a walkabout in Chamberlain Square, Birmingham, and a visit to Baskerville House and the Hall of Memory Gardens, the Queen left for Solihull at 3:12pm, taking a route via Stratford Road (where the car slowed as it passed through the shopping centre), Union Road, Longmore Road, Blossomfield Road, Station Road and High Street to arrive in Mell Square at 3:56pm where presentations were made, and there was a walkabout.

The Royal party left Solihull at 4:03pm, travelling by car from Drury Lane via Warwick Road, Hampton Lane, Solihull Road, High Street Hampton-in-Arden (with a scheduled go-slow point at the corner of Station Road and Old Station Road), Meriden Road, Diddington Lane and the A452 to Stonebridge Island. The route then took them via the A45 Meriden by-pass to Coventry, where the Queen was due to arrive at Cox Street Working Men’s Club at 4:38pm.

The Queen then left Coventry Station by the Royal Train and travelled to Birmingham International Station from where she was driven to a civic dinner at the Metropole Hotel on the NEC campus, which was attended by about 1000 people.

23rd March 1989 – National Exhibition Centre

Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh returned to the NEC on Maundy Thursday, 23rd March 1989, to officially open three new halls designed by architect Vernon Croft.

Earlier in the day, the Queen had been in Birmingham to distribute Maundy Money to 126 elderly people at Birmingham Cathedral, where she attended a special service.

The Royal couple arrived at the NEC by Rolls Royce and were greeted by children from Starbank Primary School, Small Heath who presented her with flowers and chocolates and a sang a specially-composed song. Five-year-old Mohammed Nadeem told the Solihull News (31st March 1989) that he also gave the Queen some biscuits for her dog.

After taking tea in the restaurant and signing the visitors’ book, the Royal party toured the Skywalk, a 380-metre long moving payment linking the halls with the existing complex. The Queen spoke to four of the men involved in the construction and then unveiled a plaque in the atrium. The Duke of Edinburgh reportedly told the architect that it was wonderful for the region to have such a fantastic complex designed in such a modern style.

The Royal party was then escorted back along a red carpet to the waiting Rolls Royce to be driven to Birmingham International Airport.

2nd July 2002 – Touchwood

The Queen visited Solihull as part of her Golden Jubilee tour, which would prove to be her final visit to the Borough.

Although it’s often reported that she officially opened Touchwood, this was not actually the case as protocols apparently prevent the monarch from opening a private shopping centre. The official communications from the time make it clear that the Queen “visited” the centre, and did not open it.

The Royal Train arrived at Solihull Station after an overnight journey from Slough.

Arriving by car at the Poplar Road entrance to Touchwood, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were greeted by the Mayor of Solihull, Councillor Mrs Kate Wild, and were accompanied on a walk through the shopping centre by Touchwood’s architect, Eric Kuhne (1951-2016).

H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, with architect, Eric Kuhne standing behind, in Library Square, 2002

Among the crowds waiting to greet the Queen was Susan Treadwell (1944-2011) who, as a Brownie, had been presented to Princess Margaret when Her Royal Highness visited Solihull on behalf of the Queen in 1954 to present the Council with its Borough Charter.

The Queen’s Golden Jubilee visit was intended to include a ceremony in Library Square (now Theatre Square) at which the Queen would be presented with a painting by Balsall Common artist, Trevor Boult (1945-2020), who had previously received a private commission from Her Majesty for a composite pen and ink drawing of the Queen’s Sandringham Estate. However, inclement weather saw the ceremony moved indoors to the foyer of Solihull Central Library & Arts Complex (now The Core).

Following the presentation of the painting, the Royal party walked out to the newly-renamed Golden Jubilee Gardens, where Her Majesty unveiled a plaque to mark the renaming before departing by car and travelling to Birmingham where she opened the Millennium Point science and learning centre in Digbeth. In the evening, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh attended a reception and concert at Symphony Hall.

If you have any further information, or any photos of any of the late Queen’s visits, please let us know.

Library Specialist: Heritage & Local Studies


© Solihull Council, 2023.
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One thought on “Royal Visits: Queen Elizabeth II

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  1. I remember queuing to see the Queen and Prince Philip on Union Road in 1977. In my memory they drive towards the Stratford Road away from Solihull, having read this it must have been the opposite direction. The car went slowly and we saw her wave. She was dressed I believe in pale green.

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