Coronation celebrations in Solihull

To mark the Coronation of King Charles III on Saturday 6th May 2023 – the first coronation of a British sovereign for 70 years – library staff have been researching how previous coronations were celebrated in Solihull.

Edward VII

January 1901 brought not only a New Year but the death of, at that time, the longest serving British monarch, Queen Victoria, on 22nd January 1901. Her successor was her eldest son, 59-year-old Prince Albert Edward, known to the family as Bertie, who took the regnal name of Edward VII.

Edward VII’s coronation should have taken place on Thursday 26th June 1902. However, this had to be postponed the day before as a result of the King having appendicitis, which then turned into peritonitis.

In spite of his illness, and the King requesting that the planned festivities go ahead, the sports that had been planned for that day in the village of Solihull were cancelled. The villagers were disappointed, as they felt the sports would have given the men something to do and thus prevent them from “overindulging.”

Coronation decorations were already in place, with Solihull’s principal thoroughfares lined with “Venetian masts.” Four triumphal arches were erected in Solihull village, and around 1,000 men, women and children were treated to a feast. Each child was presented with a medal by Mrs H. B. Sale and a commemorative Coronation mug by the Coronation Committee.

The Birmingham Daily Gazette, 27th June 1902, reported that “triumphal arches, wealths of bunting, processions of children and members of friendly societies” were the order of the day in Solihull, Knowle, Olton, Shirley, Hampton-in-Arden, Barston, Packwood and Lapworth. The decorations in Solihull High Street are pictured in the photograph at the top of the page.

Coronation Arch in Solihull High Street, 1902 (ref.: SC/His/524)

The newspaper noted that it was more of a peace celebration as a result of the abandonment of the Coronation and with services of intercession, praying for the health of the King, taking the place of Coronation festivities.

The Evening Despatch, 26th June 1902 reported that “at Solihull, the workhouse inmates’ fare was of a more than usually tempting character.”

A new date was set for the Coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra – Saturday 9th August 1902. The Kenilworth Advertiser, 16th August 1902, reported on Solihull’s events, noting that “Saturday was devoted to the pleasure of the children,” and that flags were abundant in the village streets.

Following a service at St Alphege Church, a procession was organised at Malvern Park. This was headed up by the clergy and consisted of benefit clubs, the fire brigade, cricket and football clubs, as well as school children, all accompanied by the village band. Sports were held in Malvern Park and the church bells rang “merry peals” throughout the day. At dusk, a fireworks display brought celebrations to a close. Thanksgiving services were held in churches on the following day.

George V

Edward VII died on 6th May 1910 and was succeeded by his son, George Frederick Ernest Albert, who took the regnal name George V. He was King Edward’s second son, but became Heir Apparent in 1892 on the death of his older brother, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, known as Eddy.

The Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary was a held on Thursday 22nd June 1911, with festivities being similar to those held for his father Edward VII. There was a triumphal arch erected in Solihull, as well as Venetian masts and bunting.

The home of the Coton family, Drury Lane, Solihull, decorated for the Coronation of George V, 1911 (ref.: SC/Dr/1154)

The weather was dull and there was rain. In Solihull, a procession was led by four local veterans on horseback from the Boer war, with local organisations parading down the High Street, Poplar Road, Warwick Road and New Road. Despite the weather, celebrations went ahead as planned and included athletics, children’s tea, maypole dance, fireworks at dusk and a bonfire.

Ticket for admission to one of the 50+ grandstands erected along the route of the Coronation processions in London, from the papers of Doris Hamilton Smith, held at The Core Library, Solihull (ref.: D48/2/6)

Edward VIII

Following the death on 20th January 1936 0f King George V, his eldest son, Edward, Prince of Wales, became King Edward VIII.

Preparations for the Coronation of Edward VIII on the 12th of May 1937 were under way but his abdication on 11th December 1936 meant that the date was instead used for the Coronation of his brother, Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George, Duke of York.

George VI

Prince Albert, Duke of York, known in the family as Bertie, adopted the regnal name of George VI to emphasise continuity with his father.

The Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth took place on Wednesday 12th May 1937, although rain hampered the celebrations. On the morning of Coronation Day a service was held at the parish church that mirrored that of Westminster Abbey. There were also parties, a massive decorated procession, bonfire, children’s sports and Maypole dancing, much like the events of the two previous coronations.

