The Woolworths Museum


The Coronation

of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1953

The flagship F. W. Woolworth store in London's Oxford Street, decorated for the Coronation of H. M. Queen Elizabeth II in 1953

 

If one event summed up the hope and aspirations after the World War, it was the Coronation of the new young Queen, Elizabeth II. There was talk of a new Elizabethan age. The nation had been shocked by the early death of her father King George VI in 1952. He had been an immensely popular man who, helped by his wife Queen Elizabeth (known to most of us as "the Queen Mother") led the nation through the darkest days of World War II.

 

Her Majesty the Queen stands on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to receive the applause of the crowd, with Prince Phillip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne.  (Image: The New Bond, 1953, courtesy of the London News Agency)

 

But the idea of a young Queen, bringing up a family with her dashing husband, Prince Phillip, captured the imagination of the nation.

How did the Sovereign find time not just for her family, but to run the affairs of state not only in the UK but in a new Commonwealth of Nations?

The Coronation was eagerly anticipated. People planned trips to London to join the crowd of well-wishers, while others arranged street parties and celebrations at home in their local communities.

 

This four page brochure detailing Woolworths' range of Coronation items was distributed free to customers in the Spring of 1953

 
Woolworth had spotted the opportunity and its Buyers had surpassed themselves. They had cleverly held the price of decorations artificially low, offering Gold Foil Crowns (measuring about 12.5 x 7.5 cm) selling for just 3D (1½p), the royal coat of arms for 9D (4p) and an alphabet of gold letters, including the obligatory E and R, at 6D (2½p) each.  Shoppers were encouraged to display their own special messages.

Other souvenir items including flags, bunting, tablecloths, mugs, glass plates, china teapots special bars of chocolate were offered at regular prices to balance the margin. The offer as a whole helped to establish F.W. Woolworth as the Coronation store, and secured its reputation with a new generation.

 

Colleagues from Woolworths at Shepherd's Bush preparing to celebrate H. M. The Queen's Coronation. In the background the store front is decorated with flags, bunting and pictures of the Queen.

 

The Queen's Coronation in 1953 was the inspiration for these spectacular windows at the British Woolworths. Everything from flags and bunting to china plates and collectables, all at great value prices.

 

Very detailed instructions were issued to stores, showing how to lay out the windows. Each item was numbered in the photographs to match it to the stock in-store.  Each ticket in the picture was left blank, as the prices were kept secret right up to the day when the windows were built. Setting up the displays took each store's window dresser a whole day per window. Everyone agreed it was time well spent, as the results were stunning!

 

1953 Coronation Window display at Woolworth's, featuring everything needed for a street party or a home celebration.

 

Sales of the Coronation Ranges exceeded even the most optimistic expectations at headquarters. From the stockroom to the boardroom, everyone was proud to play a part in the celebrations. Many remember 1953 as the happiest year of their careers. If you would like to find out more about the Queen's Coronation, there are lots more pictures in our bonus feature Scrap Book, which includes a 1 Megabyte embedded music track: Click this link to take a look.

 

 

Backing instrumental:

"In a Golden Coach (There's a Heart of Gold)" Words and Music by Ronald Jamieson. F. W. Woolworth customers' favourite.
The sheet music was offered in store for two shillings (10p). Almost a million copies were sold.
On disc the song became a number one hit for two artists Dickie Valentine and Teddy Johnson.
© Copyright 1952. Box & Cox (Publications) Ltd. London, England / Box & Cox (Publications) Inc. New York, USA

 


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