Henley Celebrates Coronation With Big Screen, Parties, Church Service & Flotilla

Celebrations to mark the King’s Coronation took place all round Henley at the end of last week and over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Schools and community groups kicked off the celebrations with Coronation parties. At the Over 60s Club members enjoyed a roast lunch with all the trimmings, in a beautifully decorated hall, with everyone wearing ‘Crowns” that had been made by the craft group. The diners were then entertained by Ken Fit playing the clarinet and saxophone and followed by a game of Bingo.  One of the key decorations was a throne of flowers that had been created by Alan Rout as a tribute to his late partner, Jane Rowton-Lee. Jane, up until 2018, was responsible for arranging the flowers in Westminster Abbey. For the Queen’s 90th birthday, Jane was tasked with creating an arrangement and this is what Alan had re-created. Joan, a new member of the Over 60’s group, said, “What a wonderful day this is, with the staff and chef working so hard”.  Delores added, “I really enjoy doing this with everyone here.”  Gill Dodds, from the Over 60s Club, expressed her sincere thanks to Ann Manning, of Manning UK,  for sponsoring the Coronation lunch.

1st Henley Brownies enjoyed decorating a commemorative plate, a quiz, games and limbo dancing (a nod to  King Charles’ being King to a number of Caribbean islands at their party at the Eyot Centre.

At Rupert House the Early Years children came dressed as Kings and Queens  while the Year 1 pupils upwards wore red white and blue and homemade crowns. The Early Years children performed their own enactment of the King’s coronation before joining the rest of the school to sing the coronation song ‘Defender of us all’ followed by the national anthem. In the afternoon they held their May Fair with royal themed games and activities.  The pre prep children performed Morris dancing to the rest of the pupils before welcoming all parents into school for an afternoon tea which raised over £650 towards a new school traversing wall.

As in 1953 the heavens opened for a very wet day on Coronation day but despite this a crowd converged on Market Place to watch the coronation live on the big TV screen which was donated by anonymous donor.  Henley Town Council organised roving stilt walkers and musical entertainment from Brigade Roaming Band and gave out flags.

Helen MeGraw, who has recently returned to Henley from Canada said “We came to the Market Place to watch this as it is a historical moment and we wanted to be part of the event.  Paul Sturge said, “We appreciate the monarchy and whilst it is a shame about the Queen, as everyone loved her, we wanted to experience this event here in the centre of Henley.  James Briggs added “Where better than Henley to watch the Coronation” and brought his friend Megan McKenzie visiting from New York to join in the celebrations.

David Eggleton, Town Councillor said, “I am pleased the Council have decorated the town and organised the screen, as I have received many positive comments.”

On Sunday many residents got together for a street party with some organising cake competitions, tug of war, dog shows and musical entertainment.  Highlands Park hosted their first street party since the estate was built which was sponsored by Crest Nicholson the builders.

The St Andrews Road popular cake competition took place again their street party. Mum, Millie and daughter Bella (10) Hudson came first and second in the St Andrews Road cake competition. Millie said, “We both baked them this morning, but I did mine a bit earlier.”  Bella said, “The decoration was supposed to be about the Crown Jewels of the King, so I put that into fondant icing. It took me about an hour for decoration.”  10 year old Amber Gilbert came third. Nicola Taylor judged the competition. She said, “It’s always fun to have people inventing their own decorations on the cake, and all the effort people make, and it’s nice to be able to come and judge. The winner is the one I wanted to take home the most.”  There was also a dog competition, where the pets were judged on best dressed, best tricks, and sausage catching abilities.

Jo and Andrew Grant helped organise the street party in St Marks. They had a tug of war, best dressed dog, a slow bike ride, a table tennis competition, and cakes (which were demolished). They only started organising it about three weeks ago.  Andrew said, “It was all quite last minute. Suddenly we just thought we wanted to get the whole road together. We’re quite new so part of it was that we wanted to meet our neighbours. It was easy to organise, it wasn’t hard to find volunteers. It was very last minute – I think we had one day left to apply to close off the road.” Jo added, “There are a lot of young children on this road, and they’ve all been cycling up and down the road. We wanted a day of freedom.”

Cromwell Road resident Ursula Connolly said, “We’ve had a great day actually. We started off this morning hanging up a lot of bunting and setting out the tables. We set up some communal barbecues: we had a vegan and vegetarian barbecue, and a meat barbecue. We had fizz and nibbles. We’ve had a game of bingo and we had a rowing competition with an ergo, street football and a street photograph. It’s been really great because there’s lots of new people on the road who I’ve never met. A lot of our elderly people came out too.”

In Marmion Road they organised a quiz, music and food.  Tim Richardson said, “We had a quiz, we had some music, we had some proper old school coronation music, good food, friends: just a nice day out, really!  Adults paid £10 each, and all money goes to charity.”  Gemma Birch added, “We’re not sure where the proceeds will go at the moment. Last year we gave it to MotherSisterDaughter. We’ve given it to the Chiltern Centre before. We’ll tot it up, we’ll put it on the group and decide, but it always goes to local community. We have a lovely day and if we can raise a bit of money from it, everyone is really happy to contribute. This is our 10th street party, excluding Covid. We always have one, with the exception to pandemics, and this is a great reason to have one. It just happens really: someone puts the bunting up, someone puts the word out, and we just gather and it’s lovely. We have a great community here anyway, but it’s nice this time of year when you’ve not seen anyone through the winter months. It’s nice to come together, and we’re always lucky with the weather.”

St Mary’s Church hosted a Coronation Choral Evensong on Sunday afternoon with a parade of standards and flags who were representing the Royal British Legion, Henley Army Cadets, 1st Henley Guides and 1st Henley Brownies.  Deputy Lieutenant, Cynthia Hall was also invited to attend.  The Choir lit up the church with their stunning singing which included The Magnificat in G by CV Stanford and we thought matched the talent of those singing in Westminster Abbey.

The last Coronation event of the weekend was the superb Coronation flotilla on the River Thames organised by the Trad Boat Festival.  Over 200 boats from rowing, punts and canoes to slipper launches and cruisers took part with Hobbs of Henley’s New Orleans leading the way from Hambleden lock to Marsh Lock.  People lined the towpath with big crowds at Phyllis Court and on the bridge.

Lady Judy McAlpine, Co Chair of the Trad Boat Festival said, “It was brilliant! to have that number of people making so much effort despite the foul weather and a “yellow warning” was amazing and a wonderful indication of the real affection the general public has for our Royal family… and of course Charles in particular.  We will be sending him a nicely decorated list of all the participants (even those who entered but couldn’t fight the current).

It WAS sad that Swan Uppers couldn’t join in in their new uniforms with their official Charles III standard.  However, a good event well supported by surprisingly large crowds along the banks, and especially at Phyllis Court.  I’m sorry that so few boats made the return journey as planned – especially as that was the easy run with the current!  I’m afraid I was unintentionally guilty of that too as the tug I was on simply stopped at the Rose-Toop Boatyard!  Apologies to those who hung around expecting the full complement of boats to do the second leg.

Thanks for all who joined in.  Thanks to the Environment Agency (I never thought I would find myself saying that!) and to Malcolm Knight, ex-Gloriana Master who really helped with all the seriously nautical things of which I am completely ignorant.”

Steve Morton who was one of the ‘Whalers’ rowing Molly said, “Despite the overcast weather I thought it went really well and it was great to see so many people out of the river bank waving at us.”

The winners of the best decorated boats will be announced shortly.

If you would like to buy any of the original high resolution photos above or see others that have been taken (we just couldn’t include them all!), please get in touch via news@henleyherald.com



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