WITH the coronation of King Charles III this week, I thought it was a good opportunity to look back at the same occasion in Andover for his great-grandfather King George V.

The event in London took place at Westminster Abbey on Thursday 22 June 1911 and this had been declared a public holiday throughout the country.

With today’s instant news coverage, it is easy to forget that at this period there was no means of listening to any commentary on what was happening; the Andover Advertiser, like any other local journal, was published weekly, and as this was a Friday, the news of Thursday’s coronation day was hurriedly written up in order to appear in the following day’s edition.

It must have been a marathon effort by reporters, copy editors, typesetters and printers at the offices of 10 High Street to get the paper out on time and delivered to all the usual outlets.

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Of course, in those days, everything was done in the same building but they must have been working all night.

Local celebrations were organised by the various coronation committees many weeks in advance and a huge panoply of events was planned, a programme quite independent from the actual events in London.

This photograph by F Pearse shows how the shops in the upper High Street decorated their premises with enthusiasm.

Did the council buy all this celebratory ephemera from one particular source and then distribute it to the shops or was it left to individuals to procure it themselves?

There was the curiously-named Decorations and Bonfire Committee that may have had the supply of bunting as one of their remits. Some decorations could have been retrieved from high street attics – left-overs from two jubilees, one royal wedding and another coronation, all within the last 25 years, and celebrated in similar fashion.

Streamers and bunting of red, white and blue were strung across the street, as was a banner reading ‘BELOVED’, while each shopkeeper created a patriotic display, designed to impress.

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On the left can be seen Carter’s the jewellers, where on the wall above the shop can be seen the sign for the National Telegraph Company’s public call office – maybe from here, a 1911 newshound could conceivably have called up London for news of the day.

On the right are the shops of Rogers the ironmonger, Fey, the clothier, Fletcher the butcher, Rolls the fruiterer and Bromwich the jeweller, before reaching No 68 (the number painted high up on the building) which was Handley the chemist.

Even in that short stretch of the street, the family-run shops of 1911 supplied a vast range of goods to cater for local demand.

The day of the coronation began in Andover with the news that the huge bonfire intended to be lit as a beacon in common with 20 others around the district had been set alight the night before.

Several days had been spent in preparing the bonfire on land behind the Ladies walk, built with a greenwood base, on top of which were loaded a variety of flammable materials in such an order to provide a quick light and a clean fire.

From midnight, the premature blaze was seen by passengers on the train coming into Andover from London and it lit up the night sky for all those living in Winchester Road, South Street and Bridge Street.

The perpetrators were never discovered and by 4 am, all that remained was a pile of ash. Undaunted, various people rallied round (perhaps including members of the Bonfire and Decorations Committee) to build it again.

Although it was not so carefully constructed as the earlier one, another impressive stack rose from the ashes of the old, in readiness for the scheduled 10 pm lighting on coronation night.

On the day itself, it poured with rain during the grand procession through Bridge Street and High Street but the crowds still turned out to watch as the procession organiser, Frank Beale, rode a white horse amid a line of long-prepared floats, tableaux and carriages. Sadly, the mayor’s young daughter, Eileen Reeks, who was riding in an open sedan chair, caught a cold as a result of the soaking and died soon afterwards.

The day and the following weekend progressed in the accustomed manner – a public tea, a formal dinner in the Guildhall for the great and good of the town, church services, and sports and entertainments in the Walled Meadow. Some families may still have their 1911 coronation mugs which were presented to children between the ages of five and 15.

A picture of the king and queen on the front is accompanied on the reverse by the Andover crest of a lion under an oak tree.