Great Horwood and Singleborough have marked many national events with their own celebrations.
Peace Celebrations, 1919
Homecoming for the Troops outside Great Horwood National School, 1918. The small version of a traditional celebratory arch reads ‘Welcome home. Well done Great Horwood lads’
After the misery and loss of the 1914-1918 war, the 1919 peace celebrations were a much needed opportunity for the villagers to have some fun. On this occasion, the people of Singleborough had their own celebration as well as participating in the Great Horwood event. Florence Rich, the schoolmaster’s eldest daughter and secretary to the Great Horwood celebration committee, wrote accounts of both. Singleborough held its peace celebration on Friday 18th July 1919. The houses were decorated with flags and bunting and all of the demobilised soldiers in Great Horwood and Singleborough were invited, along with all the inhabitants of the hamlet. A cricket match was played between Singleborough and the soldiers, which the soldiers won by an innings and 33 runs. A meat tea was enjoyed by 140 people and then ten men played a hilarious game of musical chairs on horseback, won by Mr J Hore. Dancing continued until Midnight with the Great Horwood Band providing music throughout.
Musical chairs on horseback at Singleborough peace celebrations, 18th July 1919.
Singleborough Peace celebrations organising committee and helpers, 18 July 1919. The committee members were Mr F Mason senior, Mr F Mason, Mr Jonah George, Mr W George, Mr Will Seaton, Mr F Cleaver and Mr F Kimble. The photo was taken by Mr Turnham of Winslow.
The players in the Singleborough v, demobilised soldiers match, 18 July 1919. The photo was taken by Mr Turnham of Winslow.
The Great Horwood celebrations were held the next day. The bells woke the villagers at 6.00 am, William and Joe Elmes fired a large cannon at intervals, making the nearby houses shake, and Jesse Marks sounded the Rouse on his cornet. The Roll of Honour on the churchyard wall was decorated with several wreaths and crosses and the words ‘Lest we forget’ above. It rained all day so Mr Elmes was unable to send up his fire balloons but most of the planned sports races did take place. Most of the races were light-hearted ones, including the pipe and tobacco race, the needle and cotton race and the costume scramble. A meat tea was eaten in relays in Mr Hanson’s barn called ‘The Hovel’, followed by a dance in the school. The Great Horwood Band again played all day long and was given cheers at midnight when the celebrations ended as it was now Sunday.
Coronations and Jubilees The coronations and jubilees of Kings and Queens of England have also been occasions for the whole village community to gather together to celebrate.
Coronation of George IV The earliest recorded coronation celebration was that for King George IV’s Coronation on 19th July 1821. As part of the celebrations, five Great Horwood labourers asserted an ancient right on Coronation Day to cut down a tree and erect it in a conspicuous part of the village as a ‘Coronation Pole’. The oak they felled belonged to New College Oxford as Lord of the Manor but, after the celebrations, the five men sold the timber and kept the profits. They were convicted of theft and fined.
Celebration Sports and Entertainments
The celebrations of past coronations and jubilees included similar events. The church bells were rung at various points, usually including as early as 5 am on the main day of celebrations. There were parades, church services, entertainments and sports for all ages. The sports generally included both serious races and more amusing contests, such as slow bicycle race, three-legged race, obstacle course and tug of war.
The 1897 celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee included ladies’ tug of war, not an activity usually associated with Victorian ladies. The Great Horwood Band, established the year after Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, did not play at her Diamond Jubilee ‘owing to a misunderstanding’. However, it has played for all subsequent coronations and jubilees, generally leading at least one parade and providing entertainment at other points during the festivities.
Celebration Teas and Dinners Eating was another important part of each of these celebrations. Usually, the wealthier villagers donated money or supplies to provide free celebration meals for everyone in the parish. In 1887, Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee coincided with the 80th birthday of the Rector, Simon Adams, so the ever-generous Rector paid for the children’s tea as well as contributing to the cost of the adults’ meals. In 1887 and 1897, men and women ate their celebration lunch (‘dinner’) together in a marquee at the rectory but, on later occasions, the men had a cold meat lunch in the village hall and the women had afternoon tea there later while the children had tea in the school.
The villagers did not enjoy a big meal for King Edward VII’s Coronation in August 1902 because they had eaten it in July. Edward VII’s July Coronation was postponed because he was ill but the villagers’ celebratory feasts were already bought and prepared so they ate them anyway. They could not then afford another dinner in August so the women and children were given ginger beer and buns, while the men had beer, bread and cheese.
