In honour of Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, this month’s Document of the Month takes us back to Her Majesty’s coronation in 1953.
I’m Imogen Watts, Senior Archivist, and the document I’ve chosen as document of the month for June is this wonderful Coronation Souvenir brochure from the Lucas Company’s in-house magazine, “Reflections”.
Lucas was a Birmingham-based company, with their headquarters in Great King Street and branches not just across the country but around the world. They were a leading supplier of electrical equipment to the British Motor Industry for nearly 100 years, spanning across the reigns of four different monarchs from the company’s beginnings in 1897.
The Lucas company archive collection is full of social history gems, and the company’s celebrations for the coronation in 1953 are a prime example. They went all out with decorating their premises, with especially lavish decorations on their Great King Street headquarters, including flags, pictures of the Queen and the Royal Family, and even enormous decorative crowns which were over 6 feet tall. In the souvenir brochure there are photographs of the decorations at a wide range of Lucas sites, including those in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
As well as the decorations, there were many events and initiatives put on for, and by, Lucas employees. The souvenir brochure contains a list of all of the events; between 22nd May and 20th June 1953 there were 45 events from dinners, dances, concerts and social evenings to children’s parties, fireworks, sports days and even a talent competition! There are lots of photos from the events featured in the brochure, including this fantastic double-page spread of the sports day at Moor Lane in Birmingham.
One of the really lovely things about this brochure, and the ways that Lucas celebrated the coronation, is that the company didn’t just focus on their own fun. Several departments opted to celebrate by giving back to their local communities. Various fundraising initiatives resulted in generous donations to community organisations. These included donating television sets to “Old People’s Homes” and the Princess Alice Orphanage, to enable the residents to watch the coronation procession; radio sets to the children’s hospital; play equipment and model cars for disabled children; gifts to children in hospital; and some intriguingly-described “rehabilitation machines” to the Red Cross. The souvenir brochure commends the generosity of those who donated to these initiatives, and includes a selection of photographs of the donated items being gratefully received.
The brochure is even beautiful in itself, with its metallic embossed gold cover and delicate “spiderweb” tissue paper on the inside covers. The inner pages also have a very special feel to them; each page is edged with an intricate metallic gold border, and each section of text begins with an illuminated letter in regal purple backed with the image of a crown. The images also seem to have been carefully chosen to show a balance of the celebrations across the company’s various locations. It presents a wonderfully complete picture of the range of activities which took place in celebration of the coronation, and the joyful spirit behind it all.
The brochure is currently on display in the Museum until the end of June, alongside some other gems showing the Lucas Company’s coronation celebrations, in our Archive Display Cabinet in the Welcome Gallery – you can find it on the left-hand side next to the 1953 Land Rover Series I Royal Ceremonial vehicle.
To find out more about this or any other documents in the Archive collection, please contact email@example.com