Sixty years ago this June, Shrewsbury was marking its fourth centenary with a huge programme of events and celebrations that involved Salopians both past and current. One highlight of these celebrations, though, wasn't until October, when Shrewsbury was honoured by a visit of Her Majesty The Queen and H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh.
There are several accounts of the royal visit; copied below is an extract from Michael Charlesworth's autobiography 'Behind the Headlines', which seems to capture the essence of the day rather well.
The invitation had been made to Princess Elizabeth, as she then was, who had expressed the desire to see the School on a normal working day. As can be imagined, it took many hours of debate and discussion to organise 'a normal day' for the visit, which ended up being "a mad scramble as boys appeared and reappeared, as soldiers, as gymnasts, as fives players, as runners, in order to be discovered being normal".
Clicking on the photo below will open up a Flickr slideshow of about 30 photos of The Royal Visit
The royal party arrived by train, having spent the night in a cutting near Much Wenlock from where they sent for a copy of Basil Oldham's recent history of the school in order to do some Top Schools; this sent Basil into a paroxysm of exuberant loyal enthusiasm as he signed two of his books with a suitable dedication, practising on half a dozen copies before he was satisfied that his spidery handwriting was calligraphically satisfactory. The royal visitors spent twenty minutes with Basil in the Library viewing the manuscripts, early books and bindings; no one will ever know what the Queen thought of the incunabula - pronounced of course as a monosyllable.
Altogether it was a memorable day - the mass PT display, the Guard of Honour, the opening of the Queen's Terrace, the Chapel service at which the singing of the National Anthem moved even the rugged Hope-Simpson. There was dignity but also light-heartedness; as the Queen walked down the high staircase of the School House after lunch, she accurately 'bombed' her husband, standing in the hall below, with her gloves. When Jimmy Street asked the Duke if he had ever done some rowing, he replied that he had done some pulling in the Navy. "Did you enjoy that, Sir?" "Hell" said the Duke. The Queen left at the Moss Gates (two boys cheekily but unavailingly thumbing a lift); such was our highly-charged enthusiasm that several of us ran all the way across the Site to the Port Hill gates for a final view of the slow-moving Daimler. The Mayor of Shrewsbury for 1952 was James West who appeared quite magnificently garbed and splendidly pompous.
As a postscript to this royal day, a group of boys, finding the sherry which the Queen and the staff had enjoyed unattended in the Moser Buildings, felt there would be no harm in joining in the general festivities with a loyal toast.
In those days, the School roll was around 545 boys - quite a considerable rise from the tercentenary year, when there were had been fewer than 100 boys on the roll.
Please see the following documents for further information:
- A 2-page summary of the day's events: Salopian Newsletter on The Royal Visit.
- Stacy Coleman, Housemaster of Dayboys and classics master, wrote a very detailed account of his experiences of the day. His 22-page, handwritten (but perfectly legible) memoir is well worth reading! Stacy Coleman's account.
- David Longrigg (Ch 1949-1954) wrote his recollections of the big day, for his parish magazine, in May 2012. David Longrigg's recollections.
- Two interesting accounts of the day, one from a pupil and one (anonymous) from a master, along with three short letters between the Headmaster and Buckingham Palace after the visit - all in four pages of The Magazine. The Magazine accounts and letters.
Our Archivist, Mike Morrogh, will be putting on an exhibition in the Moser Library on Speech Day, which will include photos and other material relating to the various royal visits to Shrewsbury School.