The men’s lunch at the Village Hall to mark the Coronation of King George VI, 12th May 1937. Note the old layout of the Hall, with a central door and a balcony.
Parades Most coronation and jubilee celebrations included fancy dress parades. The fancy dress winners at King George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935 included Phyllis Davies as Britannia in a jubilee car, George Edmans with his motorbike disguised as Bluebird, the speed record car, and a young Nora Ridgway as Magpie Pierrot.
George Edmans driving ‘Bluebird’, May 1935. The cottages pictured adjoined 6 The Green and were demolished in the mid-20th century.
For Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation, there was a costume parade of school children and infants of the welfare centre, led by a wagon decorated as a ‘Britannia Car’. The villagers also put on a pageant of past monarchs and other British Empire builders.
The Britannia cart in the children’s parade for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, 2nd June 1953.
George, Rizpah and Richard Edmans in period costume for Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation pageant.
Flags, Bunting and Decorated Houses From the Coronation of King George V in 1911 until Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee in 2002, there was also a decorated house competition. For Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation and Silver Jubilee celebrations almost every house was decorated with flags, bunting or more lavish displays.
6 High Street decorated for Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee, 1977.
Mementos Often the children of the village were given a special memento of the day. They each received a medal in 1902, a coronation mug in 1911, and a bible and prayer book for King George VI’s Coronation in 1937.
Children queuing to receive mugs commemorating Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee, 1977. Peter Lovegrove brings daughters Clare and Emily to receive their mugs from Marjorie MacDonald and John Hanson.
Battles and Fireworks At the celebrations of the Coronation of King Edward VII in 1902 and of King George V in 1911 the village school boys, drilled by local servicemen, were dressed as soldiers and engaged in a sham battle.
Villagers celebrating King Edward VII’s Coronation, 1902.
Description of the march past and sham battle to celebrate King George V’s Coronation, 1911. Buckingham Advertiser, 1 July 1911.
The cast of the sham battle to celebrate the coronation of George V, 1911.
Other exciting elements of the celebrations included bonfires and fireworks displays for George V’s Silver Jubilee and for Elizabeth II’s Coronation and Silver Jubilee. Mr Elmes sent up fire balloons for George V’s Coronation and Silver Jubilee and also fired his cannon in celebration. In 1935 the Monday church service to commemorate King George V’s Silver Jubilee finished in time for people to listen to the St Paul’s radio broadcast and, in 1953, Mr and Mrs Griffin had their television set up in the school so that villagers could watch Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation procession.
Floral Arches Great Horwood was renowned for constructing particularly fine celebratory arches. The arch built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee was declared ‘the most artistic for many miles around’. It spanned the entrance to School End and was designed by Alfred Rich, the Schoolmaster, and decorated by his wife Caroline, Marie Chevallier and other ladies.
The floral arch marking Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, 1897
The arch to celebrate the coronation of Edward Vll, 1902.
Likewise, the arch to celebrate George V’s Coronation was ‘pronounced by all to be the best in the district’. It spanned the road by The Swan and included around 200 paper poppies hand made by the ladies.
Villagers gather under the arch built to celebrate King George V’s Coronation, 1911. The photo was taken by Mr Turnham of Winslow.
The Great Horwood Band and the cast of the sham battle in front of the arch to celebrate the coronation of George V. The photo was taken by Mr Turnham of Winslow.
The arch built to celebrate Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee was perhaps the largest celebratory arch in Great Horwood’s history. It was erected across Singleborough Lane because the County Council refused permission for it to be built across the High Street.
Great Horwood Silver Band marching under the arch built to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee, 1977.
Speaking at King George V’s Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1935, Alfred Rich recalled Great Horwood’s celebrations of earlier coronations and jubilees. He noted that ‘on each occasion Great Horwood did splendidly on account of the united loyal efforts of the parishioners’. These were days when problems and differences were set aside and ‘complete harmony and pleasure marked the whole event’.
Most recently, the people of Great Horwood and Singleborough came together to celebrate the Queen's 90th birthday in April 2016. Both nationally and locally, this was a smaller celebration than for a coronation or jubilee but villagers gathered on The Green for the lighting of a celebratory beacon and the Great Horwood Band played.
Florence Rich, Great Horwood and Singleborough peace celebrations, MS, 1919. Buckingham Advertiser, 26 June 1897, 1 July 1911, 26 July 1919, 6th June 1953. Bucks Herald, 6th May 1854, 19th October 1861, 5th August 1899, 23rd August 1902, 28th July 1906. Oxford Journal, 27th October 1821.