The staff of T. P. Davis, bakery, on Solihull High Street. The fancy dress costumes suggest that they are likely to have been in the decorated procession

A bus was provided for children to travel to Solihull for a special matinee put on at the cinema. Later they went to Malvern Park where they had tea in a 220ft by 40ft marquee capable of seating 1000 people. The children were given a souvenir bag of sweets and a free ticket to the fair where a conjuror entertained them. The elderly had a free tea in the marquee after the children.

The Birmingham Daily Gazette, 8th May 1937, reported that the Solihull Coronation Committee had ordered 1,000 souvenir books, mugs and medals. One of the medals (pictured below) is held in the Council’s archives at the Core Library, Solihull (ref.: D70).

Coin-shaped bronze-coloured medal depicting a crown surmounted by a Union flag and Royal Standard, with a scroll in the centre on which is written Solihull. Beneath the scroll is the text "loyally celebrates the Coronation."

Throughout the afternoon and evening, programmes of music were provided by Band of the 5th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, Shirley Silver Band and the Solihull Brass Band. The evening’s rain prevented many people from attending the illumination of the council house with blue and white bulbs.

For further details of local celebrations for the the Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, see our earlier articles:

Elizabeth II

King George VI’s death on 6th February 1952 resulted in his eldest daughter, Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, Duchess of Edinburgh, becoming queen regnant and taking the regnal name Queen Elizabeth II.

Coronation Day was Tuesday 2nd June 1953, although Solihull’s celebrations spanned several weeks. Many of the celebrations that took place were organised by private endeavour, although some were organised the local authority. Thoughout the Solihull Urban District there were attractions catering for all tastes. The council installed TV sets in schools so the children could watch the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. A Coronation mug was given to every school child.

Bunting was put up in the centre of Solihull village for the coronation. Banners and flags were suspended on coloured poles at the edge of the pavements, topped with the Royal cipher, in red, white and blue colours. The white banners bearing Solihull’s coat of arms alternated with the Union Flag.

The building firm of Bragg Brothers erected a triumphal arch, decorated with flowers, in Park Road leading to Malvern Park. The decorated front of the Council House in Poplar Road was floodlit, as were the trees in Brueton Gardens.

A prelude to the district’s festivities took place on the Sunday before the Coronation, 31st May 1953, with a parade of all branches of the Armed forces and uniformed organisations. The crowd in the park numbered some 2,000 in addition to the 1,000 in the parade and civic party. The service was conducted from a stage by the clergy with the choir standing nearby, and accompanying the singing was the Shirley Silver Band. The parade took some fifteen minutes to pass the saluting base outside the Council House.

The Chairman of Solihull UDC takes the salute as the procession passes the Council House, Poplar Road, Solihull (ref.: Cor 448)

Each of the four babies – two boys and two girls – born on Coronation Day within the Solihull Urban District, was given a silver coronation crown was by the Council.

On Coronation morning the council Chairman, Councillor Cooper sent a telegram to the Queen expressing the district’s loyal greetings and good wishes. The Telegram read:

The citizens of the Urban District of Solihull desire me to lay before your Majesty an expression of their loyalty and dutiful attachment and their most sincere and heart-felt congratulations.

At Solihull Hospital, a cake in the shape of a crown was presented, and gifts, sweets and cigarettes were given out to the patients.
The ox roast was centre of attraction during the day around 1600 slices of meat were served. Solihull Society of Arts braved the rain and put on a performance on an open-air stage in Malvern Park of an Elizabethan play “The dumb wife of Cheapside.” There was a fancy dress competition and a comic football match played between teams from the Home Guard and the Solihull Cricket Club. In the evening there was a bonfire and firework display.

For a more detailed account of Coronation celebrations in the local area, please see our earlier article Solihull Coronation Festivities 1953

Charles III

Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales, acceded to the throne on the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, on 8th September 2022. His accession was proclaimed in Solihull on 11th September 2022 – the first time that an accession proclamation was made officially in Solihull, as the urban district only became a Borough in 1954.

The Coronation of King Charles III will take place on Saturday 6th May, with festivities continuing over the weekend and into Bank Holiday Monday, 8th May.

Solihull BID will be hosting a range of activities in the town centre over the Coronation weekend, including vintage bus tours, live singers and trails for children. The Coronation will be shown live on the big screen at The Core Theatre and several establishments will be serving a Royal Afternoon Tea.

If you are marking the Coronation with local activities anywhere in the Borough, we’d be grateful for copies of any photographs for the archives at The Core Library, Solihull, so please get in touch.

Senior Library Assistant
The Core Library, Solihull

© Solihull Council, 2023.
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