Rugby's Coronations

Family coronation activities

Check out our family friendly coronation themed activities including the Rugby coronation crown trail and a coronation clay tile workshop.

26 April to 23 September 2023

A look back at past coronation celebrations in the borough

The exhibition delves into the museum's social history archives to reveal how Rugby celebrated the coronations of King George VI in 1937 and Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

Items on display include a photograph of the town's iconic Clock Tower bathed in lights and topped with a giant crown to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

The striking tribute was designed by the then head of art at Rugby College, while engineers from the town's British Thomson Houston works installed the 800 lamps which illuminated the landmark.

Other photographs in the exhibition include a street party held in East Union Street and a coronation fancy dress contest, while Rugby's Coronations also features souvenirs presented to the borough's school children to commemorate the historic milestones.

The exhibition also includes programmes of special events staged to celebrate the crowning of George VI and Elizabeth II, with a programme from English Electric's Gala Sports Day held in 1953 and a programme from a Coronation Night Dinner Dance held at the Masonic Hall in 1937, which includes the evening's menu of 'Roast Beef of Old England' followed by a choice of suitably regal desserts - Pears Elizabeth or Margaret Rose Ices.

Rugby's Coronation also features a GEC television set bought by a local family in order to watch the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II - a television first which attracted a UK audience of 27 million.

Catherine Shanahan, Rugby Art Gallery and Museum's senior collections officer, said: "Just as Rugby residents look set to come together in Caldecott Park on Saturday 6 May to celebrate the coronation of King Charles III, so did residents in 1937 when a procession took place in the park to mark the coronation of George VI.

This fascinating display will include:
  • Photographs from past coronation events featuring a street party on East Union Street as well as fancy dress competitions.
  • Souvenirs presented to school children by the borough to mark the occasion.
  • Photographs of the clock tower decorated with a huge crown in 1953 (shown opposite).
  • A GEC television bought by a local family to watch the ceremony. This is just one of millions of television sets that families across the UK bought in the run-up to the coronation. It was the first time cameras were used in Westminster Abbey.
  • Programmes from events throughout Rugby including the Gala Sports Day at English Electric in 1953 and a coronation night dinner dance at the Masonic Hall in 1937.