When the Queen came to Amersham in 1962

By Alison Bailey June 2022

60 years ago, on the afternoon of Friday 6 April, 1962 there was great excitement in Amersham because Her Majesty the Queen was scheduled to drive through the High Street as part of a tour of South Buckinghamshire.

Her Majesty the Queen, with her Lady in waiting arriving in High Wycombe, courtesy of SWOP
Her Majesty the Queen, with her Lady in waiting arriving in High Wycombe, courtesy of SWOP

Dressed in a resplendent red coat and a fashionable, matching, red ruffled-net hat the young queen was greeted by local dignitaries, just after 10 am in High Wycombe. An exhibition celebrating Wycombe’s furniture manufacturing heritage was arranged in the Town Hall which the Queen entered through an arch of chairs. This is a tradition dating from at least 1877 when Queen Victoria visited the town. Her Majesty was then driven up Amersham Hill to the Royal Grammar School, where she formally opened a new science block and spoke to boys at the school and the cook Mrs Daisy Hunt.

Later, in Aylesbury, the Queen’s visit was captured on camera by members of the Aylesbury Ciné Club and can be viewed on YouTube, thanks to the Stewkley Archive 1962: Aylesbury – Visit by Her Majesty the Queen. The Queen’s visit included a tour of two neighbouring council houses on the Gatehouse Estate, Oxford Road by the proud occupants Mrs Iris Powell and Mr and Mrs Coyde. Brian Coyde who still lives in the same house told his local paper how friendly and confident the Queen was whilst they were showing her all over the house. He said: “I shook hands with her and invited her around the house. She wanted to see all the house, the whole thing. She went upstairs and had a look at the bedrooms. She asked me ‘if I do any decorating’. We had a little chat, she asked me what I do for a living. She was very easy to speak to and pleasant. She looked you straight in the eye when she talked to you.”

The Queen and the Mayor of Aylesbury outside the home of Mrs Iris Powell, courtesy of the Stewkley Film Archive
The Queen and the Mayor of Aylesbury outside the home of Mrs Iris Powell, courtesy of the Stewkley Film Archive

The centre of Aylesbury was packed with people waving Union Jacks, keen to get a close look at the Royal visitor as she strolled round Market Square and inspected the Guard of Honour from RAF Halton. The Powells and the Coydes were then invited to join the Queen at Grange Secondary School for lunch where around 200 guests “from all walks of life” were entertained by the Royal Artillery Orchestra.

It was on the drive from Aylesbury to Slough that the Queen’s convoy was due to pass Great Missenden and Amersham. The press reported that hundreds of local school children were eagerly awaiting her drive through and would be lining the route to catch a glimpse of the Queen: “Raans Secondary School have been given a half day’s holiday to mark this important occasion”. However, the Amersham Council had decided not to spend money for decorations on Amersham High Street. “It was stated that Her Majesty will only be passing through and that schoolchildren will be lining the route in any case”.

The arch of chairs in Wycombe Town Hall to welcome the Queen, courtesy of SWOP
The arch of chairs in Wycombe Town Hall to welcome the Queen, courtesy of SWOP

On the day itself the owners of the Broadway Newsagents took pity on the pupils of St George’s after their headmistress had banned them from taking any flags on the walk down to the Old Town. The owner of the newsagents, Mrs Church, handed out all her remaining flags to the pupils after spotting “a long row of children standing sadly by the kerbside”.

“Then came the moment for the Queen’s arrival. Excitement mounted as people craned their necks in anticipation of this wonderful occasion. A brick lorry was driven through seconds before the Queen was due to arrive. Two police cars, with loudspeakers blaring, immediately gave chase and the driver was stopped. Then a 353 Windsor bus pulled out of the Amersham Garage and the driver acknowledged the mighty cheer that went up from the drivers and clippies that were standing outside. And then the Queen arrived, accompanied by six cars and two motorcycles. Her Majesty looked radiant, wearing a red hat and coat with the collar turned up, and pearl earrings. Over her lap was a tartan rug. The St George’s children joined in warmly with the rest of the crowd in responding to this rare glimpse of the world’s “First Lady”. (She received) a rousing welcome .. fit for a Queen!”

The crowd waiting for the arrival of the Queen in Amersham, courtesy of Richard Proctor and Amersham.org.uk
The crowd waiting for the arrival of the Queen in Amersham, courtesy of Richard Proctor and Amersham.org.uk

Maureen walked up to the main road with her family to watch the Queen go by Little Missenden and clearly remembers the “wonderful deep carmen coloured coat and hat”. She was delighted that Queen’s car slowed down so that the crowd could see her “smile sweetly” through the glass screen as she passed. This was a great improvement on an earlier experience, during WWII, when Maureen remembers, as a little girl, standing outside Our Lady’s Chesham Bois to watch the King drive past. She just caught a glance of a man in military uniform as his car passed by at some speed.

One local man received a personal message from Her Majesty the week after her tour of Bucks. Alfred Burt, 68, of Chartridge Lane, Chesham had been invited to be presented to the Queen but had to decline due to ill health as he had been bed-ridden for some years. 47 years earlier in France in 1915, he had been awarded his country’s most prestigious medal, the Victoria Cross, after leaping forward to defuse a German mine and save the lives of his comrades. Signed by the Queen’s Secretary, the message read as follows: “The Queen was very sorry not to be able to see you when she came to Buckinghamshire last Friday. Her Majesty always likes to meet the holders of the Victoria Cross if she can, but she was well aware that it was not possible for you to come out and to be among those who were presented. As she was unable to speak to you herself, Her Majesty has commanded me to send you her best wishes and the best of luck”.

Amersham Museum would greatly appreciate any photos of this year’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations or photos and memories of previous Jubilees and Royal Events.

 

Sources

SWOP Sharing Wycombe’s Old Photographs
Bucks Free Press
Bucks Herald
Stewkley Film Archive
British Newspaper Archive

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